Dog Hot Spots, Hot Spots on Dogs and Canine Hair Loss

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Dog Hot Spots & Canine Hair Loss

When dog owners discover hot spots on their pups, they are often alarmed. These skin lesions can be inflamed, red and oozing. When left untreated, hot spots can increase. The good news? A hot spot is a fairly common skin condition that usually responds well to treatment.

treat hot spots on dogs

What are Hot Spots on Dogs?

Also known as Pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are infected, moist, inflamed areas on your dog’s skin. At first, you might mistake the beginnings of a hot spot as an insect bite. However, if left untreated, a hot spot can multiply into a painful, red, weeping open sore. If there is a patch of hair loss in the area, the lesion will be easy to see. However, if a dog’s fur is heavily matted, a hot spot could easily remain hidden.

dog hot spots

Most hot spots begin innocently enough. For example, some dogs have seasonal allergies that will cause them to scratch or chew at their skin. Other dogs will gnaw or lick at their skin out of boredom. However, for many dogs, it’s an allergic reaction to their food. Eventually, the constant itching and scratching will damage or break the skin, becoming inflamed and infected with bacteria. An irritation can, in turn, lead to more itching and scratching and more trauma to the skin.

Moisture can also cause hot spots. Dogs that love to swim or wade during the summer months can remain wet for longer than you realize. The trapped water can be true of breeds with thick or double coats, such as German shepherds, Labradors, and golden retrievers. When moisture gets trapped between a dog’s coat and skin, it can set up the perfect environment for bacteria to proliferate. Canines are also more likely to get a hot spot during the warm and humid summer months.

The following can also trigger hot spots:

  • Poor grooming and hygiene
  • Allergies- may be seasonal or food-related
  • Ear infections
  • Skin infections
  • Impacted or infected anal glands

Dog Hot Spots & Symptoms to Watch for

The following symptoms commonly present themselves when your dog has hot spots.

  • Well-defined area of redness that is wet and warm to the touch
  • A lesion that is weeping, oozing, or crusty
  • Swelling
  • Loss of hair in and around the hot spot
  • Noticeable odor
  • Licking, chewing, or scratching of the affected area
  • Sore that is painful and itchy

Although this skin condition can appear anywhere on a canine’s body, hot spots are more likely to occur on a dog’s head, often in the area behind the ear. Other popular areas are the neck, legs, or hips. But, the location that seems most prevalent, probably because it is obvious and most accessible for the dog to chew on constantly, is his paw!

Treating Hot Spots on Dogs

If you find your dog has hot spots, take your pet to a veterinarian so that the doctor can rule out other health conditions, such as ringworm. If your pet develops a hot spot, your veterinarian may prescribe oral and topical antibiotics to treat the secondary bacterial infections. It would be best if you also did the following:

  1. Carefully trim or clip the hair around the lesion. Trimming will prevent your dog’s fur from getting matted into the sore.
  2. Clean the hot spot. Use a gentle cleanser to keep the lesion clean and free of dirt and hair.
  3. Apply a non-toxic, anti-bacterial/fungal spray to the hot spot to discourage bacteria from growing in the lesion. In addition, some sprays contain ingredients that can soothe the irritation caused by hot spots.

To prevent your dog from licking the antiseptic spray off the hot spot, try feeding your pet a bit of peanut butter. That will help distract your dog long enough for the anti-bacterial spray to dry. You can also try to divert your dog’s attention with a short walk. If your dog persists in licking or chewing at the hot spot, you may have to commit the ultimate crime in your pup’s eyes — placing an Elizabethan collar — also known as the cone of shame — around your canine’s neck. In most cases, this should prevent your dog from further scratching or licking the affected spot.

Here are some of the best products on the market that we had personal success with while treating dog hot spots.

Once you treat the hot spot with Vet’s Best hot spot relief spray, be sure to apply Blissful dog elbow butter to soothe the area. Your dog will try to lick the site, so be sure to use the Elizabethan Collar for a few days. 

Prevent Hot Spots on Dogs

While it’s not possible to prevent all hot spots, there are ways to help your canine avoid getting these painful lesions in the future. The very first step should be a trip to your veterinarian’s office. Until you learn the possible underlying causes of your dog’s skin irritation and itchiness, it’s likely that your pup could develop another painful hot spot.

hot spots on dogs feet

The following are issues that can lead to hot spots and a few helpful steps to prevent them from occurring.


Dogs with environmental or food allergies may develop itchy spots on their skin. If your dog is showing allergy symptoms, your veterinarian can perform tests to determine which allergens are triggering a response in your pet. Your vet can then advise you on any changes to make in your pet’s diet or lifestyle and, if necessary, prescribe medication.

Insect Bites

Insect bites can also cause a dog to scratch or bite its skin incessantly. Regularly applying flea and tick preventives to your dog is vital for keeping these pests at bay.

Bad Hygiene

If your canine has a double coat or one that is thick or wavy, make sure to keep your dog well-groomed. Daily brushings and consistent trips to the groomers will keep your pup from developing tight mats, which can trap moisture and bacteria against your pet’s skin. If your pet develops mats, have them clipped. It’s also essential to thoroughly dry your pet after baths or anytime your canine swims.


A dog that isn’t getting enough exercise and mental stimulation may engage in self-destructive habits, such as obsessively chewing, licking, or scratching at its skin. This is the doggy equivalent of fingernail biting in humans. Some breeds, such as Australian shepherds and border collies, were bred to work and tend to get bored quickly. These dogs require plenty of exercises to keep them from forming bad habits.

Physical Issues

Older dogs or ones with health issues may spend a lot of time lying down, creating abrasion or pressure points on their bony areas, such as their legs or hips. Some dogs with arthritis might also try to soothe the aching areas by licking or gnawing at them. To help your older or ailing dog, keep several well-padded beds or mats available for their use around your house.

The good news when it comes to treating hot spots on dogs!

With proper treatment, most hot spots heal in about a week’s time. So with good preventive care, your dog will, hopefully, never again have to deal with these painful sores.

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