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Hot spots on dogs

Updated on January 1, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.


Your Dog's Scratching Makes Them Worse

When I told a friend I was writing an article about hot spots he replied something to the effect that, “Jeez, I’d never picture you out clubbing. Like they say, silent waters run deep. You go, boy.”

I had to resist the temptation to regale him with made-up stories of my bad boy persona and come clean. The hot spots I was writing about are sores on a dog’s body. I can still hear him guffawing. I hate it when that happens.

Hot spot is the generic term used to describe a weepy, raw lesion that causes a lot of discomfort for dogs. Most vets refer to it as acute moist dermatitis, but they also call it pyotraumatic dermatitis, which alludes to the fact that dogs exacerbate the problem by licking and chewing the affected area.

Dogs always exacerbate a problem by licking and chewing the affected area, whether it’s a hot spot, laceration, bug bite or anything else that gives the dog some sort of sensation at a particular location on his body.

There are many things that cause hot spots, including the bites of fleas and other insects-arachnids-mites, allergic reaction to ingested or inhaled allergens, foreign bodies such as burrs or other plant irritants, ear infections, anal sac problems, even arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases. The strange thing is: one minute they’re not there, the next minute they are.

The appearance of the hot spots can change significantly in a matter of hours, but they generally are round, moist, hairless, inflamed lesions that often show up on the head, at the base of the spine, the side of the chest, and on the thighs.

A dog with long hair or a dense undercoat is more likely to develop hot spots, and that long hair can become matted over the lesion, hiding it and causing treatment to be delayed. And it can be quite painful, causing even gentle dogs to growl or nip when you treat it.


Treatment depends upon the severity of the condition. In mild cases you may only cleanse the area and perhaps apply soothing ointments. Elizabethan collars, or E-collars, (makes your dog look like he got his head caught in a megaphone) will prevent him from making it worse.

More severe cases would require the use of antibiotics and steroids. In any event, treatment is a two-pronged attack. First the hot spot is treated to prevent it from getting larger, and secondly the cause has to be addressed, which is the hard part.

The veterinarian will ask you about any known allergies the dog has, and will check for flea or mite infestation, cuts or scrapes, joint abnormalities or ear infection. He will likely express the anal sacs (better him than you), and may even explore the possibility of a stress related cause.

For your part, you can keep the nails trimmed and perhaps put booties on his feet to prevent self-inflicted trauma, keep him well-groomed, see that the hair around the hot spot is trimmed so that air can get at it, and take effective flea control measures.

There isn’t a lot you can do to prevent hot spots. Keeping his coat well groomed, his ears clean, his anal sacs expressed, practicing good parasite control, and giving occasional baths with a medicated shampoo will make it more difficult for hot spots to get started, and as a bonus, will help maximize his overall health.


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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You're welcome. I would imagine it won't work in all instances, but it may well be worth a try.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Eddy, nice to see you. I don't suppose Welsh hot spots are any different from American hot spots. They still make dogs lick, chew and scratch them into infections. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for the advice on the styrofoam plate! I never thought of that.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Mary, thanks for stopping by. Flea saliva allergies are particularly troubling because with the topical contact products, the flea has a chance to bite before it dies. With the spot-on products, they have to bite in order to ingest the toxin. So, no matter what you do, poor Baby is subjected to doses of allergen.

      When my cat had to wear an E-collar I cut a hole...a tiny bit smaller than her the center of a styrofoam plate...and used that instead.

      She still didn't like it, but since it was smaller, she seemed to tolerate that more than the collar. It still kept her from getting at her stitches but didn't dominate her peripheral vision.

      Good to see you again. Thanks for commenting and voting. Regards, Bob

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Will benefit many dog owners so thanks for sharing.


    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      My Miniature Schnauzer Baby, is terribly allergic to flea bites. If she gets bitten, she will scratch until she gets a "hot spot". Living here in a warm climate, fleas are always a problem. I used a spray to relieve the itching my Vet sold me and I put the collar on her. She hates that thing, but I have to do it!

      I voted this Hub UP etc.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi chrissytsu, good to see you. The base of the tail seems to be a common spot and summer seems to be a common season for hot spots. I wonder if it could start with an allergy to a grass or pollen?

      Sometimes the over the counter stuff works, but sometimes it doesn't, as is your experience. The omega 3 certainly helps, and you can further support the skin by feeding a grain-free kibble and grain-free treats. They say tea bag compresses also help. In severe cases, vets treat with steroids and antibiotics.

      Thanks for commenting and voting; glad you stopped by. Regards, Bob

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 5 years ago from Texas

      My Weimaraner suffers from a hot spot every summer right at the base of her tail...It seems like being outside in the heat aggrivates it and when we're outside she acts like something is attacking her rear end. I just use over the counter stuff on it (which doesn't seem to help) and fish oil/omega 3 shampoos or conditioners which do. Voted up, useful info.