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What to do if Your Dog Has Hot Spots

Updated on March 16, 2012

I guess you could say we found out about hot spots the hard way. In the warmer months, we would start noticing that our Bichon was literally chewing himself raw. I think it pained us almost as much as it did him, and we were determined, with the help of our veterinarian, to find a way to help him.


Also known as acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis, or summer sores, hot spots are areas of infection on the surface of the skin. They are moist, red, hot, and very painful. The skin has become irritated, causing an “itch-scratch cycle” for the poor dog, and a breeding ground for the growth of bacteria.

Hot spots can occur as the result of allergies, mite or flea bites, insect bites, and underlying ear or skin infections. Dogs with dirty, matted coats, and those with coats that stay wet from rain or swimming are also susceptible. Dogs living in warm and humid climates can get hot spots when shedding if dead hair gets trapped next to their skin. Finally, some dogs bring about their own hot spots when stress or boredom causes them to lick and chew.


Hot spots can develop surprisingly fast, sometimes within a matter of only a few hours. I would recommend contacting your vet as soon as you notice any skin problems; starting treatment before the infection spreads will be much better for your pet. In the interim, you may want to clip the hair around the spot, and wash the area with mild soap and water or a diluted povidone iodine solution. A green or chamomile tea bag compress may also give some relief. Do be aware that some dogs with hot spots become so miserable that they may snap if the area is touched. Proceed with caution.

Your veterinarian will probably prescribe antibiotics and pain medicine, as well as corticosteroids or antihistamines for the itching. An Elizabethan collar (plastic cone) may be recommended to prevent the dog from further chewing until the area has had a chance to heal.


There are several things you can do to help reduce the incidence of hot spots for your dog.

  • Regular grooming, including baths with medicated shampoo, and keeping fur trimmed short, especially in summer.
  • Regular administration of flea and tick preventative.
  • If allergies are suspected, you may need to give Benadryl on a regular basis. Be sure to consult your vet for proper dosing instructions.
  • Dietary supplements containing omega fatty acids may help.
  • If boredom is a possible culprit, your dog may need more exercise and attention.

Proactive veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker discusses the causes of dog hot spots and how to treat and prevent it naturally.


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