Hot Spots on Dogs – Causes and Treatment

Picture of a Golden Retriever on grass

Hot spots can be a common ailment that many dog parents have to face at least at one point in their furry friend’s life. The sores can be inflamed, red, painful, and irritating, and they can appear either overnight or it might take weeks for them to be developed.

The inflammatory lesions are often made worse by the itchy dog’s tendency to constantly scratch the area until an entryway for various pathogens is produced.

In this post, we’ll look at what causes hot spots, some of the typical signs that you will notice on a dog that has them, several breeds that have a higher likelihood of developing them, and what treatments are currently available.

What Breeds Are More Predisposed to Developing Hot Spots?

Many studies have shown that dogs that tend to spend more time in water are at a higher risk. Also, dogs that have conditions such as hip dysplasia are more exposed to this medical problem as they might try to lick the painful body region in an attempt to soothe it.

It’s generally acknowledged that long-haired breeds have higher chances of developing hot spots compared to shorter hair breeds. Here is a list of some of the dog breeds that have been found to be affected by this issue:

If you are the pet parent of one of these dog breeds, there’s no guarantee that your canine friend is going to develop hot spots at one point or the other.

However, since this cutaneous condition is also associated with grooming and hygiene problems, we suggest that you pay more attention to your dog’s skin health and practice good hygiene. You can use hypoallergenic wipes and brush or comb your dog’s fur every day for 5 minutes.

How Does a Typical Hot Spot Look?

A hot spot looks like a sore. It can turn into a painful, raw, and large lesion in a short amount of time. It can be developed anywhere on a dog’s body, but it’s typically found on the neck, head, and hip area.

While hot spots per se don’t pose a health threat to a dog’s life, they are painful and can become infected with a variety of microorganisms that reside on a dog’s skin and fur or his/her living environment. If hot spots aren’t resolved in due time, they can even lead to irreversible skin damage.


Hot spots can be self-inflicted, and this seems to be the major cause of them being developed. Whenever a dog is itchy or painful in an area, he/she will bite, lick, or scratch that area without stopping. Even an insect bite can be at the root of the problem. Taking your dog to the vet when you notice the smallest sign of a hot spot can save you a lot of time and effort, and it can save your dog a lot of pain and frustration.

Some of the Common Causes of Hot Spots on Dogs Are the Following:

  • Dry skin
  • Surface scratches
  • Excessive licking from anxiety, boredom, or stress
  • Allergic reactions to contact substances or medications
  • Anal gland pathologies
  • Under and over-grooming

Hot spots can also show up at an injection site, or their symptoms can be caused by other diseases, such as demodicosis or scabies.

Symptoms of Hot Spots

Detecting a hot spot in its early stage is paramount to how fast and easily the skin condition is resolved. Here are some common clinical signs that you might notice.

Constant licking
Even before you see a lesion on your canines skin, you will definitely notice him or her licking the area almost incessantly. If no licking is involved, the dog might itch or bite it.

Red spots
This is the first sign that you might notice after the itchiness and licking. Unfortunately, by the time you see a hot spot, it’s usually pretty late. It’s likely to have grown and spread about the size of a quarter.

Moist skin
The skin and fur around the hot spot will almost always be moist or wet. There are two reasons for this. The first is the constant licking. The second is the actual moist dermatitis. In its advanced stage, a hot spot will have various secretions and even pus, which makes the area look a little wet.

Higher local temperature
Hot spots are warmer compared to the rest of the dog’s body. Touching a hot spot is possible in the beginning, but once it spreads and becomes more and more painful, your Fido is not going to let you anywhere around the area.

A number of signs aren’t as obvious, but you should be on the lookout for them anyway:

  • Scaly skin around the red area
  • Sores that are filled with pus or scabbing
  • Wet or matted fur
  • Localized hair loss
  • Lesions have a bad smell
  • Fever, lethargy, or depression

Can Hot Spots Be Treated?

Because they can spread so quickly, hot spots have to be treated as fast as possible. Treatment will, of course, vary depending on the cause. The vet can help determine the underlying cause if there is an infection, and they might come up with a treatment plan that can include corticosteroids, antihistamines, antibiotics, and essential fatty acids.

If you are lucky enough to catch a hot spot early, you might be able to treat it at home. Vets usually recommend anti-itch medications or medicated shampoos that can moisturize the skin and also decimate any bacteria. Soothing the itchiness or pain is the primary goal as it will make it less likely for the dog to manifest any particular interest in the affected area.

If the patient can’t seem to be able to stop biting, licking, or scratching the hot spot, he or she might have to wear a cone of shame. As much as you or your dog might hate it, Elizabethan collars are particularly helpful when it comes to hot spots. Keep the cone on until the lesion is practically treated and until the dog doesn’t show any interest in it.

Are There Any Natural Remedies for Hot Spots on Dogs?

The answer to this question is that it depends on the severity of the hot spots. If they are caught early on, they might be treated with topical ointments or over-the-counter medication, so long as the dog doesn’t continue damaging the area.

Some of the most commonly used natural remedies for this health problem are apple cider vinegar, oatmeal baths, antibacterial soap, vitamin E, witch hazel, and coconut oil. Apple cider vinegar and witch hazel should only be used if the hot spot is in its early stages.

Giving your dog oatmeal baths on the affected area only can soothe the skin and stop the spread of the hot spot. Vitamin E does a great job of moisturizing the dog’s skin, and coconut oil is said to have antibacterial properties.

Can Hot Spots Be Prevented?

There are dogs that will never develop a hot spot, but many others will, regardless of their breed, age, health status, or gender. The best way of preventing this health problem is to make sure that you keep an eye on your dog’s fur and skin and notice any changes.

Continued monitoring and fast treatment of any hot spot cause are the best prevention. Seasonal grooming such as brushing and bathing can make a difference, too.

Do not bathe your dog more often than every two weeks so as not to create a pH skin imbalance. You can bathe specific body regions daily if you notice anything, but avoid using harsh substances or human-grade shampoos or soaps. Needless to say, make sure your dog doesn’t have any fleas or ticks.



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