Hotspots in Dogs: Everything You Need To Know 

March 15, 2021

Hotspots in Dogs: Everything You Need To Know 

With ourselves, it is often quite easy to notice when something goes wrong with our body. We tend to feel some sort of pain or that something is ‘not quite right’. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult with dogs, as they can't vocalize their problems.

That's why it's important to know about common health issues that dogs are susceptible to, such as hot spots. If there's an area of skin your dog can't stop scratching, that is moist and seems painful, then your canine friend may just have hotspots. 

What Are Hot Spots?

Also known as acute moist dermatitis, or pyotraumatic dermatitis, hotspots in dogs are a localized area of sore, red, damp, itchy and inflamed skin that often is smelly and develops scabbing on top. Due to its moist and itchy nature, dogs often tend to scratch and lick this area of infected skin. 

Hot spots usually begin small, like a minor graze, but can grow and become increasingly inflamed, and infected. The worsening of the initial lesion is usually due to the dog biting, licking, or scratching the spot.

How to Know If My Dog Has Hot Spots?

The most obvious sign of hotspots in dogs is an area of skin that is oozing, red, smelly and wet. The inflammation causes the spot to become warm also, hence the name ‘hot spot’. Dog hair, especially if long, can mask and matt over the infected area, making it not only hard to spot but difficult to gauge the severity of the problem. In contrast, hair loss is also a symptom of hot spots, which may make it easier to see. 

If you notice your dog won't leave a part of its body alone, usually constantly chewing it or scratching, then you will have to make sure you take a closer look. Whilst hotspots in dogs can appear anywhere, they are common on the hip, head or chest. Also, you may want to be careful when inspecting your dog's skin because, if it is a hot spot, your dog might growl at you, due to the agitating nature of this kind of dermatitis. 

The red patch of skin may initially be small, but can rapidly grow in size and intensify within only hours. So, if you do suspect a hot spot, do not hesitate to get it treated as soon as possible. 

What Causes Hotspots in Dogs?

Anything that causes your dog's skin to become itchy, and therefore usually licked and scratched incessantly, can develop into a hot spot. Some triggers are: 

  • Allergies: dog skin problems can often arise from allergens that your pet comes across. The three most common allergens are fleas, food, and environmental, which can include such things as pollen, grass, trees and dust. Environmental allergies may be worse depending on the time of year.
  • Cuts, grazes and other skin wounds
  • Stress: whilst it may not necessarily be a common trigger, dogs have been known to bring on hot spots themselves. Due to stress or other psychological problems, canine's might scratch or bite their skin creating a skin problem
  • Parasites: these include internal and external parasites such as ringworm, tapeworm, fleas, ticks and lice

Hotspot Treatment in Dogs 

Before anything else, speak with your vet about the hot spot. Professional advice will ensure an accurate diagnosis and will help with the next steps to take. 

Hotspot treatment in dogs that your vet may prescribe, or recommend are: 

  • Trim the fur surrounding the sore area — Shaving the affected area will help identify the scale of the inflamed patch, as well as to allow the spot to be cleaned. The spot will remain clean much easier without hair catching bacteria and so on.
  • Clean the area properly — The area will want to be cleaned with a sterile cloth, cold water and a mild antiseptic. For optimal healing, the area should be cleaned once a day using the above. Saltwater also works well as an antiseptic cleaning agent for hotspots in dogs. Ensure what you use is pH appropriate to not cause your dog any more pain or discomfort.
  • Medication — Your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics, special shampoo, topical sprays and/or medication to help combat the itch. Steroidal treatments may also be prescribed to aid with inflammation.
  • A dog cone or e-collar — It is possible your dog will benefit from a dog cone or e-collar for a period of time to prevent it from licking, biting or chewing the hot spot.

Home Remedies to Treat Your Dog 

Home remedies shouldn't be supplemented for proper treatment for hotspots in dogs, however, if you find you are waiting for an appointment at the vet you may want to try some stuff at home in the meantime. 

  • You can use a cool compress which will help reduce inflammation. As tea has astringent and antimicrobial properties, using black or green tea bag compress can be helpful in alleviating the sore patch. Again, be gentle and careful when touching your dog's hot spot, as your dog may snap and be unwilling to have it touched.
  • Over-the-counter sprays are available to help treat hot spots. Vetericyn and Vets Best are some popular brands that are inexpensive and easy to use. They will help with the healing process and aren't toxic if your dog happens to ingest them.
  • Clip the fur, if the vet hasn't already. This can let air and medication reach the hot spot. Be careful with the tools you use as scissors have the potential the make the wound worse.


  • Cover the affected area with a bandage or covering of any sort. This stops the sore area from being able to breathe
  • Allow your dog to lick the area if you can help it
  • Use sprays or over-the-counter treatments that aren't veterinary-approved and pet safe

How To Prevent Hot Spots

As moist acute dermatitis is a skin problem, one of the most effective measures you can take to prevent those nasty little red spots is practicing good skincare. This means treating allergies that may cause your dog skin problems, as well as ensuring strict flea control measures when necessary. When your dog swims or goes for a wash, you should also make sure they dry off properly. 

Regular grooming is so important to keep hot spots at bay. This means brushing and cleaning your pet's coat regularly, especially in summer. If your dog has been getting rough and ready outside, ensure you clear its coat of allergens that it may have collected. 

Keep your dog engaged through certain toys, exercises and regular walks, as this can help prevent boredom-relating scratching, biting and licking of the skin. This should also help with stress release and keeping your dog's mental health in check. 


Unfortunately, it's never a guarantee that your dog will stay hot spot-free. However, by following appropriate hygiene measures, and providing the right care you can help minimize hotspots in dogs. The more you know about hot spots, the better equipped you will be to deal with them should they occur. 

If you love your dog, you'll want to stay in the know regarding everything you can do to give them the best life possible. Join our mailing list for top tips, information and advice on our canine friends. 

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