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How to heal and prevent hot spots in dogs

Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis, are painful, irritating, red, inflamed skin lesions that appear out of nowhere and start as small red blotches on the skin that are aggravated through scratching, gnawing, licking, and chewing.

Many dog owners confuse them for insect bites only to realize they are skin infections once they begin to ooze pus and their dogs show signs of pain upon touching the spot. Hot spots can develop on any part of your dog’s body but are mostly on the head, legs, and hips.

What causes hot spots?

It is caused by vigorous scratching or self-licking of an itchy spot that leaves the superficial skin tender and soft. This stimulates more irritation, which causes more licking and biting, resulting in open wounds prone to secondary bacterial infections. As a result, your dog develops a hot spot.

Itchiness or irritation on your dog’s skin is often caused by:

  • Food allergies.
  • Anal sac disease.
  • Parasites.
  • Contact irritants.
  • Dirty or matted coat.
  • Skin infections.
  • Stress or boredom that results in excessive scratching.


Like any other disease, hot spots are better treated when detected early when it’s small, painless, and uncomplicated. This way, you can treat them with common over-the-counter products available at vetsend, such as medicated shampoos, topical sprays, and various herbal therapies. The products need to pet-approved to ensure your dog’s well-being at the time of usage.

However, if the situation is aggravated, it is advisable to seek your veterinarian’s opinion upon the mode of treatment. Additionally, your vet will perform a full physical examination of your dog to determine the cause of the hot spot and a means to prevent it from recurring.

The treatment will most possibly involve:

  • Cleaning the affected area with medicated wipes or gentle antiseptic solutions daily.
  • Gentle clipping of hair around the sore to prevent matting and allow easy reach of medication.
  • Administering prescribed topical or oral antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections.
  • Use of oral or topical steroids that reduce inflammation and itchiness.
  • Use of the cone of shame to prevent further licking.


Well, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therefore, it is crucial to address the root of your dog’s irritation to prevent recurring hot spots.  While good hygiene and regular grooming are the primary modes of prevention, it is equally important to engage your dog in mental and physical stimulation to relieve stress and avoid boredom. Also, supplement your dog’s diet with essential fatty acids to grow a healthy coat.

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