Hot Spots In Dogs

Acute Moist Dermatitis (often called Hot Spots) are bacterial infections that form underneath the fur. They are often red, raw, irritated and very itchy. Hot spots are extremely common, particularly in warm and humid weather. In the following article, I will discuss hot spots, what they are and what causes them, and what treatments are available to help them get better quickly.

Hot spots are itchy, red, moist lesions under the skin that result from licking or scratching. Hot spots can be a singular area which can be very large in size or there can be several at the same time in different areas of the body. A hot spot develops when the P.H of the skin changes causing skin infection and the resulting itch-scratch cycle. In other words, moisture or humidity forms under the skin which causes a favorable environment for bacteria. This bacterial infection is very itchy to your dog, and this results in your dog scratching, only making the problem worse. This cycle continues making the infected area larger and redder, exacerbating the cycle. There is usually an underlying cause for this cycle to have started which we will discuss in the next paragraph.

There are many underlying causes for hot spots. Allergies, fleas that cause biting/itching, clipper burns from grooming, or humidity/moisture under the fur can all cause hot spots. Identifying the cause of the hot spot is the key to preventing them from forming in the future. If a hot spot is caused by an underlying allergic condition, addressing that allergy will help prevent future occurrences.

Treating a hot spot flare-up centers on changing the P.H of that area, fighting the infection, and preventing licking/scratching. Here’s how your veterinarian will help address all 3:

  1. A member of the veterinary team will very gently clip the fur away from the lesion. This helps to allow the area to breathe and remove any excess humidity or moisture under the skin. After the lesion is clipped, a thorough cleaning will be performed with an antibacterial surgical scrub.
  2. The area is dried and allowed to air out. An E-collar is critical to help prevent your pet from licking and if needed, a soft T-shirt can be added to help protect from scratching. When your pet goes to scratch the area, they will instead hit the hanging portion of the T-shirt.
  3. Antibiotics are an important part of treating hot spots to help rid the resulting infection on the skin. Your veterinarian will help choose the right antibiotic for your pet.
  4. Depending on the particular case, your veterinarian may recommend pain or itch relief medication to help your pet feel more comfortable during the healing process.

Treating Hot Spots on Your Dog

Fortunately, hot spots look a lot worse than they are and most will heal quite well with a comprehensive treatment plan as outlined above. During your visit, a member of our World of Animals’ Veterinary Hospital will also discuss the underlying causes of hot spots and attempt to identify the inciting cause. Hot spots can be big, red, scabby, and rather unpleasant both in how they look and how they feel on your dog. But with a little veterinary care and medication, we will have your pet’s tail wagging again and back to their happy self.


Jeffrey Stupine

Medical Director

World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals