Hot Spots On Dogs: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

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Dog with hot spots (caption: Hot Spots On Dogs Causes, Treatment & Prevention)Is your dog excessively licking and chewing a red area on his skin? He could have a hot spot, which usually requires vet-prescribed medication and a lot of care at home to heal.

How do you know if your dog has a hot spot? How are hot spots treated? We’ll arm you with all the information you’ll need to help you relieve your pup’s pesky skin irritation.

Article Overview

What Are Hot Spots On Dogs?

A hot spot, also known as acute moist dermatitis, is an area of the skin that’s become inflamed and infected. At first, a hot spot appears as a small red area that looks like an insect bite. But they quickly worsen and spread, appearing as a large, moist, oozing and red or bright pink area.

Hot spots are very painful and itchy, so dogs continually lick and chew the area, which further worsens the condition. You may also notice hair loss in the area. Hot spots can occur anywhere on a dog’s body but are most common on the head, limbs and hips. Hot spots are also more likely to develop in warm weather and high humidity.

What Causes Hot Spots?

Dog bathing (caption: 9 natural ways to get rid of fleas)Anything that causes your dog to feel itchy can turn into a hot spot. Because of the continual licking and chewing, the skin becomes damaged and develops a bacterial infection. Some common triggers for hot spots include:

  • Flea and mite allergies
  • Insect bites or bee stings
  • Allergies to food or environmental factors (grasses, trees, weeds, etc.)
  • Skin wounds
  • Ear infections
  • Poor grooming
  • Boredom or stress (resulting in excessive licking)
  • Moisture trapped in the fur from bathing or swimming
  • Infected or impacted anal glands
  • Orthopedic problems, e.g., dogs with arthritis tend to lie down on the same area much of the time which can create abrasions over pressure points, like hips or ankles


Davis Dog and Cat Chlorhexidine SprayIf you suspect your dog has a hot spot, it’s a good idea to consult your vet for proper treatment and to help identify the underlying cause. Treatment usually involves the following steps.

  1. Clip the hair around the hot spot
  2. Clean the area with an antiseptic solution, such a chlorhexidine spray, or medicated wipes
  3. Administer a vet-prescribed oral or topical antibiotic to treat bacterial infections
  4. Administer a vet-prescribed oral or topical steroid to control itching and inflammation
  5. Apply an Elizabethan collar (aka a cone) to prevent licking and chewing

Your vet will give you instructions on how often to clean the area and give your pup the appropriate medications. As long as you follow your vet’s home treatment regimen, most hot spots quickly improve within 3-7 days.

Preventing Hot Spots

Flea control and proper bathing and grooming may be your best bets against future hot spots. However, many of the conditions that trigger hot spots are chronic problems, like allergies and ear infections.

So it’s important to identify and manage the underlying cause to prevent recurring hot spots and skin problems.

Identifying Allergies

If you suspect your dog’s recurring hot spots could be due to allergies, contact your vet to discuss your dog’s allergy symptoms. You can also help identify your dog’s specific sensitivities to food and environmental factors through an at-home dog allergy test, like the EasyDNA Dog Allergy Test. Learn more in our dog allergy test kit reviews.

Relieving Boredom & Stress

If you think your dog is licking or chewing due to boredom, try increasing his daily exercise, playtime and overall mental stimulation with the help of these top dog toys. And if your dog suffers from frequent stress, consider giving him CBD oil for dogs to help relieve his anxiety.

Daily Supplements To Consider

Zesty Paws Omega 3 Alaskan Fish Oil Chew TreatsGiving your dog a daily supplement of Omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids can help prevent and manage chronic skin problems. Zesty Paws Omega 3 Alaskan Fish Oil Chew Treats are an excellent option. They help promote healthy skin and also have anti-inflammatory properties, so they can help ward off hot spots by making your dog less susceptible to allergens and infections.

A daily probiotic is another option to help improve your dog’s allergies and associated itching (as well as digestive and other health issues). Nusentia Probiotic Miracle is a top choice for many dog owners. This blend contains 6 different strains and a prebiotic to combat itching & scratching, allergies, digestive and other issues. Learn more about dog probiotics.

What Do Hot Spots Look Like?

Check out this brief video to see the hot spot one groomer found after she shaved a pup.

Other Common Skin Problems

As we mentioned above, it’s important to identify your dog’s skin problems before they turn into hot spots. Our article, 7 common skin problems, gives you information on what to look for and tips on how to treat a variety of skin conditions.

Do you have any hot spot home remedy tips? 

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets). Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

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