Hot Spots on Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Updated: 3/19/20242-4 minutes
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Hot spots on dogs are a common skin condition. Find out what they are and how to treat them once they show up, so you can get your dog back to his usual happy self.

If you’ve noticed your dog itching more than usual and discovered a moist red spot on his skin under his fur, your beloved canine friend might be dealing with a skin condition known as a dog hot spot. In this article, we will look at what they are and how they can be treated effectively to help your dog.

What Are Dog Hot Spots?

Dog hot spots are areas of infected skin that look red, wet, and sometimes raised. Officially known as moist dermatitis, hot spots can be found anywhere on a dog’s skin and can increase in size very quickly. Your dog will experience them as itchy and sometimes painful patches and will often try to soothe hot spots with scratching, licking, or biting.

Symptoms of Hot Spots on Dogs

If your dog is suffering from hot spots, you’ll likely see the following signs or symptoms: 

  • Redness 
  • Swelling 
  • Hair loss 
  • Excessive licking or biting 
  • Itching

The spots in question will be moist and may discharge pus or fluid that can cause hair matting. These hot spots will typically be on a dog’s hips, limbs, and head, but they can occur anywhere on his body.

Will Dog Hot Spots Go Away on Their Own?

Hot spots are not likely to go away on their own, but the good news is that they can be easily treated. When you notice hot spots, the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with your vet and try to keep your dog from scratching too much. This itching can make the irritation worse, causing matted hair, lacerations, and sometimes secondary infections.

Are Hot Spots on Dogs Contagious?

No, hot spots on dogs generally aren’t contagious to other dogs and humans. However, if the cause of your dog’s hot spots is fungal or parasitic, then it may be possible for it to spread to other dogs or humans. To determine the underlying cause of your dog’s hot spot, it’s important to seek veterinary help as soon as possible. 

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs? 

Causes of hot spots on dogs can be anything from skin allergies to insect bites to minor abrasions. If there is enough moisture on the skin’s surface for bacteria to take hold, this will create the right conditions for hot spots. 

Some of the most common causes of hot spots on dogs are: 

  • Flea bites 
  • Atopic dermatitis 
  • Dirty coat or matting 
  • Ear infections 
  • Skin infections 
  • Food allergies 
  • Environmental allergies 
  • Stress, anxiety, or boredom which causes excessive licking that irritates and breaks the skin 
  • Injuries and abrasions 
  • Excess moisture in the dog’s coat after swimming or bathing

Dog hot spots tend to be more common during summer days when humidity is high, which is why they are also known as summer sores. Although long-haired breeds with thick coats, such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and St. Bernards, are more prone to this skin infection, hot spots can affect any dog.

Dog Hot Spot Treatment

Once you’ve identified hot spots on your dog’s skin, schedule a vet visit to discuss possible treatments. After establishing and treating any underlying cause, your vet will likely prescribe the following course of action: 

  • Trimming the area around the hot spot 
  • Cleaning the skin with a mild antiseptic 
  • Prescribed medications can include topical sprays to help heal the hot spot and, depending on the case, the vet might recommend antibiotics to help fight the infection or steroids to combat inflammation 
  • A dog cone can also be applied to stop your dog from scratching or licking his hot spots

Most dog hot spots will begin to disappear in a few days after the start of the treatment.

How to Treat Hot Spots on Dogs at Home

When it comes to treating dog hot spots, it’s always best to visit your vet and ask for help. While you’re waiting for the appointment, you can gently wash the area with water, keep it dry, and apply a cool compress to help get the inflammation down. You should also try and prevent your dog from licking or biting the hot spots.

How to Prevent Hot Spots on Dogs

Hot spots are a skin condition, so keeping your dog’s skin healthy is the first step towards preventing hot spots on dogs. Make sure you maintain your dog’s flea treatment schedule, manage his allergies, and make sure your dog dries off quickly after swimming or bathing. Regular grooming also plays an important prevention role when it comes to dog hot spots.

If your dog has an itching habit when he gets bored or anxious, make sure you keep him less worried and more entertained. For example, dog exercises will keep an energetic puppy happily busy for hours. But if you suspect it’s more than just pure boredom making your dog itchier than normal, ask your vet for advice on how to help a scared canine friend. 

Although it’s impossible to cure dog hot spots forever, a little foresight will reduce the risk of them showing up.

For more expert tips on your dog’s skin health, explore our other dog skin, fur and ear health articles.

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