What causes hot spots on dogs?

What are hot spots?

Hot spots are a fairly common skin condition for dogs. Also known as acute moist dermatitis, many people notice their dogs itching themselves more than usual and after they parse through their fur, they find a red, moist rash on their dog’s skin. These patches of irritated skin can be found anywhere on the dog’s body and can be quite painful. If these itchy, infected spots go unnoticed, they can increase in size and cause more scratching which could cause more cuts and infections. If you happen to find a hot spot on your dog, call your vet and get it taken care of immediately.

Causes of hot spots on dogs

Hot spots on dogs can be caused by various circumstances. Anything from your dog’s skin allergies to typical scratching that causes a small laceration can be the pesky beginning to a hot spot. Once the dog begins licking and more moisture is trapped on the small wound, bacteria will grow. Here’s a few specific ways your dog can get a hot spot:

  • Stress
  • Flea bites
  • Parasites
  • Excessive licking
  • Food allergies
  • Trapped moisture in their coat after a bath or swim
  • Skin irritants

Symptoms to watch for

Excessive scratching, licking and biting are common signs to watch for. Some dogs can have chronic issues with hot spots, so it’s important to monitor your dog and identify which factors are causing your dog’s hot spots. Remember: hot spots are a reaction to something and you need to fix that problem to truly eliminate the hot spots. Some dogs have higher levels of anxiety than others, and that’s ok, it’s a behavior you will need to monitor.

Common Breeds

Some breeds are more prone to this issue than others. Dogs with dense coats or who live in humid areas have an increased potential to suffer from hot spots, as do dogs that often get wet and do not dry before spending extended time in their kennels. Even dogs with skin folds that never seem to air dry can struggle with the moist chafing and develop problems. Here are a few common breeds:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • St. Bernards
  • Bulldogs
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Mastiffs
  • Pugs

Treatments for hot spots

Once you believe your dog has a hot spot, you should contact your veterinarian. The treatment for hot spots is simple and most people can work through these skin issues within a few days of finding the skin sore.

  • Trim the fur around the hot spot so air can get to the sore.
  • Treat the wound with a topical antiseptic.
  • Don’t allow your dog to scratch, lick or bite the area until the wound heals.
    • If needed, place a cone on the dog’s head to prohibit them from biting and licking the wound.
  • Depending on the severity of the wound, your vet might prescribe a steroid to help fight the infection, on top of using an antiseptic.

How to prevent hot spots on your dog

Once you meet with your veterinarian and determine a cause for the hot spots, you can begin steps toward prevention. 

Monitor your dog for excessive itching and be sure to keep them on effective flea medications. A proper diet is key for any dog, especially one who struggles with hot spots. Additionally, be sure that your dog has time to let its coat dry before spending extended time in a kennel or enclosed space.

Since one of the common causes for hot spots is boredom and excessive licking, a simple preventative is providing your dog with more exercise throughout the day. “Exercise” can mean either physical or mental. Your dog might need to run around more, or they might need more mental stimulation to occupy their time. You can find various brain games for dogs, if you’re interested.