Hot Spots on Dogs: How to Treat

Most dogs will experience a hot spot at some point in their life. Thankfully, this condition is simple to treat. This article will help you learn what you need to know to be prepared to help your dog heal from a hot spot as quickly as possible.

What are Hot Spots on Dogs?

VCA Animal Hospital states that hot spots, also known as Acute moist dermatitis, are large red spots on your dog’s skin caused by bacterial infections. They are able to spread and become larger quickly, and at their worst, they can become raw lesions that scab and bleed.

They are very itchy, and this will make your dog chew and lick at them. If the area becomes moist from the excessive grooming, it will get worse. What causes bacteria to make hot spots on dogs?

What Causes Hot Spots?

The American Kennel Club states that hot spots are bacterial infections. While bacteria lives naturally on your dog’s skin, certain activities or events may cause the bacteria to overpopulate and cause a hot spot, such as:

  • Grooming: Grooming is an essential part of owning a dog with a thick or long-haired coat. If a dog is not groomed regularly, their coat will mat, reducing air circulation to the skin beneath their coat, which makes a place ideal for bacteria to populate. Some dogs will chew at mats to the point of wounding themselves; an open wound poses the opportunity for a hot spot to appear as well.
  • Water and Moisture: Dogs who spend time in the water, rain, or snow, should always be thoroughly dried off, as hot spots are likely to occur on a dog’s skin if they are not dried off sufficiently after their coat becomes moist.
  • Allergies and Bug Bites: Food allergies or bug bites cause the dog’s skin to become itchy, which causes excessive grooming, which makes skin moist for extended periods, giving bacteria fuel to grow.
  • Skin Infections. Skin and ear infections caused by yeast or bacteria may become very itchy, and as the infection worsens, you may notice a hot spot appearing on their ear flap or on their head, or around the infected area.
  • Boredom and Anxiety. Dogs who are bored or anxious will groom themselves more often than necessary. The front paws are most often the target for this behavior, which may cause hot spots to appear.
  • Lifestyle and Health. Dogs who are crated excessively, or who are suffering from joint problems and arthritis, or who spend lots of time laying down, may develop sores on joints that are not padded well. The discomfort they feel will cause them to groom the area, which may cause hot spots to appear.

What breeds of dogs get hot spots?

Any breed of dog is able to get a hot spot.

However, according to Callanan Veterinary Group, dogs with thick coats are most susceptible. Beneath their luxurious coats, their skin stays moist longer, giving bacteria a head start to begin growing.

How do dogs react to hot spots?

A hot spot dog will become irritated with the affected area, as it will feel itchy and uncomfortable. The hot spot dog will attempt to groom the area excessively, thinking that grooming will reduce the itching.

What should you do when you notice a hot spot on your dog?

If you notice a hot spot appear on your dog, the first step you should take is to prevent them from grooming the spot. If you have an e-collar at home, put it on your dog. If you do not, they are available for purchase at most pet stores, or you could improvise with a pool noodle.

hot spots on dog

Do not wrap the area with a bandage or other covering, as keeping air circulating to it may help prevent it from worsening. Covering a hot spot will help the bacteria continue to grow and likely annoy your dog enough that he would try to get the cover off, furthering irritating the hot spot.

If your dog will allow it, trim the fur around the hot spot to allow it to breathe as much as possible.

Though it is tempting, do not attempt to clean the hot spot with any particular type of product unless specifically directed to do so by your veterinarian. If you do not know how your dog’s skin will react to a certain product, or if you do not know the cause of the hot spot, do not risk worsening the hot spot by applying a product to their skin.

Does my dog need veterinary care for a hot spot?

Yes, veterinary care is needed for a hot spot. A veterinarian can help you identify the cause of the hot spot, which is essential to treating it effectively and preventing it from occurring again in the future.

Know that the longer a hot spot is left untreated, the worse it will become. Be sure to make an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian promptly rather than an attempt at-home remedies, as prescription medications will be the strongest and most efficient treatment to help your dog feel better as soon as possible.

How are hot spots treated?

Veterinarians will likely prescribe a topical medication for you to apply to the hot spot. If there are additional factors that are causing the hot spot, such as allergies or skin infection or ear infection, your veterinarian will likely address those issues simultaneously.

Your veterinarian may also tell you to have your dog continue wearing an e-collar for a certain amount of time and to apply a hot compress two to three times daily to alleviate your dog’s discomfort during the healing process.

treat dog hot spots

Veterinary treatment for hot spots is generally inexpensive. The sooner you arrange treatment for your dog, the less expensive it will be. If the hot spot is given time to worsen, treatment will become more expensive and the healing process will take longer.

If money is tight, try searching online for a local low-cost veterinarian, or a local veterinary office that offers a free first examination coupon to reduce the cost of obtaining veterinary care for your dog.

How long do hot spots last?

Hot spots may stick around for a couple of days or a few weeks depending on the cause, severity, and how often your dog is allowed to groom the area. Veterinary care is crucial to minimizing the time your dog is subjected to this uncomfortable experience.

Wrapping Up

Hot spots on dogs are caused by a variety of reasons.

They should be treated promptly by a veterinarian to prevent the condition from worsening. Treatment is not complicated and is generally inexpensive. The sooner your dog receives treatment, the sooner they will receive relief from this uncomfortable and potentially painful condition.

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