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Hot spots on dogs: causes, symptoms and treatment

Pug dog advice

Hot spots will scab over if they are kept clean.

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If your dog has sore-looking red marks on their skin out of the blue, they could have hot spots.

By Dr Karen Ingleby BVetMed MRCVS

Updated on the 11/08/2020, 16:17

Has your dog ever experienced random spots of red, sore skin without any obvious reason for it to have happened? If the answer to that is yes, then it is likely your dog has suffered from hot spots or acute moist dermatitis.

What are hot spots on a dog's skin?

Hot spots or acute moist dermatitis are areas of skin that are sore, red and sometimes ooze. They can occur anywhere on your dog's body and you will often find your dog licks them and this makes them worse.

They are normally caused by minor damage to your dog's skin, like a scratch or an insect bite. This allows bacteria on the skin to get deeper into the area and to start an infection. Then when your dog licks and chews at it, the area gets larger and more infected. They are often quite painful and smelly, and require veterinary attention.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What does a hot spot look like on a dog?

When they first appear, hot spots look like red, sore, circular areas of skin that can often be weeping. If your dog has a dense coat, sometimes it can be difficult to fully visualise them until the hair is removed. If left untreated and your dog itches or licks the area, they will get larger quite quickly and can then often cover a big area of the skin.

Do a dog's hot spots scab over?

Yes, hot spots do scab over, if they are kept clean, not licked or irritated by your dog, and are allowed to dry out. Having said that, this nearly always requires some help from yourself and a vet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Are a dog's hot spots fungal or bacterial?

As a rule, hot spots are caused by the bacteria already present on your dog's skin. Then when there is damage to the skin surface, the bacteria go deeper into the skin and cause an infection or dermatitis.

Are dog hot spots contagious?

The spots themselves are not contagious to other animals or humans. Yet it is worth discussing with a vet what the underlying cause for the spots could be, as one of the common reasons can be fleas. Fleas can obviously spread from dog to dog and dog to human.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can dog food cause hot spots?

Yes, dog food can cause hot spots, if there is something in the food you are feeding them that your dog is allergic to. One of the signs dogs can show with any allergies is itchy skin, and the itching can damage the top layer of the skin and therefore allow the bacteria to start an infection and cause hot spots.

If your dog repeatedly has hot spots, go and see a vet to discuss what the possible underlying cause could be.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How do I treat hot spots on my dog?

If the area is small and you feel confident doing it, clip the hair around the area and clean it with a mild antibacterial and then gently pat it dry. This will allow air to reach the hot spot and speed up recovery. After that carry out frequent cleaning of the region over the next few days until the area starts to dry out and scab over.

Having said that, in many cases the wound will be very painful and can be larger than your first thought when you start to remove hair. Therefore, it's advisable to see a vet, who can help clip and clean it, and decide if your animal needs an antibiotic cream or tablets and anti-inflammatory pain relief. If your dog is grooming the area a lot, the vet may also recommend a collar to prevent this.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What home remedy can I use for a hot spot on a dog?

If the hot spot is small and your dog is not bothering it, then clipping the area and cleaning it with a mild antibacterial or saltwater solution, and allowing it to dry out may resolve the problem. It will require frequent cleaning and keeping a close eye on, to make sure it does not get worse. If you are at all worried, contact a vet and ask for further advise.

Can you put Neosporin on a dog hot spot?

Never use a prescription intended for another animal or human on your dog. Please contact a vet and ask their advice before using any medication.

Can I put hydrogen peroxide on my dog's hot spot?

In general, it is not recommended to use hydrogen peroxide on the wound. Although it has some antibacterial properties, it is quite painful on an open wound and can end up causing more tissue damage and increasing the time it will take to heal. Please speak to a vet about the best option for treatment.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Will a dog hot spot go away on its own?

In very mild cases that are not getting continually wet or aggravated by your dog, then it is possible a small hot spot may go away on its own. Yet this isn't normally the case, as the infection tends to get worse, then spreads and nearly always requires some veterinary help.

How can I prevent hot spots on my dog?

Long-haired and dense-coated breeds seem to be more susceptible to hot spots. It is also more common in the hot weather and in dogs that spend a lot of time in the water. Therefore, there are a few things owners can do to try to prevent hot spots from happening. Make sure your dog is well groomed, clipping their hair if necessary. This allows less moisture to stay near the skin and it will dry out quicker if they become wet.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Make sure you thoroughly dry your dog, if they have been for a swim or out in the rain. Keep up to date with tick and flea treatments, as bites from parasites can often be an underlying cause.

When should I see a vet?

If you notice red, painful patches of skin on your dog, then you should contact a vet. If your dog repeatedly gets hot spots, then get hold of a vet to investigate what the underlying reason may be.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk