Hot Spots on Dogs: What Pet Owners Need to Know

Hot Spots on Dogs: What Pet Owners Need to Know

If you’re a pet parent and you’ve heard about hot spots or you’re in the midst of dealing with one, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help keep your furry friend happy and minimize trips to the vet. 

Today, we’re talking about all hot spots, also known as ‘acute moist dermatitis,’ and how they impact dogs. Let’s dive in. 

What Are Hot Spots on Dogs?

Canine hot spots are red, infected lesions on your dog’s skin. You may notice redness, inflammation, oozing, fur loss, and heat radiating from the sore area. These inflamed areas generally start small and spread or worsen quickly.  

Hot spots, or acute moist dermatitis, are common in dogs of all ages. They can pop up anywhere on your dog. But they tend to appear around the legs, hips, and head — areas easy to lick and scratch. 

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?

Hot spots are caused by your dog constantly licking and scratching at a specific area. The consistent irritation and bacteria cause the area to become infected and sore quickly. 

That said, the licking and scratching can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:

  • Allergies to food, pollen, dust mites, and other environmental factors 
  • Bites from fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, ants, spiders, and other pests
  • Bee or hornet stings
  • Damp or humid conditions (especially in summer) 
  • Pre-existing health conditions such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and autoimmune disorders
  • Poor grooming and matted fur
  • Anal gland issues
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Contact with foreign objects and irritants such as burrs, thorns, or chemicals
  • Scratching at stitches and surgical sites.

While dogs of all breeds can get hot spots, dogs with dense, thick fur tend to be more susceptible.  

Are Hot Spots On Dogs Contagious? 

No. Because the skin lesions are caused by excessive licking and scratching in response to various irritants, they can’t spread from dog to dog. The development of hot spots is specific to each dog and its circumstances.

However, if multiple dogs are exposed to the same irritants around the same time — such as fleas in your yard or at the dog park — there is a chance that all pets involved could develop hot spots. This can make it seem as though the sores are contagious.  

How to Prevent Hot Spots On Dogs

Prevention is the best way to avoid dog hot spots and other skin issues. Here are some steps to take to help keep your dog happy and healthy: 

Maintain Good Hygiene

Wet dog after a bath

Regular grooming, either at home or from a professional groomer, keeps your dog's coat clean and free from mats, tangles, dirt, and other irritants.

  • Bathe your dog regularly with a mild, hypoallergenic shampoo to remove potential irritants. How often you should bathe your dog depends on breed and other factors, but every 1-3 months is a good rule of thumb for most dogs. 
  • Trim hair that may irritate their paws, butt, and face as needed to keep them from scratching at these sensitive areas. 
  • Regularly brush your dog between grooming sessions to remove excess fur and foreign objects.

While grooming and brushing, watch for bug bites, scratches, or sensitive areas that could prompt your dog to lick or scratch. Catching these issues early can help you prevent a severe hot spot and infection. 

Keep Home & Pet Areas Clean

A tidy house can help minimize some of the environmental allergens and pests that can trigger excessive itching and hot spots. 

  • Dust and vacuum your home regularly to keep dust mites and other allergens from circulating in the air and floor.
  • Opt for washable curtains and furniture coverings when possible.
  • Wash your dog’s bedding and toys regularly to prevent fleas, ticks, and bacteria growth
  • Wash dishes and put food away to deter rodents that stress out your pets and carry fleas. 
  • Invest in high-quality air filters that trap dust and pathogens. 
  • Wipe down counters and around tubs, sinks, and other damp areas to prevent mold and mildew growth.
  • Avoid indoor plants. 
  • Use mild detergents and cleaners to avoid irritating your dog’s skin and respiratory system. 

Dogs are good at hiding pain and injuries, so keep an eye out for potential hot spot warning signs such as clumps of fur and blood spots when cleaning. 

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Provide a well-balanced and nutritionally complete diet to support your dog's skin, coat, and immune system. 

  • Look for pet foods and treats rich in essential nutrients, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, that promote healthy skin and fur. 
  • Consider a hypoallergenic diet tailored to your dog’s specific food allergies or sensitivities to minimize itchy reactions. 
  • Ensure your dog has access to fresh water to support proper hydration, which contributes to healthy skin and coat.
  • Consider dog-safe foods loaded with antioxidants that help minimize inflammation, including leafy greens, salmon, and pumpkin. 

Prevent Overheating

Sweating, dampness, and sunburns can prompt bacteria growth and cause your dog to lick and scratch. Avoid excessive heat exposure to minimize exacerbating skin issues that lead to hot spots. 

  • Monitor your dog when they’re outside and avoid peak heat hours. 
  • Provide shade and access to cool water during hot weather.
  • Wipe down your dog with a towel when done outside to reduce moisture.
  • Invest in cooling mats or beds. 

Deter Boredom and Anxiety

Black dog playing tug-o-war with toy

Dogs may develop hot spots due to excessive licking or scratching from boredom or anxiety. Ensure your dog has plenty of mental and physical stimulation.

Keeping boredom and anxiety at bay is especially important if your dog is home alone during the day since you’re not there to monitor and prevent licking or scratching. 

  • Ensure your dog gets sufficient physical activity through regular walks, play sessions, and interactive games like fetch and tug.
  • Try short training sessions, puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, or interactive games to keep your dog mentally stimulated.
  • Rotate your dog's toys to keep them novel and interesting.
  • Dogs thrive on routine, so establish a consistent daily schedule for feeding, walks, playtime, and rest.
  • Create designated safe spaces — such as a dog bed or crate in a quiet area — where your dog can retreat when feeling stressed.
  • Offer comfort items, such as favorite toys or blankets, to provide a sense of familiarity and security when you're not at home.
  • Keep your dog confined to a pet-proofed, safe area when alone to minimize the chance of injury. 

If your dog is especially anxious, you might also consider a doggy daycare facility or asking someone to stop in and give your dog some attention.

Improve Gut Health with Maya Pet

Maya Pet may help support your dog’s gut health and immune system response. Improving your dog's gut health can positively affect their overall well-being, including preventing and managing conditions like hot spots. 

For humans and animals alike, improving gut health can eliminate or improve skin conditions.

  • A healthy gut microbiome helps regulate the immune response, reducing the likelihood of excessive inflammation and hypersensitivity reactions that can contribute to hot spots.
  • When the digestive system functions optimally, dogs can absorb essential nutrients, including those important for skin health. 
  • An imbalanced gut can contribute to dog food sensitivities and allergies, which may manifest as skin issues like itching and hot spots. 

Maya Pet comes in a convenient powder form, making it easy to work into your pet's normal feeding routine. Plus, it's non-GMO and doesn't have artificial flavors, preservatives, or unnecessary ingredients that can cause inflammation or worsen allergic reactions. 

Try Maya Pet today

How to Treat Hot Spots Dogs

While preventive methods are the best option, sometimes your dog may still get a hot spot. If that happens, treatment involves addressing the underlying cause of the irritation, relieving symptoms, and preventing further self-trauma. 

Here are some tips and home remedies for dog hot spots.

Clean the Area

You can use a clean washcloth with cool water and mild soap to gently clean the area around the hot spot. This helps minimize bacteria and helps to cool down the area. 

If the area looks infected with pus or large sores, you may just want to hold the cold compress — no soap or scrubbing.

E-Collars (Elizabethan Collars)

Dog attempting to lick while wearing a plastic E-Collar

To prevent your pet from licking or scratching the hot spot and making the area worse, use an Elizabethan collar (also called E-collar) or a similar protective device. This helps prevent further trauma to the affected area.

These protective collars, often jokingly referred to as a “cone of shame,” may make your pet look silly, but the most important thing is to stop them from accessing the wound. Assuming the E-collar fits and is put on properly, it won’t cause your pet any pain. Most dogs can eat, drink, and move around just fine after a short adjustment period. 

Once the collar is on, keep it on as much as possible — even when your dog looks at you with those big, pleading puppy dog eyes. Ultimately, it’s for their own good. 

Soft or padded protective collars and pet recovery suits are also possible alternatives depending on the hot spot location. While often more costly, these options can sometimes be more comfortable for your dog. 

Identify and Address the Underlying Cause

Determine the cause of the hot spot, whether it's due to allergies, insect bites, skin infections, or other factors. Addressing the root cause is crucial for preventing recurrent hot spots.

A pest bite, sting, or injury might be fairly obvious. However, factors such as anxiety, allergies, and underlying health concerns can be a little harder to nail down. Ongoing observation and discussions with family members, groomers, and others in your pet’s life can help you narrow things down. 

Medications and Topical Creams

While prevention is always the best method, hot spots can spread incredibly fast once they appear. If the hot spot is severe, your pet is in significant discomfort, or there's no significant improvement within a few days, you may need medication. 

A vet can provide a tailored treatment plan that may include topical creams or medications to reduce infection. 

Dog Hot Spots Can Be Serious

A hot spot should not go left untreated. Successful treatment often involves addressing the underlying cause, providing relief to the affected area, and taking preventive measures to avoid future occurrences. Work with a professional to figure out the right plan for your pet. 

If you have questions about how Maya Pet can improve overall wellness and help prevent common pet health issues, including hot spots, we’d love to chat. 

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