What Are Hot Spots On Dogs?

Doggie Wi-Fi? 🤔

dog itching butt with red spot

When you hear the word “hotspot,” you probably think of Wi-Fi and not dogs. But did you know that hot spots can also refer to a dog’s skin condition?

Hot spots are a (kind of gross) skin issue that are actually pretty common for pups.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Chyrle Bonk, a veterinarian from Pet Keen, to find out what hot spots are and how to treat them.

What are hot spots on dogs?

Hot spots are inflamed areas on your dog’s skin. They’re a common skin condition in dogs and usually occur in the summer.

“Hot spots are officially known as acute moist dermatitis,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo. “Both the names hot spots and acute moist dermatitis do a great job at describing what they are — an itchy, burning, oozing lesion on your dog’s skin that’s made worse by them licking and scratching it.”

What do hot spots look like on a dog?

Hot spots are kind of gross, and they look like pretty painful scrapes or patches of raw skin.

“Hot spots show up, seemingly overnight, as red, raised, wet, often hairless spots anywhere on the skin,” Dr. Bonk said. “They may ooze, bleed or have pus. Dogs will lick or scratch at them constantly. Hot spots can quickly become larger or infected if left untreated.”

They usually occur on certain areas of your dog’s skin.

“While hot spots can show themselves anywhere on your dog’s body, they’re more common on the head, feet and hind end,” Dr. Bonk said.

What causes hot spots on dogs?

Dogs get hot spots from itching or chewing an area excessively, which leads to more irritation (and sometimes even a skin infection) that they’ll keep scratching.

“The more dogs scratch, the worse the lesion gets, and the cycle continues,” Dr. Bonk said.

There can be a number of reasons for your dog’s itching in the first place that can lead to hot spots, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Fleas
  • Skin infections
  • Wet fur
  • Matted fur
  • Ear infections
  • Anxiety or boredom
  • Anal sac disease
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact irritants

Certain breeds that have thicker coats or greater susceptibility to allergies are more likely to get hot spots.

“Dog breeds with thicker coats are more prone to hot spots because it is harder to get this thick hair completely dry once it gets wet,” Dr. Bonk said. “This causes moisture to get trapped against the skin, making the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to start a skin infection. Also, breeds that are prone to skin allergies are most likely to get hot spots.”

While any dog can get hot spots, some breeds that are more susceptible to them are Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, Saint Bernards, golden retrievers and rottweilers, Dr. Bonk said.

If your dog spends a lot of time in the water, he could also be at greater risk since wet fur is a great environment for bacteria to grow and cause an infection.

“This makes water-loving dogs a higher risk as well since they’re more likely to swim or play in the water and stay wet,” Dr. Bonk said.

Hot spots are also more likely to occur in the summer because of the hot weather and humidity.

How to treat hot spots on dogs

Hot spots don’t go away on their own, so if your dog gets them, you’ll need to take him to the vet.

The hot spot itself will need to be treated, and your vet will have to determine the underlying cause to prevent more hot spots in the future.

“The main goal in treatment is to break the itching-licking cycle,” Dr. Bonk said. “This may require a physical blockade, like an e-collar or bandage and a medication to stop the itch.”

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Your vet will examine your pup to determine what the cause of the itching is and decide on a treatment from there.

Treatment for hot spots can include:

  • Trimming the fur around the hot spot — “They will trim the hair around the hot spot to allow for air circulation to help dry the wound,” Dr. Bonk said.
  • Cleaning the hot spot with an antiseptic solution
  • Prescribing medication to prevent infection — “They may prescribe a steroid ointment or spray that will reduce inflammation and an antibiotic to treat any infection,” Dr. Bonk said.
  • Prescribing treatment for the underlying cause, such as flea, allergy or anxiety medications

If the cause for your dog’s itching isn’t treated, the hot spots can come back, so it’s important to treat the hot spot and the cause of your dog’s itchy skin.

“Hot spots may recur if the underlying cause isn’t treated,” Dr. Bonk said. “They can also recur if dogs continue to swim or play in the water without getting completely dry in between.”

Hot spots usually clear up pretty quickly once you begin treatment — typically within a few days to a week.

How to prevent hot spots on dogs

The best way to prevent hot spots is to figure out and treat the cause.

“The best prevention is to find out what is causing your dog’s hot spots and treat that the best you can,” Dr. Bonk said. “If that can’t be done, make sure your dog gets dry every time they get wet, make sure they don’t have fleas and try to catch any spots as soon as possible.”

Here are some ways to prevent your pup from developing hot spots:

  • Keep your dog up to date on his flea prevention.
  • Treat any allergies your dog may have.
  • Treat skin infections.
  • Thoroughly dry your dog after swimming or washing him.
  • Keep your dog entertained so he doesn’t get bored. Try an interactive toy like this one that earned The Dodo’s Paw of Approval. You can get it from Amazon for $17.49.
  • Treat your dog’s anxiety.

So hot spots aren’t just for Wi-Fi. Hot spots on dogs are an itchy skin issue, and if your dog gets them, you should take him to the vet for treatment and to figure out why your pup is itching.

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