Dog Hot Spots

Dog hot spots, the familiar name for the medical condition of pyotraumatic dermatitis, is a common but generally not serious condition affecting our canine friends.

While they can occur anywhere, they often appear either near the tail or around the ears. Mostly this problem affects adult dogs, but can show up in puppies that are not getting the best of care.

hand petting dog on head

Dogs with heavy coats such as Belgian Tervuren, St. Bernard, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, etc., are more inclined to get hot spots especially during periods of humid weather when their coats will retain more moisture.

It is one of the dog skin problems that can be very uncomfortable, even downright painful, for our pets, but fortunately very treatable.

While it's natural for a dog to scratch and lick his wounds, this will only exacerbate the problem and delay healing. Witch hazel can be applied right away and repeated often. It provides a cooling effect and helps stop the itching.

dog hot spots on coat

How To Recognize Dog Hot Spots

A hot spot is pretty easy to locate and recognize because first of all you will notice your dog constantly scratching or licking the area. When you take a closer look you will generally see a raw bare spot on his coat that will look very inflamed (red) and moist.

Your pet's undivided attention to the hot spot will confirm that it is causing him some distress.

The spots usually have a bad odor, may be oozing, and are obviously very itchy to your pet. One other very recognizable feature of hot spots is that they grow bigger amazingly fast - generally within hours.

So it's quite imperative to alleviate the symptoms as quickly as possible to prevent further scratching and spreading of bacteria.

Belgian Tervuren dog outside in the grassBelgian Tervuren

That being said, the symptoms can be intense, so much so that he may not allow you to touch the wound, so proceed with caution.

If you get a lot of resistance to your touch then you know the area is extremely painful to your dog and the wisest choice in this situation is to take him to the vet for his expert handling.

Causes of Dog Hot Spots

While the exact cause may be hard to pinpoint without your undivided attention to his everyday activities, here are some ways hot spots get started,...

  • when a dog develops a compelling itch and keeps scratching at it until the skin breaks, allowing bacteria to spread inside and around the area. A pet will then continue to lick and scratch at the wound keeping the area moist and difficult to dry out.

  • Sometimes pets will start scratching simply out of boredom, but itchy skin is usually an allergic reaction of some type,

  • Many pet allergies can often be traced to bad quality pet food that contains toxic ingredients, chemical additives, preservatives or grains to which they are sensitive.
  • Other things that trigger allergic reactions can be of an environmental type, such as parasites, pesticides, pollens, bites from insects, and raction to a vaccination.
  • Harsh grooming products or more often insufficient grooming leading to a matted coat etc.


Hot Spot Treatment

Depending on the severity of the hot spot(s), you may need to have your dog wear a Pet E-Collar to prevent the licking and chewing. We have had to do this on occasion with our dogs and found this ZenPet collar doesn't seem to bother them.

Although the sores may look very nasty and can be extremely sensitive to the touch, they are usually not serious and can be treated with several home remedies.

  • They don't call them hot spots for nothing, so in order to cut the heat that arises from the constant chewing and scratching apply a dab of Witch Hazel 2-3 times a day.

  • Keep the surrounding skin free of hair to discourage mats from forming near the hot spot. Mats not only trap moisture, but are the ideal environment for bacteria to spread and worsen the condition.

  • Soothe them with an antibacterial solution such as Vetericyn Antimicrobial Relief Spray which I have found amazingly effective at stopping a hot spot in its tracks, fast!
    Another choice is this one: Green Tee Septiderm-V spray which also helps dry out the spots.

  • Keeping the dog hot spots dry promotes rapid healing. You can do this by spraying them two to three times daily with one of these products and you will soon begin to see improvement.

    As an alternative home remedy you can brew black tea bags and when cool apply to the sores for five minutes or so. Black tea has antibacterial properties and will assist in drying the wound. Apply twice or more a day.

  • One last remedy: strengthen your dog's immune system so he has a strong defense against skin disorders.

And here's a caution: Do not apply anything greasy as this will trap the bacteria and possibly drive the infection inward.

If you treat the dog hot spots with home remedies and they do not clear up in a few days, or appear to be getting worse, it's time to call your vet pronto!

Ongoing Prevention

To prevent further development of dog hot spots, one of the best thing you can do is find the underlying cause of your dog's itching so that you can take steps to stop the itch cycle. Check our page on skin allergies for more help.

Another, is to groom your dog well to prevent mats from forming which can harbor parasites and start the itching cycle. Read this article we wrote for to learn the secrets of removing mats: "How to De-Mat Your Dog's Tangles"

  • Always consult your veterinarian when you have health-related questions. Information on this website is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified professional.

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