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Everything You Need to Know About Hot Spots in Dogs

Everything You Need to Know About Hot Spots on Dogs

Every summer, dog parents and their furry best friends look forward to spending lots of time in the great outdoors together. But, before you hit the beach, the park, or the hiking trails, it’s a good idea to learn about a common skin issue that many dogs experience, especially during the hotter months: hot spots.

Chilly is prone to developing hot spots, so over the years I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with this itchy issue. I’m happy to say that he doesn’t get them nearly as often as he used to, and now I know exactly how to bring him relief as quickly as possible.

Here’s what every dog parent should know about preventing and treating hot spots.

What Are Hot Spots on Dogs?

Basically, a hot spot is an area of inflamed, infected skin also known as acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis. Hot spots can happen at any time of year, but they are more common when the air is hot and humid.

Chilly's hot spot before and after treatment.
Chilly’s hot spot before and after treatment.

Hot spots are most common on the face, neck, and thighs, but they can affect any area of the body. Chilly tends to get them on his front leg. If your dog develops a hot spot, you’ll notice patches of fur loss and red, itchy skin. It may ooze a little too. Hot spots develop quickly and can be quite uncomfortable for your dog, but with the right treatment they usually heal quickly too.

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?

Hot spots are caused by a bacteria that is usually present on your dog’s skin and mouth. Most of the time, his skin provides enough protection to keep the bacteria at a safe level, but certain conditions allow it to get past those defenses and cause an infection.

An initial irritant can cause your dog to start licking, biting, and scratching. This will only increase the irritation and cause it to become inflamed. Excess moisture, either from the weather or from a swim or a bath, can provide the ideal environment for the bacteria to multiply even more.

save 20% on vetericyn hot spot spray

Chilly suffers from skin allergies, or atopic dermatitis. Most of his hot spots are caused by his allergic itch and his inability to stop licking a spot on his left front leg. Sometimes he licks at it for days and causes a really nasty open sore!

Chilly has also developed hot spots because of his anxiety. Think of it like a nail biting habit — people who bite their nails usually do so as a result of feeling anxious. They can’t stop themselves any more than an anxious dog who reacts by licking or chewing.

Besides allergies or anxiety, here are a few other things that can contribute to hot spots:

  • Fleas, mites, or other external parasites
  • Insect stings or bites
  • A wound or scrape
  • Fungal infection
  • Dry skin
  • Pain from a previous injury

Fortunately, Chilly is being treated by our veterinarian with Cytopoint, which is a biologic medication that stops his itch for anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Since he started this treatment, he gets far fewer hot spots than he used to.

Since he does still have an occasional flare-up, I have the perfect fix to help him recover as quickly as possible.

Soothing Treatment for Hot Spots on Dogs

When Chilly develops a hot spot, it usually signals that it’s time for a veterinary appointment to treat his atopic dermatitis.

Chilly getting treated with Vetericyn's Hot Spot Spray.
Treating Chilly’s hot spot with Vetericyn Plus Hot Spot Antimicrobial Hydrogel.

In the meantime, I treat his hot spot the following way:

  1. Clean the wounded area.
  2. Apply Vetericyn Plus® Hot Spot Spray.
  3. Distract him with a game of fetch or a puzzle toy so he doesn’t lick the treatment away. (Although if he does get in a lap or two I don’t panic because Vetericyn products are non-toxic and safe if ingested.)
  4. Once it’s dry, spray Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Hydrogel.
  5.  Distract him again for about 10 minutes to keep him from licking.
  6. If I can’t distract him, or if it’s time for bed, after I’ve applied Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Hydrogel, I wrap the wound with gauze. Then I use this cool vet wrap on top of the gauze.
  7. I remove the wrap in about 4 hours, or in the morning.
Vetericyn Hot Spot Hydrogel

I’ve used this treatment for hot spots in dogs quite a few times, and I’m always super impressed by how quickly the wound begins to heal. I can see a difference in just one day! And, as you can see, just 2 days later it’s almost completely healed.

To help keep any allergens and irritants from causing Chilly’s allergies to flare up, I also make sure to bathe him regularly with Vetericyn FoamCare Shampoo. The medicated formula is just what he needs to minimize itchiness and keep him squeaky clean!

Once you know what to look for and how to treat hot spots if they happen, you’re ready to enjoy lots of summer fun with your tail wagging friend at your side.

save 20% on vetericyn hot spot spray

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. My golden retriever has a large hot spot under on his neck. Our vet is treating it and it is slowly starting to heal. But he has not slept in 4 days. I think when he rests his head the swollen area bothers him. What can we do? . It is very distressing to watch him. He is exhausted and can just about stand. But still won’t sleep. When he does eventually rest his head ,he jearks his head and shakes it.

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