Dogs Hot Spots: What’s Causing Them and How To Treat Them

If your fur-nugget has been dealing with itchy hot spots on their skin, then you have a pup that is a constant state of discomfort and agony. I dare you to Google hot spots on dogs — but don’t do it because the images are terrible. Moist Dermatitis — otherwise known as hot spots — are bright red lesions and marks that quickly become out of control as your dog incessantly scratches, licks, and bites their skin.  

What Causes Itchy Hot Spots?

The most common cause of hot spots are fleas and other insects that bite our poor lovable goofballs to the point where they can’t help but constantly scratch. But anything that irritates their skin can cause hot spots to develop. This includes allergies, vegetation that scrapes against their skin, poor grooming habits, and even household cleaning products around the house.

Other Common Causes of Hot Spots Include:

  • Poor grooming habits
  • Allergies
  • Excessive bathing
  • Dirty ears / ear Infections
  • Stress
  • Boredom   
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Anal Sac disease
  • Thick coats

How To Spot Hot Spots

Spotting a hot spot can be tricky depending on the thickness and length of your dog’s coat. They typically occur around on or around their head, chest area, and hips. If you notice your dog going back to an area over and over again, it definitely a warning sign you shouldn’t ignore. Severe hot spots can spring up overnight taking many dog owners by surprise — they are not to be taken lightly.  

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Susceptible to Hot Spots Than Others?

Dogs with thick coats are the most prone to developing hot spots. As well as larger breeds who are more susceptible to hip dysplasia — Pugs and French Bulldogs being the small dog exception to the rule.

Breeds Prone To Hot Spots:

  • German Shepherds
  • Newfoundlands
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Rottweilers
  • St. Bernards  

Preventing Painful Hot Spots

There are two main things you need to do to prevent hot spots. First is regular grooming, which includes bathing, nail trimming, & ear cleaning. Make sure you are not excessively bathing — once every one to two weeks in the summer, once or twice a month in winter.

The main thing you need to do to prevent those painful hotspots is to get your dog on a veterinarian approved flea and tick control program. There are lots of options out there, and there are fantastic all-natural ones if that’s how you get down. Look for products with lemongrass and/or peppermint as they are natural and safe pesticides.


Treatment Options For Hot Spots

Before you can move on to treating the hot spots, you need to determine what is causing them. If you can prevent this issue from occurring, then you treat hot spots at home.

There are five parts to treating hot spots:

1. Clean area, remove fur and dry the area out

2. Kill any bacteria / the infection

3. Rejuvenating and healing the skin

4. Stopping the itch

5. Preventing future hot spots

Treating Hot Spots at Home

Hotspot sprays are the most popular solution for treating hot spots anti-itch spray for dogs at home and are a great option if you’re looking for an all-natural treatment. You’ll want to look for a spray that soothes the areas as well as treats it with an antibacterial. Common ingredients in them include tea tree oil, vitamin E, aloe vera to name a few. You shouldn’t have to worry about it but check to make sure it’s alcohol-free as it will cause more discomfort.

Sprays with attachable soft or safety tips are an excellent choice in case you bump up against the hot spot.  

Which brings up our next not so fun part. You will have to remove some of their furs so moisture doesn’t get trapped which will worsen the condition. Remember, it’s important to act fast as hot spots can develop rapidly and are prone to serious infections.

It’s recommended to cut away the fur as opposed to shaving it — you still might have to shave the area. Don’t cut all the way down to the hot spot as the area is very sensitive and can easily become infected — if it isn’t already. You need to remove enough fur so that you can completely disinfect the area and allow it to dry out.

It’s best to use your judgment here, but if you remove fur and notice more damage than you initially thought or if it’s bleeding/infected than calling your vet and ask their advice.

Immediate Treatments

Immediate treatments may include a cone —  which you’ll dog will love — and antihistamine. Benadryl is fine and one of the few over-the-counter drugs safe for dogs. 2-4mg of Benadryl per kilogram of body weight two to three times daily is the recommended amount found in the Merck Veterinary Manual.

You can give them a bath and use antibacterial soap on the wound — wash it once daily.

Steeping tea is another method — after the tea bag has cooled, you can press it up against their skin to alleviate the pain and itch. You’ll want to make sure they are getting their required daily intake of essential fatty acids as well.

Last, you’ll want to keep their stress levels down and keep them busy with activities and exercise, so they don’t get bored. Hot spots should improve within a week — if they don’t or worsen at any time you know where to go.

When Hot Spots Require a Veterinarian’s Help

Treatable hotspots at home can look pretty nasty but if you see your dog aggressively biting at them or bleeding, it’s time to get your veterinarian involved.

Your vet will be able to shave the hair around the area. As well, they will have better antibiotics and painkillers to make your dog more comfortable. They will have the ability diagnosed and treat the cause of the hot spots, so they don’t come back.

Some hot spots are due to an underlying bacterial infection and potential suppressed immune system. Only your vet will have the means to treat this type of hot spot.

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