The Itch-Scratch Dilemma: Conquering Hot Spots for a Happy Pup

Our canine pals are likely to experience a variety of odd bumps, itches, and ailments throughout their lives, but one common concern that pet parents should be aware of is hot spots. Many veteran dog moms and dads are aware of this condition, but if you’re new to caring for a furry companion, here’s what you need to know to keep your pup comfortable and less likely to have to deal with this common issue.

What Are Hot Spots?

Hot spots—otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis” or “pyotraumatic dermatitis”—are areas on your dog’s skin that become irritated, usually turn red in color, and feel “hot” due to the inflammation occurring. This may often look similar to a bug bite but is different in that it will continue to spread and worsen in its condition, usually becoming a rather serious-looking lesion on your dog’s skin.

These sores may start out very red and clearly irritated, but they may also ooze pus and have an unpleasant smell as well. The fluids discharging from the hot spot may also cause matting of the fur around the afflicted areas along with some crustiness as the moisture and pus dry up at times.

Generally, these spots develop near a dog’s hips, legs, and head, but they may also appear in other places on the body. If your dog is consistently licking or scratching at a certain spot, one of these lesions may be developing and require veterinary care, and the quicker you identify and begin to treat a hot spot, the less bothersome the healing process will be.

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?

There are quite a few contributing factors to a dog developing hot spots, such as parasites, food allergies, contact irritants, atopic dermatitis, and even anal sac disease. Ear infections, as well as skin infections, can lead to hot spot development, along with excessive moisture getting trapped in a dog’s coat after it’s been bathed or otherwise submerged in water, such as when going swimming.

Some of the more preventable causes of hot spots include matted or dirty coats and dermatitis caused by allergic reactions to fleas. Additionally, some dogs may set off this skin condition after excessively licking themselves due to boredom, stress, or anxiety.

The main issue is when a dog scratches itself, chews, or licks itself to the point of damaging the skin and triggering inflammation and itching due to a secondary infection occurring. When these behaviors become excessive, they only continue to spiral and worsen the state of the pup’s skin, further increasing the infection, irritation, and inflammation present.

Dogs with thicker coats tend to be more likely to experience hot spots, especially those with double coats and long coats that are likely to trap moisture and bacteria. Saint Bernards, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers are notable in this category, and water-loving breeds like Labradors also have an increased chance of developing hot spots due to their regular water-related activities. Those who have food and other allergies, parasites, frequent infections, or issues with fleas are also more likely than other dogs to struggle with hot spots.

Many of these conditions can be treated promptly to avoid one’s dog developing hot spots, so keeping an eye on your pup’s behaviors and regularly checking their coats and skin is a great way to identify and nix hot spots before they become a serious problem.

How to Treat Hot Spots

Regardless of severity, if you notice any hot spots on your canine companion, it’s essential to contact your pup’s vet as soon as possible. There are a variety of tactics that may be used to help provide your dog with some relief, and your dog’s vet will instruct you on exactly what’s best for your pup’s specific case based on the location of the spots as well as any additional factors, such as the severity of an infection or any other concerns.

Typically, the main priorities in healing up a hot spot include trimming the hair around the afflicted area to allow it to start drying out and also using a cone or other means to prevent your dog from being able to access the hot spot to lick, bite, or scratch it any further. Some dogs may require treatment with antibiotics, steroids, or allergy medications to manage their symptoms, and some may be required to use medicated shampoos or wipes to treat their hot spots.

Once the prescribed treatment has been initiated, most pet parents tend to see rapid improvement in their dog’s condition within just a few days. However, a lack of improvement or worsening of your dog’s condition should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention immediately.

How to Prevent Hot Spots

hot spots can be treated by a vet

The best way to handle hot spots on your dog is by taking steps to prevent them from developing in the first place.

Making sure you stay on top of your dog’s monthly preventatives is a great way to reduce his or her chances of dealing with fleas, ticks, and other parasites that may lead to itching and scratching, breaking the skin, and causing hot spots.

Additionally, regularly grooming and checking your dog’s coat and skin for signs of irritation will help you catch hot spots before they become a serious problem. It’s essential to keep your pup clean to avoid infections of any sort—including keeping their ears clean—and make sure that you always dry them well after both grooming sessions as well as swimming sessions or if they’ve happened to get caught in the rain.

Moisture is definitely your pup’s enemy if they have a thick, long, or double coat. Also, keeping the mats brushed out of your dog’s coat will ensure that the fur is able to dry out well and not trap any moisture close to the skin, which is exactly how many hot spots develop.


Although hot spots are not an uncommon occurrence in pups, they are certainly a condition that can be prevented with some extra care and attention to your dog’s coat, diet, and overall health. Treatment with the help of a veterinarian can help it if develops beyond a pet parent’s control. Despite our best efforts, some dogs just can’t help themselves when it comes to licking and gnawing on themselves, leading to these troublesome sore spots that require even more care and attention to treat and heal up.

Here at Space Coast Pet Services, we offer a variety of ways to help give you peace of mind when you may have to be away from your home while your itchy, scratchy pup is left to its own devices. With options such as our drop-in visits to check in on your furry pal or even our pet taxi services to chauffeur your canine companion to and from some much-needed vet visits, we’re here to help make your pet parent life as easy as possible. Contact us today for more information!


Melanie Haynes



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