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Hot Spots (Moist Dermatitis) in Dogs

Dog hot spots

Hot spots, also known as moist dermatitis, are a common skin condition in dogs. They are typically caused by damaged and/or infected skin. Areas of redness and irritation can occur rapidly, resulting in inflammation, pain, and clear discharge that sticks to the fur around the wound. Continue reading to learn what you can do if your dog suffers from hot spots.

Signs Your Dog May Have a Hot Spot

  • Area of slightly reddened or irritated skin
  • Itching, licking or chewing at a specific area of the body
  • Painful, hot, swollen area of skin with clear or slightly bloody discharge.
  • The wound may quickly worsen in severity - producing discharge with a foul odor and large crusts or scabs.
  • Common places for hot spots include the cheeks, neck, thighs, paws, and under the ears. However, hot spots can occur anywhere on the body.

Causes of a Hot Spot

Moist dermatitis (“hot spots”) can result from anything that causes a dog to scratch, lick or chew at the skin excessively. The damaged skin then becomes susceptible to bacterial overgrowth and infection.

Common culprits include:·

  • Allergies - Learn more about allergies in dogs in our article!
  • Infection of the skin, most commonly occurring in the ears or anal glands
  • Damp skin that does not dry properly after bathing or swimming. This occurs most frequently in dogs with dense haircoats during warm, humid weather.
  • Skin parasites, such as fleas, ticks, or mites
  • Areas of chronic pain
  • Stress or boredom

What Can I Do to Help My Dog?

  • Check your dog’s skin daily. Take special notice of any area where your dog licks or itches more than usual.
  • Keep your dog’s coat well-groomed or even clipped in the summer if appropriate for his breed.
  • Dry your dog thoroughly after bathing or swimming.
  • Consider possible underlying conditions, such as allergies, parasites, or pain.
  • If your dog’s hot spot is not improving rapidly with approved home remedies, a trip to the veterinarian is recommended.

Treatment at Home

*Please note: hot spots can be very painful for your dog. If she is not allowing you to treat her skin at home, we recommend seeking advice from your veterinarian.

  1. Clip the fur around the hot spot; trim enough fur to give a wide margin of surrounding healthy skin.
  2. Gently wash the wound twice daily with mild soap and water or dilute chlorhexidine solution.
  3. Gently remove scabs and discharge.
  4. Carefully and thoroughly dry the skin.
  5. Use a plastic or inflatable Elizabethan collar or bodysuit to prevent your dog from licking or scratching the site.
  6. Do not bandage a suspected hot spot. Bacteria thrive in the warm, humid environment the bandage creates, causing further infection and aggravation.

Veterinary Treatment of Hot Spots

If your dog’s hot spot is very painful or not responding to treatment at home, then a prompt visit to the vet is necessary.

1. Sedation may be given in order to reduce pain and stress during treatment. Your veterinarian may recommend fasting your dog for up to 12 hours before the appointment.

2. After sedation and pain relief have been given, the surrounding fur will be shaved, and the wound will be thoroughly cleaned.

3. Systemic antibiotics and pain medication will often be prescribed by your vet to get the infection and inflammation under control.

4. An Elizabethan collar may be needed, depending on the location of the hot spot.

5. Your veterinarian will also examine your dog for signs of an underlying cause for the hot spot, such as allergies, ear infection or skin parasites. Further treatment recommendations can then be made, based on their findings.

Read more:

Common Myths About Allergies in Dogs

Pet First Aid: How to Treat Minor Wounds

First Aid Kit Checklist for the Dog Owner

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog's skin or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

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