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Hot Spots On Dogs

Hot spots on dogs are caused by a skin irritation, which is later complicated by the presence of bacteria.

It leads to itching, licking, and skin inflammation. The medical term for hot spots is acute moist dermatitis.

Hot spots are red, moist, irritated patches of skin, which can be very painful for your dog.

The spots are generally circular shaped and can sometimes discharge pus.

Hot spots are commonly found in the head, neck, hips, and limbs.

Hair loss, scabbing and oozing are often seen in dogs with hot spots.

Symptoms of Hot Spots On Dogs

Some of the symptoms of hot spots in dogs are the following:

  • Licking or chewing skin
  • Crusted scabs
  • Dry scaly skin
  • Foul odor
  • Hair loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Moist fur
  • Oozing sores
  • Pain
  • Skin inflammation
  • Skin redness
  • Swelling

Causes of Hot Spots On Dogs

Vet placing funnel on German Shepherd with hot spotsHot spots on dogs are created by a dog’s repeatedly itching or scratching a particular spot on their body which then results in the hot spot.

The cycle continues to occur because the irritated skin causes the dog to itch and scratch more.

While the dog creates the hot spot, the actual cause of hot spots is due to an underlying illness or condition that will cause the dog to scratch.

Hot spots tend to occur more often during the summer when the climate is more humid.

Some of the following conditions can cause hot spots:

  • Anal Gland Infection
  • Bacterial Infection
  • Chewing or Licking Due to Stress
  • Cuts or Abrasions
  • Ear Infection
  • Flea Allergies
  • Food Allergies
  • Foreign Objects
  • Insect Bites
  • Matted Fur
  • Poor Grooming
  • Stress

Breeds That Are More Prone to Hot Spots

There are certain dog breeds that are more pre-disposed to getting hot spots:


If you see a hot spot on your dog, you should take your pup to the vet.

Your veterinarian will run some tests to try to find out the underlying cause of the itching.

If the hot spots aren’t treated properly, particularly if it is caused by a bacterial infection, there are secondary conditions that can occur.

Treating Hot Spots

Once your veterinarian has established the cause, your vet will first try to clean and shave the area around the hot spot.

The area will be cleaned with a non-irritating antiseptic solution.

Anti-inflammatory medicine and antibiotics are often prescribed to help reduce your dog’s itching and to help with any other bacterial or skin infection.

Many times your dog will be given an Elizabethan collar to keep your pup from continually irritating the hot spots and let the area heal.

While hot spots aren’t contagious, some of the underlying causes such as fleas or parasites can be and can easily spread to other pets in your household.

This is why it’s important to get it under control as soon as possible.

Can Pet Insurance Help With Hot Spots on Dogs?

Pet insurance will cover the treatment needed for hot spots if anti-biotics are any other kind of medication is needed.

While the treatment for hot spots is not that expensive, treating the underlying cause of hot spots can add up with all the testing needed and even sedation if the hot spots are serious.

The cost to treat hot spots can range from $200 to $600 or more depending on the cause.

If fleas are the cause of the hot spots, pet insurance won’t pay for flea medication unless you are enrolled in a wellness plan.

However, if the cause is an infection, plans like Healthy Paws will pay up to 90% of the costs as long as the condition is not pre-existing.

Prevention of Hot Spots

Once the hot spots have been cured, it is very important to keep up with the recommended treatment to prevent the spots from re-occurring.

Some other tips to help prevent hot spots are the following:

Keep your dog groomed regularly and make sure your pup’s hair is short.

Make sure to feed your dog a healthy, balanced, fat-enriched diet.

Some supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids are known to help hot spots and other skin-related conditions.

If needed, follow the flea program recommended by your vet which will probably need to continue for the rest of your dog’s life.

Try to maintain a stress-free environment as dogs can get hot spots from mere stress alone.

Exercise your dog daily and keep your dog’s environment stimulating. A bored dog will itch which can then lead to hot spots.

Living and Management

While hot spots are not life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable for your dog.

Your dog can be cured of hot spots if you keep up with the recommended treatment and see your vet as soon as a hot spot develops.

If your dog does suffer from chronic hot spots, your vet will want to test your dog further for skin and food allergies or even hypothyroidism.

To learn more about other health conditions that can occur to your dog, our dog health glossary is a good place to start!

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