Hot spots and other common rashes

By Dr. Cherice Roth, KeraVet Bio Advisor

Hot spots and other rashes are often just as frustrating for pet parents as they are for the dogs dealing with them. These uncomfortable patches develop as a result of several different issues. Fortunately, pet parents can treat them effectively, restoring their dogs’ happiness and comfort. Narrowing down the potential causes is essential for getting to the root of the problem and providing the best treatments possible. 

What Are Hot Spots?

A hot spot is a patch of skin that has become inflamed from a dog licking and/or scratching it frequently. They occur due to a variety of issues and can cause significant discomfort. Pet parents can treat them, but the exact treatment will vary depending upon the root cause.

If a pet parent notices a hot spot on their dog, there are some things they can do immediately to minimize the discomfort. For instance, they can put a “cone of shame” (e-collar) on the dog to prevent further licking or scratching. Consulting with a vet can triage the cause and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Causes of Hot Spots and Other Common Dog Rashes

Hot spots and other rashes have many root causes:


Fleas are tiny parasites that feed on a dog’s blood. Their bites can cause skin irritation (dermatitis) or an allergic reaction. Dogs may chew, lick, and scratch the affected areas raw. They can also transmit tapeworm and other diseases.


Ticks are another common parasite that plagues dogs. Like fleas, they feed on a dog’s blood. However, when they bite, they remain attached. Some ticks can be stuck on a dog’s skin for several days before coming loose. Even if a pet parent removes a tick shortly after it bites a dog, the parasite can transmit Lyme disease. The pain can trigger excessive licking.


Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect a dog’s skin, hair, and nails. While not all dogs exhibit symptoms, many develop hair loss and a rash in the affected area.


Like humans, dogs can develop allergies to many different things. Some dogs have food allergies, while others may have environmental allergies. Some of the most common allergens include fleas, mites, grass, and pollen. Dogs can also be allergic to certain detergents or fragrances.

Dry Skin

Dry skin has many causes, such as allergies, a dry environment, certain illnesses, parasites, and poor nutrition. In addition to cracked, flaking skin, the issue can also lead to painful hot spots.


When a dog is in pain, the response is typically to lick the affected area. The pain may be external (such as a wound) or internal (a muscle injury or arthritis). In either case, a dog in pain may frequently lick the painful spot until the skin becomes raw and inflamed.


A dog that’s stressed or anxious may lick to soothe themselves. Excessive licking can quickly lead to hot spots.

Treatments for Hot Spots and Other Rashes

With so many different causes, pet parents must get to the root of the problem to provide the most effective treatment. A vet will examine the dog and run any necessary tests before offering dog health advice and recommending the next steps.

Some treatments may include:

  • Flea treatment: A pet parent will need to get rid of active fleas first. They should administer monthly flea and tick prevention.

  • Over-the-counter medication: In some cases, a pet parent may be able to alleviate a dog’s discomfort with hydrocortisone cream or pet diphenhydramine (Benadryl). If they choose Benadryl, they should be sure to avoid the non-drowsy formulas.

  • Prescription medication: A pet parent may need a prescription-strength topical medication for the most effective relief.

  • Skincare: A dog may need a special supplement, moisturizer, or shampoo to help improve overall skin and coat health.

  • Something to keep the mind busy: A Kong ball filled with peanut butter or a puzzle box with treats can help with anxiety.

  • A diet change: If the issue is food allergies, a pet parent will need to switch to a new type of dog food. 

Treat and Eliminate Hot Spots and Other Common Dog Rashes

No pet parent wants to see their dog in pain. Fortunately, they can do things to alleviate the discomfort of hot spots and other common dog rashes. The right treatment, however, is vital. If a pet parent notices any signs of hot spots or a rash, they should get to the bottom of the issue right away so they can provide the best, most effective treatment.

Learn more about KeraVet Bio Advisor, Dr. Cherice Roth, Chief Medical Officer for Fuzzy, by visiting her on LinkedIn.

This story was originally published March 17, 2022 to the Fuzzy website.

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