How to treat hot spots

By Dr. Cherice Roth, KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor

Cleaning the irritated areas with a gentle, medicated solution or medicated wipes

One of the worst things for a pet parent is to see their dog in discomfort. Hot spots on dogs are one of the most common skin conditions in canines. They appear seemingly out of nowhere and cause a significant amount of pain and irritation. Fortunately, pet parents can treat them when they do develop and take steps to prevent them.

What are hot spots?

This is one of the most common among dog health questions. Hot spots are areas of inflammation and bacterial infection on a dog’s skin. They’re also known as acute moist dermatitis. The spots start small, so many pet parents often mistake them for bug bites. The spots can grow and spread, turning into painful, red, oozing lesions.

What causes hot spots on a dogs’ skin?

There are a few things that can lead to hot spots, including:

  • A dirty coat
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Flea allergies
  • Parasites
  • Skin or ear infections
  • Stress or boredom
  • Water trapped in the dog’s coat

Generally, hot spots are the result of excessive licking and biting. The acts irritate and inflame the skin, as well as lead to secondary bacterial infections. These factors only trigger more itchiness, which then leads to more licking and biting. Hot spots are not simply a type of dog skin rash.

For some dogs, the causes of hot spots are chronic. Without addressing the underlying issue, hot spots will continue to develop even after treatment. Some breeds, particularly those with thicker coats, are also more at risk for developing hot spots.

How to identify hot spots

As mentioned above, hot spots might not look like much of anything in the early stages. Pet parents might mistake a small area of redness for an insect bite. Some signs that can indicate hot spots include:

  • Hair loss
  • Swelling
  • Well-defined areas of redness

While hot spots can develop anywhere on the body, they frequently occur on the head, hips, and legs. As they worsen, pet parents may notice the affected areas oozing pus or fluid, which dries and crusts over, resulting in matted fur.

Pet parents will also likely witness their dog excessively biting, licking, or scratching the affected area. Hot spots are painful and itchy. The more the dog irritates the area, the more the hot spots will grow and spread.

How to treat hot spots

Many pet parents can confuse hot spots with any one of the many other skin conditions that affect dogs. If they suspect any issues with their canine companion, they should start a treatment plan right away. The sooner they begin treatment, the sooner the dog can get relief.

To effectively treat hot spots, a vet will need to check the dog’s skin health to determine the underlying cause of the issue. Once they know the cause, the best, most effective treatment can be determined.

In addition to treating the underlying cause, there are a few other things that pet parents can do to alleviate hot spots and improve their dog’s overall comfort. A vet may answer any dog skin health questions and recommend any combination of the following depending on the dog:

  • Cleaning the irritated areas with a gentle, medicated solution or medicated wipes
  • Topical or oral medications (such as antibiotics for infections and Apoquel for inflammation and irritation)
  • Trimming the hair around the affected areas to avoid matted fur and environmental bacteria from infecting the area.
  • Before KeraVet Gel, I would have recommended an E-collar or “cone” but now I recommend using KeraVet Gel to deter licking and biting, as well as manage any wounds already created.

It generally doesn’t take that long after starting treatment for pet parents to notice improvements in their dog’s skin and comfort. Some may see the issue fully resolved in as little as a week.

Learn more about KeraVet Bio Lead Medical Advisor, , Dr. Cherice Roth, MS, DVM, by visiting her on LinkedIn.