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Normal or Not? – Dogs and Hot Spots

05/10/2016 by Colleen Williams
May 10th, 2016 by Colleen Williams

Dogs often itch and groom themselves, but when the itching becomes excessive and causes bleeding, it’s often caused by an affliction called moist eczema. This illness is more commonly known to pet parents as “hot spots.”


Hot spots are typically caused by a common bacterial infection and can appear quickly within a few hours. The bacteria are attracted to wet or broken skin; baths, swimming, or a small scratch can all be a breeding ground. Dogs with matted or dirty fur, ticks, fleas, or parasites may also be more susceptible to the condition. Environmental and food allergies may also cause moist eczema to form. Hot spots can develop anywhere on a dog’s body, but are most commonly found near the ears, back end, or back legs.


Excessive scratching, licking, and biting of the “hot spot” is the main sign of infection. An open wound will form and may ooze pus and scab over. Matted fur near the area is a definite indicator. The wound may become infected, leading to swelling and foul-smelling discharge.


Shaving the area around the hot spot can reveal the extent of the infection as well as allow the wound to scab. Preventing the dog from gnawing at the spot is essential; using a plastic cone collar or applying a cooling or numbing topical ointment may help. The wound should be cleaned multiple times for the first few days.Your vet can recommend an over-the-counter or prescription anti-bacterial ointment. More severe infections may require oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory injections, prescribed and administered by your veterinarian.

Less severe hot spots may be treated at home by pet parents. Soak a washcloth in a mixture of warm water and a spoonful of sea salt, Epsom salt, or baking soda and apply it to the affected area. This can help reduce swelling and redness as well as draw out any pus. Apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, aloe vera gel, and milk of magnesia are also natural remedies. Oatmeal baths are also an at-home option for hot spot treatment.


Dry your dog immediately after any swimming or bathing to prevent bacterial infections. Brush and groom your pet, especially if he or she is a long-haired breed. Regularly inspect your dog’s skin for any cuts, ticks, or fleas. Apply anti-bacterial ointment or spray to any small cuts; seek veterinary care for larger lesions that may require stitches.

Hot spots can become dangerous quickly; the bacterial infection can take weeks to heal, even if treated immediately. Proper cleaning and application of anti-bacterial ointments can stop a hot spot in its tracks. Be especially aware of hot spots in summer! With loving care and a watchful eye, your dog can recover from a hot spot with no problems.