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Normal or Not? – Dogs and Hot Spots

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

Last updated October 30, 2019.

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.”

What are hot spots?

Hot spots are most commonly recognized as areas of red, inflamed skin. Your dog will likely be tempted to lick or chew at the area, which unfortunately makes the condition worse. Due to the inflammation, the skin becomes warm, which is how they earned the name “hot spots.”


Hot spots may initially be caused by irritants like bugs or allergens, and develop quickly into a common bacterial infection on the skin. 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. You’ll also see a red patch of skin that may turn into an open wound, 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.

Treating hot spots in dogs

Because your dog’s chewing and licking only makes the issue worse, it’s important to prevent your dog from accessing the area. Use a cone, wrap the area with loose clothing (such as a sock if it’s on the dog’s leg), or keep close watch on your dog.

  1. Trim the hair around the hot spot to reveal the extent of the infection. This will allow you to properly clean (and keep clean) the wound.
  2. Clean the hot spot multiple times per day during the first few days with a gentle, pet-friendly skin cleanser or antiseptic solution like chlorhexidine.
  3. Apply a cool compress two to four times a day with a cool, wet washcloth.
  4. Medicate the area: there are a number of topical sprays, medicated shampoos, and herbal therapies available to treat hot spots. Call your vet for a pet-safe recommendation.
  5. For severe cases, visit your veterinarian. Your pup may need oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory injections prescribed and administered by your vet.

How to prevent hot spots

Keep your dog’s skin clean and dry to remove irritants and prevent hot spots.

  • Dry your dog immediately after any swimming or bathing to prevent bacterial infections.
  • Brush and groom your pet regularly, especially if he or she is a long-haired breed.
  • Use flea preventives to keep the itchy critters away.
  • 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 during the summer! With loving care and a watchful eye, your dog can recover from a hot spot with no problems.

If you love your pets like family, you want to protect them like family. With Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, you can save up to 90% on vet bills and say “yes” to life-saving treatments, no matter the cost. If you’re not a part of our pack yet, start by getting your free quote today.