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What are Hot Spots?

Canine acute moist dermatitis is a form of canine pyoderma also known as “hot spots.” Hot spots are red, moist, irritated patches of skin often caused by an initial irritation and then exacerbated by bacterial infection. The irritated patch can double in size within hours and can become very painful. Common sites of lesions are the head, neck, hips and limbs. Matting of fur, hair loss, scabbing and oozing are often seen. Hot spots seem to be common in long-haired dog breeds and are more prevalent during summer months in times of high temperature and humidity. Hot spots are the result of a bacterial infection. Your dog's skin becomes irritated and the dog starts itching, licking, or both, eventually causing a red, ugly, oozing sore. Technically hot spots are referred to as acute moist dermatitis or superficial canine pyoderma, usually localized to a specific area. The sore can only be treated by focusing on the underlying infection.

Hot Spots Average Cost

From 12 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

Symptoms of Hot Spots in Dogs

Symptoms of a hot spot may include one or more of the following:

  • Itchy, painful patch of skin
  • Continual chewing or licking at site
  • Abnormal aggression (associated with painfulness of site)
  • Possible depression (associated with painfulness of site)
  • Inflammation, redness, and swelling in a localized patch of skin
  • Crusted scabs or oozing sores
  • Dry scaly skin
  • Hair loss
  • Moist, matted fur
  • Foul odor from lesion
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Causes of Hot Spots in Dogs

Possible causes of initial irritation can be any one of the following:

  • Flea allergies
  • Cuts or abrasions
  • Ear infection/anal gland infection
  • Foreign objects (splinters/thorns)
  • Food allergies
  • Matted fur
  • Insect bites
  • Chewing or licking due to stress or boredom
Process
  1. Hot spots on dogs are the result of an imbalance in the normal bacteria (Staphylococcus intermedius) on the skin.
  2. The bacterial imbalance is most often brought about by some initial irritation that the pet bites or scratches at repeatedly.
  3. Biting and chewing can introduce bacteria from the mouth and nose to disrupted hair follicles at the site of irritation.
  4. Moisture and heat from matted hair, summer warmth and humidity or open scrapes or cuts can further exacerbate bacterial growth.
  5. Bacterial growth cause the body immune response to react, resulting in more itching, heat, redness, inflammation and pain.
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Diagnosis of Hot Spots in Dogs

If you notice your pet is showing symptoms of a hot spot, you may try an over the counter medication to clean and treat at home. Since hot spots are painful and can worsen within a matter of hours, it is advisable to schedule a visit to a clinic to receive proper treatment.

The veterinarian will take a thorough history and conduct a physical exam to determine the initial irritant. It is important to let your veterinarian know when the onset of symptoms began and any unusual circumstances that may have led to the irritation so the doctor can identify possible allergens or stressors and address them in treatment.

The area will likely be shaved and cleaned to determine severity and size. Shaving and cleaning is also necessary to properly clean and air the lesion. In cases where other forms of pyoderma are suspected, the veterinarian may examine bacterial samples under the microscope or culture a sample for diagnosis.

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Treatment of Hot Spots in Dogs

Cleaning

The lesion must be cleaned thoroughly. Matted fur should be shaved off and away from the affected area. Because this can be quite painful, it is a good idea to bring the pet to the veterinarian where nurses can clean and shave the area. Some level of sedation may be necessary. A topical antiseptic such as chlorhexidine can then be used to clean the lesion.

Treating Bacterial Infection

Topical and/or oral antibiotics will often be administered. Antibiotic treatment may last 4 weeks or longer.

Treating Initial Irritation

Some cases of hot spots are idiopathic (the cause is unidentifiable). More commonly, allergies to fleas, pollen or food are identified with a history and examination. Monthly flea treatments or hypoallergenic diets can address allergies. Regular grooming or keeping fur cut short can prevent matting, a common cause of skin irritation. Anxiety-induced chewing and licking can be lessened by introducing toys or chews and exercise and play.

Medications for Pain and Inflammation

Antihistamines may be prescribed to reduce itchiness and irritation. NSAIDS can be prescribed to reduce inflammation. A short acting corticosteroid may be administered one time to make the patient more comfortable and promote healing. Gentamicin/Betamethasone sprays are often prescribed to spray on the lesion daily.

Dietary supplements

Essential fatty acids may be suggested for pets prone to skin conditions.

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Recovery of Hot Spots in Dogs

Follow up veterinarian appointments may or may not be necessary, depending on the severity of the lesion. Most cases resolve quickly if the initial irritant is addressed and the proper treatment regimen is followed.

An Elizabethan collar (“E-collar” or “cone”) should be used to prevent chewing or licking at the hot spot. Regular grooming can help prevent hot spots from developing. If you cannot groom your pet regularly, you may consider keeping the hair clipped short or shaved to prevent matting. Follow a monthly flea control program. Maintain a stress free environment in the home. Eliminate loud noises, introduce toys and chews, and provide your pet with exercise and play. Maintain an appropriate hypoallergenic diet if your veterinarian suspects food allergies.

Healing may not be apparent for 1-2 weeks. Fur should begin to grow back in 3-4 weeks. Scarring is not often a problem except in severe cases. If hot spots continue, further diagnostics may be required to determine the cause.

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Hot Spots Average Cost

From 12 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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Hot Spots Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Siberian Husky

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Itching,

First I found like a rash on the side of his leg and started using hidrocortizone And it’s better now , but today I found like a hot spot on the tail red it is ok to treated wit the same medication while I get the vet appointment? I’m just worried about it

Sept. 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Thick coated breeds like huskies are very prone to hotspots, and the best thing to do for the lesions is to keep them dry. Washing the area twice a day with a gentle chlorhexidine solution like hibiclens and rinsing well may help until you can have him seen by your veterinarian. The cortisone ointment might help keep him from itching it, but probably won't help it heal otherwise. I hope that you were able to have him seen soon and everything goes well for him.

Sept. 11, 2020

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Pomeranian

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Itchy, Dandruff, Shedding, Very Oily Clear Yellowish Puss Coating On Skin In A Spot Where Shes Itchy N Shedding

is this hot spot related n cud this be getting objected? Wound wash stung her n i applied neosporin ointment

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your pictures, that is becoming a nasty infection. She probably needs antibiotics, and it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian so they an examine her and see what is causing the problem. They will be able to help get her medications so that her skin is healthy again. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 5, 2020

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American Eskimo Dog

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Itching

My dog has a hot spot that is healing. His vet gave him 2 injections last week - one of them was a steroid. He has been wearing the e-collar since 7/16. He is very persistent when licking an itch, so I am looking for guidance as to when it is safe to take the e-collar off. I don’t want to take it off too soon and be forced to put it back on. I don’t know how to tell whether the hot spot is sufficiently healed.

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. This is a valid concern, definitely. The e-collar is just there to protect it so that he doesn't licking when it is itchy and making it worse. If the medications are starting to kick in, and things are better, he will not bother with the hot spot, and you can take off the e-collar. If it has been a few days since treatment, you should be able to take it off. What you may need to do is take it off, and watch him closely. If he starts to lick excessively, it may need to go back on. If he licks a little bit because he hasn't seen the area in a few days, that is quite normal and may not mean that he needs to have it back on. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 31, 2020

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Rottweiler

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hot Spot

I believe my dog has a hot spot on face. He gets anxious whenever we try to clean it. Do I need to get him an e collar?

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Ellen M. DVM

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0 Recommendations

The same question by pet parent has already been answered - recommend going to veterinarian.

July 12, 2020

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Maggie

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Great Pyrenees

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23 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Skin

My dog got her first hot spot on her head going on 2 weeks now. We treated it the first day we saw it and it spread very quickly over most the top of her head. It has improved greatly and there hasn’t been any oozing in over a week now but her head seems to very dry almost scaly like? Doesn’t seem to be bothering her but not sure what we need to do next.

Aug. 23, 2018

Maggie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

If it is looking dry, it means it is improving since the hot spot won’t heal for as long as there is moisture there; continue to monitor it and ensure the area stays clean and free of debris. If there is no improvement or you have any other concerns you should visit your Veterinarian to be on the safe side given the location and size of the hot spot. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 23, 2018

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Sallee

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Mix

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11 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Itching, Caked Patches Of Skin

I moved to a different house in 2011 and my 4 dogs started itching and loosing their hair. The places they were biting and scratching became red and bleed, then they would loose their hair in those areas.This continued for almost 2 years and vet visits regularly. Three dogs got better, my smallest one continued to have the symptoms which resulted in total hair loss of her entire body from her neck to tail, She looked like an elephant skin dog. It was pitiful. The vet continued to give her steriod shots one a month. She continued to smell horrible, and her body was hot all the time with panting. The vet said she had mange and maybe gotten bite by fleas which got under her skin. Then after another 3 years of her not getting better she referred me to a large Vet school.Went there 3 times they gave her a shot of cytopoint put her on cytopoint and antibiotics. The said she had a horrible yeast infection and did NOT have mange and never had mange.She improved a little bit and some of her hair was growing back in places but she still had the smell and hot body. So I took her to another vet and she given Apoquel and Cytopoint to take every day and a Hydrolyzed dog food which was so expensive. She was getting some better but still not completely. Took her there every 2 weeks for a few months, then went to once a month. I couldn't afford to take her back as often as she needed and couldn't get a refill on the medication although we were trying to treat her for itching and not a real diagnosis. She cries like a child and I know she is uncomfortable and miserable.She takes a tyhroid medication 2 times a day. I am at wit's end and want to know if anyone can help???

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Cookie

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Jack Russell Terrier

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Upset
Dazed
Loss Of Fur
Sad
Itching
Dry Patches
Redness
Licking

Not quite sure if it is hot spots or not, our dog doesn't really get infections. So im quite confused but it does fit the description. She hadn't been responding to pain or touching the area before, but after a few hours she now won't let us touch the area. It is also growing within hours, im concerned because I don't want her to be in pain and don't really understand what caused this. She looks upset which is further upsetting me.

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Mya

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pitbull

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Licking,Redness,Itching

I adopted my sons 3 year old pit bull when he had a seperation with his girl and could not keep her. she has hot spots under her pits and scabs on her chest and for arms and ears. And they are very sensative. she has been to the vet many times and we have tried many different things from allergies to food sensatiaties and cleaning her and still no relief. I know she has hot spots and red rash itches all the time and not sure anymore what to do? shampoos and medication not working, even changing her diet.Please help me relieve her.

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Stitch

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Dachshund

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5 Months

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Itching Licking Bad Smell

hi there,i am really frustrated and saddened about my dog's situation right now for about 3-4 days already she is suffering from hot spots i believe, it first started on her head and i thought it was only a normal wound caused by severe scratching but then it came out that also her neck was affected and I didn't know what caused it, until i did some research regarding the symptoms that i am seeing right now. I've search many possible medicine that could help my dog. almost all my searches includes Colloidal Silver,and some Antihistamine. so tomorrow I am planning to visit a vet for a better prescription. also planning to buy an e-collar to avoid her from scratching the lesions.

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Ash

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Pomeranian

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Rubbing Alot

My dog as is 2 yrs old he is a pom and on his right side of cheek he has a small red patch from i dont k he rubs and scraches it alot after eating drinking or if it bothers him were not sure why and i think its a abset in his mouth

Hot Spots Average Cost

From 12 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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