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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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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

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

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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0 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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Kyra

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Siberian Husky

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Licking
Itching

I have a husky and just found a hotspot but am unable to shave it because she is afraid of the trimmer. Is there any way they will heal without getting air or will they continue to spread and infect more skin surface

Aug. 22, 2018

Kyra's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is best to clear the hair from around the hot spot, even if you need to use some scissors; allowing air to the area and allowing for easy bathing will help with healing. You should be bathing the area regularly and apply an antibiotic ointment too; if there is no improvement you should follow up with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 22, 2018

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frenchie

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Poodle

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Scratching

I brushed her down on Friday didn't see anything on her. Didn't see anything on Saturday either. On Sunday I was playing with her and found redness on her neck. I cleaned it up it had dry died skin and blood. So I treated it. I have been treating her 3 times a day with some banixx that treats everything. It has dried up and scaby and it bothers her when she gets up to do something. She hasn't been scratching it at least that good. She was an abused dog from pervious owners. So when she gets up and feels the skin pull she run and jumps up my lap and curls into a ball on me. So the question I have is it healing when it's dry and scabby and how long before she can go to the groomer to be bathed and trimmed cause she needs it bad. She's a mini french poodle. And also is she supposed to act that way.

Aug. 21, 2018

frenchie's Owner

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0 Recommendations

The behaviour is unusual but may be explained by her past abuse. If the area is healing nicely I wouldn’t visit a groomers for a week or so after resolution of skin lesions; most grooming places are great but many times we do see hot spots and similar issues after a grooming visit so keep in mind. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 21, 2018

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Abby

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Miniature Schnauzer

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Scab, Discolouration

My dog has a hotspot on her cheek/under her ear as determined by the vet. They shaved the area and prescribed an oral antibiotic, ear drops and chlorhexidine scrub 2%. With the scrub, they directed me to place a bit on a cotton pad and add water, lather, apply to wound, don’t rinse, but dry the area well after. I’ve been following these directions for a few days, and the area has formed a crusty scab, but is now showing a yellowish colour on the surface. It is not moist and does not appear to be pussing.. it’s very dry. Is this normal in the healing process or have I caused damage by using the scrub incorrectly? (Perhaps the solution hasn’t been diluted enough or by not rinsing?)

Aug. 6, 2018

Abby's Owner

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0 Recommendations

A yellow spot surrounded by a red ring is a characteristic appearance of a hot spot in some cases; you should continue to use the treatment as directed and ensure that you’re diluting the chlorhexidine properly (call your Veterinarian to confirm). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 6, 2018

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Angel

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Alaskan Malamute Shepard mix

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Red Spots
Biting And Itching

We've been battling hotspots with our dog Angel for a few weeks now. When we first got the topical and the liquid bandage spray she started doing fine, didn't really like us touching the spot and would run off after we applied it to her. But know whenever she sees us getting the topical or the spray out she runs away from us before we can even put it on her. So these methods are not working anymore. We are lost on how to help her now because the original spot is scabbed over and almost gone, but now she has three more, one on one back leg and two on the other back leg. All of her spots have been the size of a nickel to a quarter. Is there an oral medication we could possibly give her?

July 30, 2018

Angel's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There isn’t an over the counter medication which you can give to Angel, however regular bathing, determining and treating the underlying cause would help; also visit your Veterinarian for an examination as they may be able to give you something depending on the underlying cause for the hot spots. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 30, 2018

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Bentley

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French Bulldog

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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4 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Baldness

My Frenchie has seen several vets and now a dermatologist who had me give him a medicated bath for 30 days and keep him on turkey only as this didn’t show up as an allergy on his very expensive test. He is worse than ever now with about 15 bald black spots and several crusty ones that will end up black and bald. I’m at wits end now, been fighting this issue for over 2 years and many $$$$. He had cytopoint and Apoquel which worked but I would rather solve the problem that give pills.

Hot Spots Average Cost

From 12 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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