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Hot Spots in Dogs

Hot Spots in Dogs: Causes, Signs and Treatments

Hot spots in dogs are inflamed and infected skin areas that appear red, moist, and irritated. Hot spots in dogs are caused by allergies, infections, insect bites, or underlying skin conditions. Symptoms of hot spots include red, inflamed skin, oozing lesions, intense itching, hair loss, and pain when touched.

The treatment of hot spots on dogs involves diagnosing and treating the underlying cause, cleaning the area, applying topical medications, providing oral medications, and preventing licking or scratching. CBD oil for dogs reduces dog hot spot inflammation. Early detection and prompt treatment prevent hot spots from worsening or recurring. Regular grooming, a healthy diet, and addressing health issues help prevent hot spots.

What are Hot Spots on Dogs?

Hot spots on dogs, or acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis, are red, moist, hot, and irritated skin areas that develop quickly. Hot spots are intensely itchy and painful, leading to excessive scratching and self-trauma. “Hot Spots on dogs are a rapidly developing, superficial, moist, exudative dermatitis commonly induced by self-inflicted trauma, which is extremely pruritic and distracts from their operational effectiveness?” according to the study by Palmer, L. titled “Picture This: Management of Canine Pyotraumatic Dermatitis (a.k.a., Hot Spot),” 2018.

Hot spots are triggered by inflammation, moisture, and bacterial infections. Symptoms of dog hot spot include hair loss, oozing sores, and a foul odor in the affected area. 

Treatment involves shaving the area, gentle cleansing, topical medications, and oral antibiotics to combat infection in severe cases. CBD oil for dogs reduces inflammation and helps manage pain. Regular grooming and keeping the skin clean and dry are vital in preventing the recurrence of hot spots.

Can Hot Spots Kill a Dog?

No, hot spots cannot kill a dog. Hot spots are not life-threatening but lead to severe bacterial infections, causing pain and discomfort for dogs when untreated. “Acute moist dermatitis in dogs responds quickly to symptomatic therapy, but it is important to assess each animal individually and prescribe the most appropriate therapy,” according to the study by Rcvs, S. titled “Acute moist dermatitis,” 2014.

Untreated hot spots compromise the skin’s natural barrier, making it easier for bacteria to penetrate deeper layers, leading to systemic infections. The risk of infection increases because the constant licking and chewing exacerbate inflammation and introduce oral bacteria to the affected site. Dog hot spots require prompt veterinary intervention.

Is the Hot Spots on Dogs a Sign of Cancer?

No, hot spots on dogs are not a sign of cancer. Hot spot or acute moist dermatitis is an inflammatory condition rather than a cancerous one. A veterinarian evaluates any persistent or unusual skin issues in dogs to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. “Pyotraumatic dermatitis in dogs is generally an inflammatory condition, and antibiotics should be used for severe lesions or lesions responding poorly to corticosteroids,” according to the study by Reinke, S., Stannard, A., Ihrke, P., & Reinke, J. titled “Histopathologic features of pyotraumatic dermatitis,” 1987. 

Hot spots are not a sign of skin cancer, but monitoring dog skin abnormalities is important. Lumps, bumps, non-healing sores, lesions, or unusual changes in the skin are signs of skin cancer in dogs, and prompt veterinarian intervention is required.

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs

The causes of hot spots on dogs are listed below. 

  • Allergies: Dogs develop allergies to various substances, including food, pollen, dust mites, or flea saliva. Allergic reactions cause excessive licking and itching, resulting in dog hot spots. 
  • Parasites: Fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites cause intense itching and irritation. Their scratching and biting result in hot spots.
  • Skin Infections: Dog skin infections caused by bacteria or fungus lead to irritation and inflammation, prompting the dog to scratch or lick the affected area. 
  • Poor Grooming: Dogs with matted fur or heavy coats are prone to hot spots. Mats and tangles trap moisture and create an ideal environment for bacterial growth, leading to skin irritation and hot spots.
  • Environmental Factors: Humid or wet weather conditions increase the risk of hot spots because the dog’s skin is moist and conducive to bacterial growth.
  • Underlying Health Issues: Dogs with hypothyroidism or autoimmune diseases experience skin problems, including hot spots.
  • Behavioral Issues: Anxiety, stress, or boredom causes a dog to lick or chew on its skin excessively, leading to hot spots. 
  • Injury or Trauma: Cuts, abrasions, or other skin injuries become infected or irritated and progress to hot spots and is an answer to “Why do dogs get hot spots?” 

How to Prevent Infections for Dog Hot Spots?

To prevent infections for dog hot spots follow the 10 steps below.

  1. Clean and Dry the Hot Spots. Regularly clean the affected area with a mild antiseptic solution recommended by a veterinarian. Ensure the area affected by hot spots is dry because moisture promotes bacterial growth, leading to an infected hot spot on dog.
  2. Regular Grooming. Brush the dog’s coat regularly to prevent matting and tangles, which trap moisture and debris. Trim long fur around the neck, ears, and tail to reduce the risk of infected hot spots.
  3. Control Parasites. Use flea and tick preventatives to reduce the risk of bites that lead to scratching and hot spot infections. Regularly check the dog for signs of parasites.
  4. Manage Allergies. Identify and manage dog allergies, whether they are food-related, environmental, or contact allergies. Allergies cause scratching, which promotes hot spots and hot spot infection.
  5. Regular Baths. Bathe the dog with a vet-approved shampoo to keep the skin clean and irritant-free. Avoid over-bathing a dog, as this strips the skin of natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation and increases the risk of infection.
  6. Monitor for Early Signs. Regularly inspect the dog’s skin for any signs of redness, inflammation, or moisture. Address any minor irritations or scratches promptly to prevent infection.
  7. Provide a Balanced Diet. Feed the dog a well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids to maintain healthy skin and a strong immune system. Healthy skin minimizes the risk of infected hot spots.
  8. Behavioral Management. Provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation to reduce stress and anxiety, which lead to excessive licking or chewing. Use toys, interactive play, and training sessions to engage the dog.
  9. Protect Wounds. Clean and cover cuts and abrasions to prevent licking and dog skin infections. Use an Elizabethan collar or cone to prevent the dog from aggravating the wound and getting infected.
  10. Seek Veterinary Advice. Consult a veterinarian for a tailored prevention plan for dogs prone to hot spots. Follow the vet’s recommendations for treating any underlying health issues contributing to skin problems.

What are the Signs of Dog Hot Spots?

The signs of dog spots are listed below.

  • Red and inflamed skin: Skin affected by hot spots is red, inflamed, and looks raw and irritated. 
  • Moist and oozing lesions: Moist wet saws are signs of dog hot spots. Infected hot spots ooze clear fluid or pus.
  • Hair loss: Hair loss around the hot spot or a dog chewing the hair away and leaving a bald patch is a sign of dog hot spots.
  • Pain and sensitivity: Hot spots are painful and sensitive to touch, which are signs of hot spots. Dogs reacting defensively to touch or grooming the affected area is a sign of hot spots.
  • Constant licking, chewing, or scratching: Dogs with hot spots lick, chew, or scratch the affected area excessively, a telltale sign of hot spots.
  • Scabbing and crusting: Scabs or crusts on the lesions are signs of hot spots.
  • Foul odor: Infected hot spots emit a foul smell due to the presence of bacteria and the breakdown of skin tissues.
  • Behavioral changes: Behavioral changes such as restlessness, irritability, or decreased activity level are signs of hot spots. Dogs seeking constant attention or relief by rubbing the affected area against furniture or the ground are signs of hot spots.
  • Warmth: Warm skin around the affected area is a sign of hot spots. Hot spots cause inflammation and increased blood flow. 

How is Hot Spots in Dogs Diagnosed?

Hot spots in dogs are diagnosed by a veterinarian. The vet assesses the dog’s skin condition, checks for bacterial infections, and determines the underlying cause of the dermatitis. “Acute moist dermatitis in dogs is diagnosed by examining the skin, which may be red, dry, or inflamed,” according to the study by Cobb, M., Edwards, H., Jagger, T., Marshall, J., & Bowker, K. titled “Topical fusidic acid/betamethasone-containing gel compared to systemic therapy in the treatment of canine acute moist dermatitis,” 2005.

The veterinarian looks for signs of inflammation, redness, and discharge characteristic of hot spots. The vet performs a skin scraping to check for mites and parasites like fleas and ticks. Bacterial cultures identify the specific bacteria responsible for the infection. The veterinarian develops an effective treatment plan to alleviate discomfort and promote healing in dogs suffering from hot spots.

How do Dogs get Affected by Hot Spots?

Dogs get affected by hot spots by the following reasons listed below.

  • Environmental allergies: Pollen, dust mites, mold, and environmental allergens cause intense itching and hot spots.
  • Food allergies: Dogs with allergic reactions to food, such as beef, chicken, dairy, or grains, respond with itching and increase the risk of hot spots.
  • Contact allergies: Direct contact with irritants, such as certain shampoos, chemicals, or plants, leads to skin reactions and hot spots.
  • Fleas: Flea bites cause severe itching and hot spots, especially if the dog is allergic to flea saliva, known as flea allergy dermatitis.
  • Ticks and mites: Parasites irritate the skin, leading to excessive scratching, licking, and hot spots.
  • Bacterial infections: Bacteria easily infect broken skin caused by the excessive licking, biting, or scratching associated with hot spots.
  • Fungal infections: Yeast infections or ringworms cause skin irritation and dog hot spots.
  • Poor grooming: Dogs with matted fur or dense undercoats develop hot spots, especially in warm, humid conditions where moisture gets trapped against the skin.
  • Swimming or bathing: Prolonged swimming, bathing, or time in the rain allows bacteria to grow on the dog’s wet skin. The dog scratches the area affected by the bacterial infection, leading to hot spots.
  • Humidity: High humidity levels contribute to moist skin and subsequent bacterial infections and hot spots in dogs.
  • Stress or anxiety: Dogs lick or chew their skin excessively due to stress or anxiety, leading to hot spots.
  • Boredom: Lack of stimulation causes dogs to engage in excessive licking or chewing behaviors.
  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism causes skin problems, including hot spots, due to hormonal imbalances.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Autoimmune disorders affect the skin’s health and increase the risk of hot spots and infection. 
  • Injuries or Skin trauma: Scratches, cuts, or abrasions become infected if the dog licks or chews at the wound excessively, leading to hot spots.
  • Dietary Deficiencies: Dogs with poor diets lack essential nutrients and fatty acids, which causes dry, itchy skin and increases the risk of hot spots.

What are the Treatments for Hot Spots in Dogs?

The treatments for hot spots in dogs are listed below.

  • Clipping the hair around the hot spot: Clip the hair around the hot spot to allow air to reach the wound and prevent irritation from the fur.
  • Cleaning the affected area: Clean the hot spot with a mild antiseptic solution such as chlorhexidine or an iodine solution. Gentle cleaning helps remove debris and bacteria.
  • Topical treatments: Antibiotic creams, sprays, or ointments treat the infection and reduce inflammation caused by hot spots.
  • Oral antibiotics: Oral antibiotics are prescribed by a veterinarian in cases of severe infection.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce hot spot inflammation and pain.
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines help to reduce itching in allergy-related hot spots.
  • Preventing the dog from licking or scratching the hot spot: Use an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) or a soft cone to prevent the dog from licking or scratching the affected area.
  • Addressing fleas and parasites: Treat the dog for parasites when hot spots are caused by parasites.
  • Addressing allergies: Identify and manage allergies to minimize itching and hot spots. 
  • Addressing skin infections: Dogs with recurring skin infections and hot spots benefit from regular baths with medicated shampoos.
  • Maintaining proper hygiene: Regular grooming and bathing help prevent hot spots, especially in breeds with thick or long fur.
  • Monitoring and follow-up: Follow-up visits to the veterinarian are necessary to ensure that the treatment is effective and to make any necessary adjustments.

How to Prevent Hot Spots in Dogs?

To prevent hot spots in dogs, follow the 9 steps below.

  1. Regular Grooming. Brush dogs regularly to remove loose fur, dirt, and debris, especially dogs with long or thick coats. 
  2. Regular Bathing: Bathe dogs regularly with a mild, dog-friendly shampoo to prevent hot spots. 
  3. Control Fleas and Parasites. Use flea prevention treatments consistently, as flea bites cause intense itching and lead to hot spots. 
  4. Proper Nutrition. Feed dogs a balanced diet that is rich in essential fatty acids such as omega-3, vitamins, and minerals to promote healthy skin and coat. 
  5. Manage Allergies. Identify and manage food and environmental dog allergies, as the itching associated with allergies leads to hot spots. Test the dog for allergies if hot spots are recurring.
  6. Monitor Hydration and Environment. Ensure dogs have access to clean, fresh water to stay hydrated. Keep the dog’s living area clean and free of irritants such as dust, mold, and harsh chemicals.
  7. Schedule Regular Veterinary Check-ups. Schedule regular veterinary check-ups to monitor the dog’s health and address any skin issues early.
  8. Monitor Stress and Anxiety. Reduce stress and anxiety in the dog’s environment to reduce the risk of excessive licking or scratching and hot spots Provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep the dog engaged and happy.
  9. Treat Skin Injuries Promptly. Treat any cuts, scrapes, or skin irritations promptly to prevent them from becoming infected and developing into hot spots. 

Can Skin Allergies in Dogs turn into Hot Spots?

Yes, skin allergies in dogs can turn into hot spots.  Itching, redness, inflammation, and skin irritation are signs of dog allergies.Allergic-based inflammatory conditions in dogs can lead to skin barrier impairment, leading to deep penetration of allergens and microorganisms, causing inflammation and itching,” according to the study by Matias, D., Paixão, A., & Martins, L. titled “Skin barrier in veterinary allergy or the animal [and human] skin protective hat,” 2023. 

Dogs with allergies scratch, lick, or chew the affected area excessively, breaking the skin's barrier and creating an environment conducive to bacterial overgrowth. Bacteria cause hot spots.

Can I Put Salt Water on My Dogs Hot Spot?

Yes, you can put salt water on your dog’s hot spots. Salt water, or saline solution, has mild antiseptic properties and helps clean the affected area, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Ensure the salt water solution is diluted to avoid causing further irritation or discomfort to dogs. Salt water is a cleansing agent and not a treatment, so identify what causes hot spots on dogs and address them accordingly. 

Saline is a versatile and effective solution in dermatology, with potential benefits for various treatments and conditions,” according to the study by El-Amawy, H., & Sarsik, S. titled “Saline in Dermatology: A literature review,” 2020.

Can You Use Betadine on Dogs?

Yes, you can use betadine on dogs. Dilute betadine before using it on a dog. The correct dilution for dogs is one part betadine to 10 parts water. Betadine is an antiseptic solution containing povidone-iodine, effective against many bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa.

 “Pre-surgical skin asepsis protocols with povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine show similar efficacy in eliminating methicillin-resistant bacteria and preventing surgical site infections in dogs undergoing surgery,” according to the study by Belo, L., Serrano, I., Cunha, E., Carneiro, C., Tavares, L., Carreira, L., & Oliveira, M. titled “Skin asepsis protocols as a preventive measure of surgical site infections in dogs: chlorhexidine–alcohol versus povidone–iodine,” 2018.

How can CBD Oil Help Dog Hot Spots Heal?

CBD oil can help dog hot spots heal by alleviating inflammation and pain associated with dog hot spots. CBD is a natural treatment option to soothe irritated skin and promote healing.

CBD/CBDA is an adjunct therapy decreased pruritus in dogs with atopic dermatitis,” according to the study by Loewinger, M., Wakshlag, J., Bowden, D., Peters-Kennedy, J., & Rosenberg, A. titled “The effect of a mixed cannabidiol and cannabidiolic acid-based oil on client‐owned dogs with atopic dermatitis,” 2022.

CBD oil for dogs has potent anti-inflammatory properties and analgesic effects. CBD oil for dogs offers relief from visible symptoms, such as swelling, inflammation, and redness, and the underlying discomfort and pain. CBD oil is suitable for traditional hot spot medication, offering a well-rounded approach to managing dog skin conditions.