How to Identify and Treat Hot Spots on Dogs

Have you noticed your favorite furry friend constantly gnawing at a spot on his or her paw? Does your dog keep scratching at the same area? Have you been woken up at night by the sound of your pet licking excessively? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your pup may be dealing with a hot spot. Hot spots on dogs are irritating, but often treatable.

What Are Hot Spots?

You may hear a veterinarian refer to hot spots as moist eczema or summer sores. These spots can show up just about anywhere on a dog’s body, quickly causing skin to become raw. While there are a number of factors that may cause a hot spot, the most common trigger is bacteria. When your dog’s skin is irritated and moisture accumulates, bacteria can take hold and cause skin to burn or itch, resulting in a hot spot.

Treatment Options

If you suspect your dog has a hot spot, call your family veterinarian to schedule an appointment right away to avoid bigger problems. Once hot spots on dogs have been diagnosed, there is a basic treatment plan. First, trim the hair around the area to expose it to air. This helps dry out any moisture that has accumulated, speeding up the healing process. Then, under the guidance of your family veterinarian, you may

  • Clean the affected area with an antiseptic spray or other specialized shampoo.
  • Apply a hydrocortisone or steroid cream or spray that your veterinarian prescribed.
  • Place a protective collar on your pet to keep him or her from licking or chewing on the hot spot.

The hydrocortisone will help stop the itching, but it is still a good idea to keep your pet from touching the hot spot. Keep an eye on the area to ensure that it is not spreading or becoming more infected. Depending on the severity of the situation, it is possible that your veterinarian may give your dog oral antibiotics or an injection of cortisone to speed up the process.


If hot spots reoccur, there may be an underlying issue, such as allergies, so don’t hesitate to talk with your family veterinarian if that happens.

While hot spots related to other causes are often unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of one developing. For example, if you know your pet has recently acquired a cut or scrape, do your best to keep moisture from accumulating in the area. This will help ward off bacteria. Be sure to keep wounds dry and free of dirt, which may involve cleaning the spot every day (sometimes every two hours).

Lastly, dirty, matted fur can allow for hot spots to develop. Keep fur from becoming thick, especially in areas around the ears, where excessive hair can allow moisture to collect on a dog’s skin.

If your family veterinarian recommends your pet see a veterinary dermatologist, ask for a referral to BluePearl Veterinary Partners.