Home Treatments for Dog Hot Spots

Learn how to identify, prevent, and treat your dog’s hot spots. In some cases, you can handle hot spots at home, and in others, you’ll need to seek veterinary intervention.

| February/March 2019

dog-with-cone
Photo by Adobe Stock/Dogs

Can I treat my dog’s hot spot at home without visiting a vet?

Maybe, depending on its severity. But first, you must be able to spot a hot spot, and identify the underlying cause.

A hot spot is a superficial skin infection that happens when normal skin bacteria overrun the skin’s defenses as a result of damage to its surface. This damage is most often started by a dog chewing, scratching, licking, and gnawing itself. In the first stages of a hot spot’s formation, the skin becomes moist, red, itchy, and infected. Pus begins to ooze from the traumatized skin as infection sets in. Then, the dried pus and damaged skin surface form a tightly adhered crust, and you’ll likely notice hair loss over the infection site. This can be a very painful process, so dogs will usually express discomfort when the area is touched.



Dogs are their own worst enemy when it comes to hot spots. The hot spots can arise surprisingly quickly; a few minutes of “work” can create an impressive area of self-inflicted trauma. The good news is that the spots almost always look worse than they actually are, and infection is usually superficial — often resolving with topical treatment alone.

So, what causes our dogs to chew and lick themselves in the first place? Anything that irritates the skin, causing the dog to chew or scratch at the site, can cause a hot spot. Insect bites (fleas, flies), skin allergies, excess skin-surface moisture, dogs with heavy or dense hair coats, matted hair, saliva accumulation under the fur (think of the pet that’s always licking its feet), skin scrapes, or excessive humidity in the environment can all cause a hot spot to develop.






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