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Identifying and Soothing Hot Spots on Dogs

Identifying and Soothing Hot Spots on Dogs

Also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are a common skin problem on dogs. Hot spots are localized areas of skin inflammation and infection. These red, moist, hot lesions typically appear on a dog’s chest, hip area, or head. Hot spots on dogs are extremely itchy and painful; as the dog scratches, licks, and bites the area, the infection spreads further and continues to get worse.

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?

Hot spots can be caused by anything that irritates the skin and leads a dog to lick, scratch, or chew at the irritation. There are various causes of hot spots on dogs, but the most consistent contributing factor is bacteria. Irritated skin and moisture create an ideal environment for bacteria growth. Common triggers include:

  • Allergies: Both environmental and food allergies can cause itching in dogs.
  • Pyoderma: Primary skin infections caused by bacteria or yeast can cause itching that leads to secondary hot spots.
  • Pests: Insect bites can be incredibly itchy! Bites from fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, mites, and other small insects can cause skin irritation and lead to itching.
  • Poor grooming: Dogs that aren’t groomed regularly can have matted and tangled hair, which can lead to moisture retention and bacterial infections.
  • Ear infections: Bacteria or yeast in the ear canal can cause dogs to itch at the area around the ears.
  • Anal gland problem: A dog’s anal glands can become infected or impacted. This area can become uncomfortable and painful and lead a dog to lick the area.
  • Behavioral issue: Sometimes dogs lick themselves because of boredom, stress, or behavioral issues.
  • Moisture and humidity: Hot spots are more likely to occur during warm, humid weather. Excess moisture in the coat caused by swimming or bathing can also lead to hot spots.

To determine the underlying cause of hot spots, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian.

Symptoms of Hot Spots

Signs of hot spots including inflammation, redness, pain, itching, and oozing. Hot spots are often warm to the touch and can have a bad odor. The continued scratching of these spots can cause hair loss and further irritation. Because itching causes the infection to spread quickly, hot spots tend to grow at a rapid rate within a short timeframe.

Hot Spot Treatment

Because hot spots can spread so quickly, it is best to treat the infection as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will determine the underlying cause of the hot spots, and treatment will vary based on the cause. Treatment may include antibiotics, medication, essential fatty acids, corticosteroids, or antihistamines.

If a hot spot is small and caught early, treating the skin at home may be possible. Your goal should be to relieve the itching and soothe the skin. First, you should carefully clip the hair over the skin lesion to make the area easier to treat.

To soothe the irritation, veterinarians often recommend using anti-itch/medicated shampoos or topical sprays to help moisturize the skin and coat, kill bacteria, and help with inflammation. Make sure you let the area breathe and do your best to keep your pet from licking the infected area.

Hot Spots Support: Thomas Labs® MicoChlor Plus

Thomas Labs® understands the frustration of skin issues in pets, which is why our Thomas Pet brand developed MicoChlor Plus, a medicated formula that can be used for the symptomatic support of hot spots. It comes in two different applications: a shampoo and  spray. MicoChlor Plus contains aloe, oatmeal, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E to help soothe, cool, and hydrate the skin and coat. It helps combat bacterial, fungal, and yeast infections of the skin.

Preventing Hot Spots

There are a few different steps you can take to help prevent hot spots on your dog. You should groom your dog regularly, give him frequent medicated baths, and follow a flea control program. Keeping boredom and stress at bay is another important factor; you can do this by providing exercise and plenty of opportunities to play. Giving your pet an essential fatty acid can also help by keeping his skin and coat healthy.


The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet healthcare professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.

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