Hot Spots on Dogs: Causes, Treatment, and Natural Remedies

Medically reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM
Hot Spots on Dogs: Causes, Treatment, and Natural Remedies

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Does your dog scratch a lot?

Is there flaking, redness, swelling of the skin, or worse, lesions and pus with hair falling off?

These might be symptoms of hot spots or also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis. Hotspots may appear anywhere on the dog's body but are found more commonly on the head, legs, and hips.

What Are Some of the Causes of Hot Spots?

Hot spots are usually caused by constant licking and scratching by your pet. Any of the following underlying causes may prompt continuous licking and scratching:

  • Parasites and mites
  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Food allergies
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Ear problems
  • Anal sac disease
  • Demodicosis
  • Contact irritants
  • Stress or boredom resulting in excessive licking
  • A coat that is dirty or matted
  • Moisture trapped in the coat from swimming or bathing

Regardless of the cause, it is the cycle of constant licking and scratching that causes self-trauma to the skin; this, in turn, eventually causes lesions and open wounds, which are further exposed to possible infection and complications if not immediately attended to and treated. If serious infection occurs your vet may recommend an antibiotic like Cephalexin.

How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Hot Spot

An initial visual examination may reveal a hot spot. It could be flaking, redness of the skin, or inflammation (which you might mistake as an insect bite). At its worst, it could be an oozing lesion with blood, pus, and a bad smell.

In severe cases, it is best to consult a vet for a more scientific way of diagnosing the problem. Your vet may use the following techniques to diagnose the issue:

  • Impression smear for cytological evaluation
  • Skin scraping or skin culture
  • Specific allergy testing
  • Skin biopsy

Natural Remedies for Hot Spots

It may be possible that hotspots, when caught early and immediately addressed, can be remedied at home.

While waiting for a diagnosis from your vet, there are natural, safe remedies that you can attempt at home, which may provide comfort to your pet. Here are a few examples:

  • Trim and clean the affected area
  • Apply calming oatmeal baths, tea bag packs, or an all-natural balm made for dogs.
  • Cover the area with a clean bandage or gauze
  • Use an Elizabeth collar or dog cone

If your dog's hotspot develops into a wound, you should consider using alternatives to neosporin for dogs.

Oatmeal baths:

  • Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe itchy, irritated skin. It slows down the loss of moisturizing properties of a dog's skin.
  • Grind some plain, raw oatmeal (no flavoring, fruits, or other additives) into a fine powder. You may use a food processor or coffee grinder. The fine powder will be easier to dissolve.
  • Place a non-slip mat in the bathing or tub area since the oatmeal will make the area slick and slippery.
  • Fill your tub or bathing area with warm water. Make sure the water level will reach the chest of your pet. For more severe cases of hot spots, the water should be slightly warmer, but never hot. Mix the powdered oatmeal into the water until fully dissolved.
  • You may now gently place your dog into the oatmeal bath.
  • Avoid wetting your dog's face and ears. Gently massage the oatmeal bath into its coat using soft circular motions until it reaches the skin. Let your dog stay in the oatmeal bath for around 15 minutes to enjoy the soothing effect. Do not use or mix any soap or shampoo.
  • You may then rinse your dog by running a gentle stream of water over its coat to remove bits of oatmeal that might irritate if not washed away. Watch out for oatmeal chunks that might clog your drain.
  • Towel dry your dog using a warm thick towel.
  • You can repeat this process once a day while your dog still has symptoms.

Soothing tea packs:

  • Steep a tea bag (black tea, not herbal) in hot water and then let it cool thoroughly.
  • Gently place it against the hot spot.
  • You can repeat this several times a day.
  • Tea has an anti-bacterial property that helps dry out the sore.

    How to Prevent Hot Spots

    It is always best to be on the lookout for potential hot spots, as if you catch them early enough, you may be able to take care for them at home. It is only in severe cases that a visit to the vet is required.

    Proper grooming and hygiene prevent hot spots and their recurrence. Clipping your pet's hair, especially during warmer months, will also help.

    During bath time, ensure that you wash off all soap and shampoo residue to avoid matting and causing dry skin. Towel off your dog thoroughly.

    Consult the vet for proper flea control to keep away unwanted insects, causing itchiness.

    Finally, make sure your dog gets regular exercise and healthy food so that they will not be stressed or bored, which is usually a cause of excessive biting of the skin.

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