Dog Hot Spot Treatment: How to Ease Your Pet’s Pain

Dog itching constantly
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Hot spots are also known as acute pyoderma, acute moist pyotraumatic dermatitis or summer sores. In order to identify the best dog hot spot treatment any dog owner should first understand what they are and what causes their occurrence. Applying a treatment and easing a pet’s pain might work once, but avoiding the formation of other hot spots is the best solution for a happy and healthy doggy.

Summer sores provoke a great deal of pain to your beloved canine friend, so that can count as an extra reason to prevent them or treat them as soon as they appear. As usual, there are some dog breeds that are prone to the development of acute pyoderma, but none is completely safe from having them.

What is a hot spot in dogs?

A hot spot is an inflamed area from a dog’s skin. It gets wider and more painful when a dog licks it and scratches it intensively. It can appear and spread very quickly and it can persist for months. Sometimes, the affected areas may have an unpleasant odor. Hair loss is also present around the wounded areas. This lesion can spread from 1 inch to 4 inches if it is not rapidly held under control. As the name suggests, this spot has a slightly higher temperature than the rest of the dog’s body.

Moist pyotraumatic dermatitis is a disease with acute evolution, frequently met in canine specimens with thick fur and long hair. The dog breeds that are prone to its development are, among others, chow chow, Saint Bernard and Labrador. This affection presents certain seasonality, as it occurs more often during warm periods with high humidity levels, such as summer and early fall. Male dogs that are younger than 4 years old have an even higher predisposition to show symptoms of acute moist pyoderma.

What causes a hot spot in dogs?

Although there isn’t a well-established cause that determines the occurrence of hot spots, there is a series of factors that can contribute to their formation. For example, rashes, objects stuck in a dog’s fur or trauma can be considered causes because they often trigger moist pyotraumatic dermatitis. It’s actually about a bacterial infection of the skin. The afferent inflammation generates a sensation of itchiness and pain for a dog, so it starts to lick or scratch that area, irritating its skin further.

A dog’s saliva is not a very good remedy for wounds. In fact, it is not at all good. Because the symptoms will not stop, a dog with a hot spot will become even more agitated and scratch itself even harder. Some dogs end up mutilating themselves because they simply cannot stop scratching even if the pain is unbearable.

Itchy dog licking

The most common areas for the occurrence of hot spots are a dog’s sides, feet or tail. The main idea is that an area that is not scratched will not get inflamed, so if the dog cannot scratch itself, there will be no hot spot. Therefore, a dog can scratch its legs, feet, rubs, ears, neck and chest. Keep an open eye for these areas, but be careful as well. Some canine specimens can become protective of their wounds are start growling and biting people who are trying to get close to them.

In these cases there is almost nothing it can be done at home. These pooches need to be mildly sedated or they won’t allow anyone to treat them. A veterinarian is the most helpful individual in these situations because he/she has knowledge, access to sedatives and can prescribe pain medication.

If a dog has multiple hot spots which reoccur, then the establishment of a cause becomes essential. The causes might not matter too much if it is a one-time incident, but if it keeps coming back, they are. The occasional occurrence of moist pyotraumatic dermatitis can be generated by a simple irritant such as an insect’s bite or a flea’s bite. However, fleas can trigger allergic dermatitis in some canine specimens.

What is flea allergy dermatitis?

Allergies in general can start the development of a hot spot, but flea allergy dermatitis is most common. A dog might have a hypersensitive reaction to a flea’s bite. This can happen even if the dog in question was bitten before or if it is its first time. As little as one bite can leave a pooch with a painful and itchy hot spot. Dogs with fleas can be easily treated and the reoccurrence of such incident can also be easily avoided. It only takes a visit to the vet to solve both these aspects.

Flea life cycles

However, except fleas, there is a large variety of external parasites that might produce itchiness, some of which can also affect humans. For example, sarcoptic mange in dogs causes scabies in humans. If you’d like to learn more about flea allergy dermatitis and how to prevent it, check out this great article on flea allergy in dogs.

What are the most unlikely causes?

Besides the main causes of acute pyoderma, there are a few other secondary causes that occur rarely as it follows: a hormonal affection such as hypothyroidism, rash hidden under skin, osteoarthritis or other degenerative disorders. In addition, a bored or a stressed dog can inflict wounds to itself by cleaning itself excessively. This situation can be solved by entertaining it, playing with it or buying interesting toys for it.

This is also the only situation you can control. If your pooch gets an infection with bacteria of fleas, chances are you can’t be blamed, but if it is bored and stressed because you are not offering it enough attention or taking care of it properly, then you are the cause. Try to avoid this unpleasant scenario.

What is the treatment for hot spots?

There isn’t just one type of treatment for hot spots. There are several herbal treatments that can be applied on a dog’s lesions, as well as mixtures with chemical substances and some tricks that can ease a dog’s suffering until its wounds are healed. As a dog owner, you can try the herbal treatments first if the wound is not wide or serious. Move on to the chemical mixture only if the hot spot’s condition aggravates. You can also combine them. These are remedies that can be made at home. Ultimately, you can ask a vet what to do.

What chemical mixture can I use?

If you have a dog with a hot spot, your main purpose is to take all the necessary steps to keep it dry. The lesion must be kept away from moist and, at the same time, you must also apply a treatment against the cause. Among the home remedies for hot spots on dogs are washing the wound, disinfecting it and applying compresses. Firstly, you must wash the infected area with an astringent solution or a mild antiseptic solution based on water.

Hot spot treatment

For example, you can prepare a simple mixture of water, hydrogen peroxide (3%) and alcohol. Fill 1/6 of a normal glass with hydrogen peroxide, add 2 teaspoons of alcohol and then water until the glass is full. Mix well and then apply this solution on the affected areas. It is extremely important not to use too much alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because the solution will not be effective anymore and it can burn your pooch’s skin.

If hydrogen peroxide is applied directly in the animal’s skin, the result is tissue damage. This is why you have to use a lot of water, very little peroxide and just a few drops of alcohol. Keep in mind that your dog will suffer when you apply this mixture on its open wounds. It might be a good idea to have another person present in case your canine friend reacts in a negative way.

What herbal treatments can I use?

A more non-invasive treatment that you can make and apply at home on your pooch’s hot spots is black tea and aspirin. You should boil a cup of water for making black tea and then dissolve a common aspirin in the hot water. After this mixture gets cooler, you can pour some of it on a towel and apply it on the wound. This process must be repeated several days in a row until the wound gets dry.

However, if the wound does not respond to this treatment, you should try something else or take your pooch to the vet. It might need antibiotics, special shampoos, topical sprays or even cortisone depending on the severity of its hot spot. Hamamelis or Witch hazel is also a plant known to have a cooling effect on these types of lesions. Moreover, Aloe Vera and chamomile can help reduce pain and be an adjuvant in the healing process. This combination is known to be effective in mild cases of acute moist pyotraumatic dermatitis.

You can also try oatmeal baths to soothe your dog’s skin and help with his itching problem. You can learn more in this article about oatmeal baths for dogs.

What are the tricks I can use?

  • Since the hot spot must be kept dry and clean at all times, you should consider trimming your pooch’s fur. Removing the extra hair can only do good for your canine friend. Remember not to shave it off because shaving can irritate its skin further and that is the last thing it needs.
  • Buy an Elizabethan collar for your dog if you want to stop it from licking its wounds. Often the ointments or mixtures applied on a dog’s lesions are toxic if they are ingested, so an Elizabethan collar would keep this danger away from it. In addition, if the dog doesn’t lick itself anymore, there are more chances for the wound to stay dry and thus to heal faster.
  • Buy socks for your dog if you want to minimize the scratching effects. A dog with socks or special shoes on can’t hurt itself as bad as it can in case its nails are not covered. Your pooch might not feel comfortable while having strange things covering its feet, but it will be grateful when the pain and itchiness are gone and its wounds are completely healed. There is no need for complications. You can even learn to make booties for your dog in this great article on how to make dog booties.
  • Buy supplements with fatty acids. It is known that adding fatty acids supplements in a dog’s diet can have a positive effect on the itching sensation. The later can be significantly minimized thanks to fatty acids supplements.

In conclusion, what can be done?

As you might have heard over and over again while reading about dog diseases and affections, trying to prevent them is the best way to treat them. Happily, you can also prevent the occurrence of hot spots.

You might not be successful for the first time, but once you see your dog suffer, you will definitely be more careful in the future.

Elizabethan collar

Therefore, remember that a humid environment favors bacteria to multiply and to take action, affecting your pooch’s skin. Having long, thick fur isn’t helpful either. However, if you are really fond of this feature of your dog, you should always dry its fur after you wash it, after swimming or if it gets wet. Furthermore, brushing your canine friend’s fur on a regular basis helps a lot. Using a soft brush is recommended if you don’t want to accidentally scratch its skin. Also, by brushing its fur you help remove dead skin cells, which can clog and generate infections.

It is really important to choose a special shampoo that doesn’t dry your dog’s skin. Also, washing it once a week and drying its fur every time it gets wet is mandatory. Making sure it always has a collar against fleas and others creature alike on is equally important too. If you do all these, hot spots will only remain a bad memory for you.

Your dog will soon forget all about it and enjoy your attention and care like nothing has happened to it. Be as loyal to your dog as it is to you. Keep it away from health treats and spoil it with different healthy treats from time to time after you are done playing with it or after taking a long walk in allergens-free areas from around your house.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.