Hot Spots

Hot Spots

“Hot spots” are a rapidly developing, superficial skin infection that occurs secondary to self-inflicted trauma.  They are also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis.   Dogs will lick, chew, scratch, or rub an area until it becomes a red and irritated lesion. 

What causes hot spots?

A lesion is created when an animal licks and chews an area incessantly, and is usually in response to an itch or painful stimulus.  It tends to be a seasonal problem that worsens when it is hot and humid, with the most common cause being fleas.  Other causes include allergies, other insects, anal sac disease, ear infections, trauma, or a topical irritant.  The result is a large, red lesion with hair loss and moist, eroded skin.  It is a painful lesion that becomes larger and spreads from continued licking and chewing.  Hot spots can by diagnosed via microscopic evaluation of the surface of the affected area. 

How are they treated?

If possible, the underlying cause should be identified and treated.  The lesion is usually clipped and cleaned and flea preventatives should be administered.  Because the lesion is painful, some pets need to be sedated for this to be done safely and effectively.  Treatment depends on the severity of the lesion and the results of the microscopic evaluation.  It can include topical medications, medicated baths, injections, oral antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medications.  Elizabethan collars (E-collars) are used to prevent the dog from licking so the lesion does not worsen. 

Will my dog be cured?

The prognosis is good if the cause is corrected and controlled.  However, dogs can have recurrent “hot spots” if they have underlying allergies or if they are not kept on proper flea preventatives. 


Hnilica, Keith.  Small Animal Dermatology A Color Atlas and Therapeutic Guide. St Louis: Elsevier Mosby, 2011.  Print

Ward, Ernest.  Hot Spots in Dogs.  Lifelearn Inc, 2011.