What are hot spots? How do you know if your dog has hot spots? Here is everything you need to know about how to identify hot spots in dogs and what to do about healing and preventing them. Acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis, and superficial pyoderma are just fancy names for those lesions pet parents know as “hot spots.”

Hot spots can typically be found on your dog’s head, chest, hips, or paws. The base of the tail is another popular spot for hot spots. These wounds show up as red, moist, hot and inflamed. A hot spot can grow at an alarming rate because dogs tend to lick, scratch, and chew at affected areas. Hot spots are incredibly itchy, and they can become quite painful and sensitive to the touch. 


Dog hot spot on back of neck needs treatment with betadine

Hot spots are created when your dog’s natural bacteria overpopulates parts of the skin. When an infection arises from a dog’s bacteria, it is almost always a root cause of hot spots. 

Any dog can develop hot spots, but they’re much more common in dogs with long or thick coats, dirty or moist skin (i.e., dogs that swim or stay out in the rain), and dogs with allergies, including food, airborne, and flea bite allergies. Additionally, if your pet has underlying health issues, such as hip dysplasia, arthritic joints, or underperforming immune systems, they may continuously lick at the site of the pain and induce hot spots to form.


Sometimes there are underlying mental or emotional causes for your dog’s hot spots, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety, or even boredom. These behavioral issues can cause the licking and chewing that generates the lesions. Behavioral causes of hot spots are typically the hardest to treat successfully. These animals are also the most difficult to thwart from re-injuring themselves.

If your pet is obsessive about licking certain parts of her body and it leads to open wounds, the problem can be challenging to fix long term, even using specific behavior modification techniques. Your vet may be able to recommend a licensed veterinary behaviorist that can help you with the problem.


If your dog develops a hot spot – or multiple hot spots – you’ll need to do two things: treat the wound and determine the underlying cause.

To treat the hot spot, you’ll want to shave the area around the lesion to remove any hair that can get stuck to the wound. Clip enough hair back until you can see healthy skin. Note: If you don’t have clippers at home, your vet or a licensed, professional groomer can shave the hair for you.

To determine the underlying cause of the hot spot properly, you’ll need to see your veterinarian. Once your vet has determined the root of the problem, you can continue the treatment at home as described and recommended by your vet. 


Disinfecting the hot spot will prevent any more bacteria from forming. Most veterinarians recommend using povidone-iodine (brand name Betadine®). Betadine has no side effects and does a good job controlling most skin bacteria. Apply the solution directly to the hot spot. You will probably need to repeat the procedure several times a day for the first two or three days of treatment to keep the area clean, dry, and free of pus.

Everything you need to know about dog hot spots

Depending on the severity of the infection, the hot spot’s size, and the amount of pus the wound is producing, disinfecting two times a day should be an absolute minimum. Remember – a consistently clean and dry wound is critical to healing the infection.



After the disinfection process, you’ll want to apply a topical solution. We like Skin Soother by Natural Dog Company. It is an all-natural, vegan product packed with healing herbs that are naturally antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. Some holistic veterinarians may recommend using raw aloe or a thin layer of manuka honey to protect the hot spot. A cool chamomile tea bag placed against the lesion can provide a soothing, freshening effect to help your dog feel better. Note: Please don’t use anything with stinging or astringent properties on the spot. Solutions such as vinegar and tea tree oil can be painful and too aggressive on raw, open sores.

after cleaning the wound

It is crucial that you not only leave the hot spot open to the air (no bandages) but that you keep your pet from licking or chewing at the wound. You may need to resort to the dreaded cone or Elizabethan collar until the hot spot heals. Depending on where the site is located, having your dog wear a t-shirt might also be a solution.


Since 2021, there have been several advancements in treating and preventing hot spots in dogs:

  1. Laser Therapy: Veterinary laser therapy has become more popular for treating hot spots. It reduces inflammation and promotes faster healing by stimulating cell regeneration.
  2. Probiotic Supplements: Incorporating probiotics into your dog’s diet can improve skin health by balancing the natural bacteria, reducing the likelihood of hot spots.
  3. Anti-itch Sprays: Newer anti-itch sprays contain natural ingredients like oatmeal, aloe vera, and essential oils that can provide immediate relief and reduce the urge to scratch.
  4. CBD Oil: Some studies suggest that CBD oil can help reduce inflammation and calm anxiety-related behaviors that contribute to hot spots.


Your vet can help you find the underlying cause of the hot spot, but you’ll need to be vigilant about maintaining your dog’s health so that the lesions don’t return.

If allergies are the cause, then removing the allergens from your pet’s environment is essential. Changing to hypoallergenic, grain-free dog food can also help if your dog has food allergies. Wiping down paws, face, belly and ears if your pup has airborne allergies and religiously ridding the skin of fleas, mites and other parasites will now need to be part of your dog’s daily regimen to prevent hot spots.

Other health-related issues causing the hot spots need to be addressed with veterinary treatment and the proper medications. Additionally, you’ll want to keep your dog’s skin as clean and dry as possible. Regular baths and grooming are crucial to preventing hot spots, as is drying your dog as soon as possible if they like to swim or get wet from walking in the rain.

Share this post with friends: