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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Hot Spots (Acute Moist Dermatitis)

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

These circular patches appear suddenly and enlarge quickly, often within a matter of hours. Hot spots can occur anywhere on the body and often in more than one location. A typical location is under the ear flaps in large breeds with heavy, hairy ears such as Newfoundlands and Golden Retrievers.


A hot spot is a warm, painful, swollen patch of skin 1 - 4 inches (2.5 - 10cm) across that exudes pus and gives off a foul odor. Hair in the area is lost rapidly. The infection progresses when the dog licks and chews the site.


Like many skin problems, hot spots develop in response to flea bites, allergies, other skin diseases, lack of grooming, mites, ear and anal gland infections.

Hot spots occur most often in breeds with heavy coats, and tend to appear just before shedding when moist, dead hair is trapped next to the skin.

Poor nutrition and food with low quality ingredients has shown to be a significant factor in the occurrence of hot spots.


Diagnosis is made by physical examination.


Hot spots look awful, but they generally involve only the very top layer of skin and heal quickly with first aid.

It's best to call a vet if the hot spot hasn't improved within 24 hours. Hot spots are extremely painful. The dog will usually need to be sedated or anesthetized for the initial treatment. Your vet will clip the hair to expose the hot spot, and gently cleanse the skin with a dilute povidone-iodine shampoo (betadine) or a chlorhexidine shampoo (Nolvasan) and allow the skin to dry. An antibiotic steroid cream or powder (Panolog or Neocort) is then applied twice daily for 10 - 14 days. Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed. Predisposing (other problems that may contribute to the development of hot spots) skin problems must be treated as well.

Your veterinarian may also prescribe a short course of oral corticosteroids to control severe itching. Prevent the dog from traumatizing the area by using an Elizabethan or a BiteNot collar.

To ease discomfort and help with cleaning, apply a soothing compress to the hot spot several times a day. This is to soften up any crust do that you can gently wipe it away and better clean the area. Wet a soft, clean cloth in cool water. Wring it well, then apply it to the area for 10 - 15 minutes, reapplying as needed.

You can dry the hot spot by applying diluted Burow's solution (aluminum acetate) 3 times daily. This agent will help keep the area dry and help promote healing. Burow's solution is available in pharmacies. It can be applied as a compress or by pouring it into a bottle and applying it as a spray.

Never put ointment on hot spots, because it seals the infection, which can then spread deeper into the skin. Alcohol is too strong for open wounds and is painful. Instead medicate with an antibacterial spray or cream that dries up the sore, like a 5% benzoyl peroxide product such as Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 5, which is available at drug stores and supermarkets.

An antibacterial spray called Lido-Med Spray, available from pet-supply stores, contains a topical anesthetic that cools the burn and stops the discomfort. Apply as necessary. Products containing witch hazel are also very cooling and soothing to hot spots because witch hazel evaporates very quickly. Spray witch hazel on up to 3 times a day.

If you don't have the proper medication, a tea bag will work fine. Black tea (not herbal) contains tannic acid, which is a natural astringent that dries and heals sores more quickly. Soak a tea bag in hot water, remove it and let it cool, then apply it directly to the hot spot for 5 minutes. Use this treatment 3 - 6 times daily until the hot spot is dried up and healing.

Vitamin E is a great way to soothe irritated skin. Vitamin E is available in capsule form from health food stores. Open the capsule and apply the gel to the hot spot once or twice per day. Aloe gel from an aloe vera plant will also work.


It is important to find the true cause of the hot spot. Merely treating the visible symptom will not prevent them from returning.

Proper nutrition from a food using high quality ingredients may provide a significant advantage to pets suffering from hot spots. Remove the most common allergens from the pets food corn or any corn product, gluten and any gluten variant, wheat and all wheat variations, and soy ingredients. Removing grain from the dogs diet completely may help to avoid any allergens currently taxing the dogs immune system allowing a larger opportunity for the hot spots to become infections.

Foods from California Natural, Innova, Evo, Eagle Pack, Wellness, Canidae, and Solid Gold are all manufactured to the highest sanitary standard and offer top quality ingredients.

Regular grooming (breed dependent, ask your pet groomer) with an all natural / chemical free shampoo will help to remove any irritants that may lead to excess itching, scratching and the development of an open sore. In hot, humid weather, be sure to dry heavy coated dogs thoroughly after bathing and after swim sessions. Otherwise, the conditions are perfect for a hot spot to develop.

Many hotspots are initially caused by flea bites. Remove fleas from the environment and from your pet. See Fleas.


Please contact your veterinarian or a professional pet grooming facility to assist you in exterminating the flea infestation.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

Dog Bible

Publisher: BowTie Press, 2005

Website: http://www.bowtiepress.com/bowtie/

Authors: Kristin Meuh-Roe, Jarelle S. Stein

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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