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How to Treat a Dog's Hot Spots

For humans, a hot spot is a popular place to have fun. For canines--on the other hand--a hot spot ain't no picnic. Hot spots (otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis) are inflamed, infected areas of skin that spread rapidly due to licking and scratching. Redness, oozing, itchiness and sometimes hair loss are all symptoms. Some dogs are more prone to hot spots than others, but this pesky problem can affect any dog. Here are several steps to treating hot spots.

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  1. Trim the area around the hot spot with scissors. If the area is too big, you should shave it. Exposing it to air will dry out the moisture and help speed healing.

  2. Clean the area with a mild water-based astringent or antiseptic, or even baby shampoo, and pat dry.

  3. Apply hydrocortisone spray or lotion to stop the itching and help speed healing. If you don't have access right away, you can give your dog Benadryl tablets or apply Benadryl Itch Stopping Cream or Gel for temporary relief of itching and inflammation, but check with your vet first.

  4. Prevent your dog from biting, licking or scratching the area. Placing an Elizabethan collar (plastic cone) around your dog's neck will keep him from biting and licking at it.

  5. Keep an eye on the area to make sure it continues to heal and doesn't worsen or spread. Hot spots often require a visit to the vet, who will likely prescribe topical medication usually in the form of a spray such as Miconosol (antifungal) and Gentamicin/Betamethasone (antibiotic), and possibly oral antibiotics. The vet may also give your dog a cortisone injection to jump start the healing process.

  6. Tip

    Hot spots can result from fleas, dust mites, pollen in the air, food allergies, tangled or matted hair, humidity, not drying a wet dog properly or from licking and biting. For healing, you can purchase an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) and an antifungal cream or spray consisting of tolnaftate (Tinactin) or clotrimazole (Lotrimin), but sprays and foams tend to work better because they allow air into the infected area. It's important to keep moisture away so that the hot spots can heal.


    Treat hot spots immediately to prevent further spreading. Hot spots can be very painful, so be cautious when treating your dog. Sometimes, hair can mat over the hot spot and obscure the severity of the problem. With hot spots there's sometimes the possibility of a deeper skin infection. Cortisone shots can cause increased thirst, urination and possibly appetite. This reaction may last up to a week and is more common with older dogs.

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About the Author

Melissa writes for various publications on her favorite subject: pets. An animal advocate, she's covered it all from animal care to rescue to dog parks for The Pet Press, Where Magazine and Best Friends Network and was a writer/editor for the Dallas Times Herald. A former stand-up comic, Melissa has appeared on A&E, VH1 and Comedy Central. She lives with her husband and three mixed-breed rescue dogs and is in search of a purse big enough to carry the 80 lb. one shopping with her on Rodeo Drive.

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