Causes of Hot Spots on Dogs

Hot spots on dogs occur frequently in the summer, and are often the result of a staph infection, an allergy or even insect bites and fleas. They can be very painful and cause a dog discomfort, especially if not treated promptly.

What Is a Hot Spot?

A hot spot, also known as acute moist dermatitis, is a localized skin infection that is hot, moist and devoid of all hair. These spots are usually quite painful, and many dogs will lick or bite the spot, sometimes to the point of self-mutilation, which in turn causes greater inflammation. They can also spread rapidly, and a small hot spot can turn into a much larger one in less than a day.

Hot spots are commonly found on the head, sides of the ribcage and chest, and in the hip area. They are also fairly common in breeds such as Saint Bernards and Golden Retrievers.

What Causes Hot Spots?

Sometimes these are the result of allergies, but they usually are caused by a staph infection or by a fungus. Other causes can include:

  • Mites, fleas or insect bites
  • Infected scratches
  • Poor grooming
  • Ear infections (on the head)
  • Irritants
  • Excessive moisture

In the summer, hot spots increase with frequency. Dogs with a longer or thicker undercoat are more likely to experience it, as moisture can become trapped in the fur. With the hot temperatures, bacteria and fungus have an easy breeding ground and an infection can quickly form. Sometimes, even a change in the microenvironment of the skin can cause a hot spot. This is particularly true after the dog has been swimming or playing in water.

Symptoms of Hot Spots

Some common symptoms include:

  • Inflammation
  • Itchiness
  • Pain
  • Excessive moisture
  • Raw/red skin
  • Oozing
  • Bruising
  • Ulcerations
  • No hair/fur (often caused by the dog biting or licking it off)

A hot spot on a dog will display different symptoms depending on its cause. Simple irritants or allergens generally will not result in oozing, bruises or ulcerations. However, sometimes a dog can sustain additional infections, especially if he is licking or biting the spot in an attempt to eliminate the pain.

How Are They Treated?

Depending on what causes it, a hot spot can be treated in different ways. If a staph infection or other bacterial presence causes the hot spot, antibiotics are needed. A staph infection will often produce oozing and be quite painful. A topical cream may be needed to help soothe the pain.

Other hot spots, particularly those caused by the presence of an allergen or another irritant, can be treated simply with medicated soap and a good bath. Cutting back the fur is also recommended so that any excess moisture can evaporate.

Hot spots on dogs have a number of different causes, and many times the cause of a particular case may go unknown entirely. One common possibility is a staph infection, and these should be treated promptly by a veterinarian.