Dog Hot Spots

Dog hot spots are a common problem in the canine population. Hot spots are skin irritations that characteristically are red and itchy and if left untreated, can lead to infection and scarring. Hot spots are areas on your dog’s body where the itching and irritation have become so intense, your dog licks, gnaws and chews the area until there is hair loss and the skin is broken and raw. Hot spots can have a variety of underlying causes, so the key to treating it is to identify the cause and effectively remove the irritant. Once the cause is removed, the need to chew or lick the area should subside and healing begin.

Causes of Hot Spots

Breaking the pattern of chewing the affected area begins by identifying the cause of the irritation. Consider the following items when trying to determine the cause of your dog’s hot spots.

  • Parasites such as fleas, ticks or mites can initiate the licking and chewing to try to sooth the itching. Other insects such as mosquitoes and bees or hornets can also be included in this category as their bites or stings can cause irritation and start your dog licking and chewing to relieve the irritation.
  • Allergies are also a common cause of hot spots. Whether the allergy is cause by his food or by something in his environment, your dog will attempt to relieve his itching by licking and chewing, potentially breaking the skin and causing additional irritation.
  • Injuries can also be the beginning of a hot spot. Abrasions and other skin wounds will typically itch when healing, prompting your dog to lick or chew the area in order to seek relief. Burrs and thorns can get caught between his toes and pads creating injuries that can prompt your dog to lick or chew at those areas.
  • Emotional problems such as boredom, separation anxiety or stress can prompt a dog to begin licking or chewing at his skin.

Treatment of Hot Spots

The treatment for hot spots is simultaneously ridding your dog of the cause for the hot spots and treating the lesion that has developed. Treating the lesion includes clipping the area surrounding the wound in order to be able to improve air circulation around the area and to make it easier to apply treatment such as desiccating powder (astringent and antibacterial agent) to promote healing. More severe cases may require oral antibiotics and painkillers to avoid infection and remove the irritation and pain.

Preventing additional injury may also be required. Head, ear and neck injuries may require an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from scratching the area. The Elizabethan collar can also prevent your dog from licking other areas of his body. Another tactic often used to prevent affected areas is to clip toenails and cover your dog’s feet with thick socks. This prevents the toenails from digging deeper into your dog’s skin.

Because hot spots are promoted by an underlying cause, it is important to remove the irritant at the same time you are treating the affected area on your dog. Without the irritant, your dog is less likely to scratch and can allow his skin to heal.