Is your dog persistently licking or scratching one area on their body? If the answer is yes, then they may have a hot spot. If you suspect that your dog has one but aren’t sure how to detect it, keep reading. We’ll break down what a hot spot is, what it looks like, what causes it, and what you can do to treat it at home.

What is a hot spot?

The technical term for a hot spot is superficial canine pyoderma, also known as acute moist dermatitis or most eczema. They are most common in older dogs, dogs with compromised immune systems, dogs who have allergies, and dogs of specific breeds.

What does a hot spot look like?

A hot spot is a patch of itchy skin that is red, irritated and often moist. Because of your dog constantly licking,scratching and chewing of the area, sores and bald spots tend to appear with scabbing and oozing.  They’re typically contained to one specific area and can appear anywhere on the body. Hot spots are most commonly found on the head, neck, hips and limbs of the dog, and are most commonly seen during the warmer seasons like spring and summer.

What causes hot spots?

One of the most common causes for hot spots are food and/or environmental allergies. Avoid feeding your dog table scraps, and be sure to review the nutritional content and ingredient list of the food that they’re eating. If you notice the hot spot appears after you feed them something specific, it’s a good indication that the hot spot is being causes by an allergic reaction to that food.

Some behavioral issues can also cause hot spots to appear. Things like separation anxiety, and even boredom, can cause constant licking. This constant licking has a calming effect on the dog, but the moisture and constant friction causes a hot spot to appear.

Like humans, dogs can also have environmental allergies during those warm months. With things like pollen, grass, and ragweed flying through the air, some dogs may have a reaction and develop a hot spot as a result. Other environmental factors that can cause hot spots are polluted water, inhalants in the air, and household products like certain soaps, detergents and carpet cleaners. Common pests like fleas can also cause hot spots to pop up on your dog. If your dog is allergic to the saliva in a flea bite, your dog will lick and scratch the area, thus causing the hot spot. For this reason, among many others, regular flea prevention and maintenance is important.

These are just a few of the things that can be the root issue for hot spots. Other causes can include:

  • Underlying nerve, muscle or bone issues, like arthritis or neuralgia
  • Matted fur/poor grooming
  • Splinters or thorns
  • Swimming
  • Ear or anal gland infections
  • Insect bits
  • Cuts or scratches

Treating Hot Spots at Home

There are several steps involved with treating and healing a hot spot, and the key to getting started is understanding what’s causing the hot spot in the first place. The only way to be sure of the root cause is to consult your vet. They can help you come up with the best treatment plan to ensure your dog recovers and that the hot spots don’t continue to appear. Typically, hot spot treatment includes the following:

  • The area around the hot spot needs to be trimmed or shaved. Removing the hair exposes the area to air and allows it to dry out.
  • Clean the area with a mild water based shampoo or antiseptic cleaner, gently removing any pus that may be in the wound.
  • Apply a vet-prescribed hydrocortisone spray or cream to the area. Just like with humans, the hydrocortisone helps relieve the itchy feeling the wound is causing.
  • You’ll want to prevent any further itching, licking and biting of the area. Many vets will recommend the Elizabethan collar, also known as the dreaded cone of shame, as a safe and effective method.
  • Some vets will also recommend Benadryl for treating the itchiness your dog is experiencing, but it’s not always necessary. Do not give your dog any kind of human medication without first consulting with your vet.

You can also use some natural home remedies to give your dog some relief. Natural remedies include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Black tea
  • Diluted apple cider vinegar
  • Oatmeal baths

Once the hot spot has been treated and is no longer affection your dog, prevention is key. If the vet determined what the cause of the hot spot was, be sure to stick with their recommendations concerning food or flea medicine. You can also prevent hot spots through regular grooming and regular play and exercise.

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