Dog: Hot Spot

General information

Other common/scientific names: moist dermatitis

A hot spot is a superficial skin infection that can occur anywhere on the dog’s body. These areas can enlarge rapidly and are more common in hot, humid weather.

Abb. GGTESYVU: Schematic illustration of the skin structure.
A hot spot only affects the upper skin layer or epidermis.


Anything that creates an irritation to the skin, causing the pet to chew or scratch at the site, can result in a hot spot. Insect (fleas, flies) bites, allergies, matted hair, minor skin scrapes can all be initiating causes. As the dog licks the affected area, bacteria from the mouth can cause the skin to become infected. The infected area of skin is sore and itchy causing the dog to continue scratching and perpetuating the cycle.

Cardinal symptom

Licking and itching


The skin involved in a hot spot is itchy, reddened, moist and painful. Pus oozes from the skin causing the hair to mat and a thick scab to form.

Abb. GFKVXKWU: Hot Spots.
This is a photograph of two hot spots. a = This hot spot has been treated and has healed. b = This small hot spot is new. Note the red, moist appearing skin.

Abb. GFKVYRM6: Hot Spot.
This is a photograph of a typical hot spot on a dog’s paw.


Hot spots are diagnosed on physical examination. It is important to determine the underlying cause.


The hair around a hot spot must be clipped to allow air to the infected, moist skin. Because these areas can be extremely painful, sedation may be necessary. The inflamed skin is cleaned with an antiseptic. Topical and/or oral antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications are used for several days to control the infection, pain and reduce the itch. The dog may need to wear a special collar to prevent further scratching of the hotspot. Frequently, flea allergy and/or atopic dermatitis are diagnosed and will need to be treated concurrently.


Most hot spots heal with proper treatment. Dogs with an underlying skin disease which causes itching may be prone to recurring hot spots.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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