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How to Treat Hot Spots on a Dog

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Hot spots on dogs are also referred to as acute moist dermatitis. They most often appear on a dog's head, chest or hind end. There are many reasons why these lesions form, so it's important that all pet owners know how to treat hot spots on a dog.

How Do Dogs Develop Hot Spots?

Anything that irritates a dog's skin will cause him to scratch and chew to relieve the discomfort. While scratching can create lesions on a dog's skin, chewing can be even worse.

The moisture from a dog's saliva that's left behind festers on the skin and in the dog's fur, and subsequently that moisture can cause a hot spot on the dog. The hot spot will become itchy, resulting in even more chewing, and the issue will quickly spread.

It's a vicious cycle.

Proper dog grooming can help to prevent dog hot spots. Dogs with matted hair and dirty coats are more susceptible to such skin irritations. Because hot spots in dogs are caused by moisture, dogs that spend more time outdoors in wet weather or enjoy swimming are more prone to developing hot spots.

So, how do you treat hot spots on dogs? Pet owners can usually solve this problem at home with both natural and store-bought remedies and without a trip to the vet. However, if your dog suffers from severe or chronic hot spots on a regular basis, a chat with a veterinarian is recommended.

How to Treat Hot Spots on a Dog

Trim the hair around hot spots

1. Trim the Hair Around the Hot Spot

The first thing you'll need to do is trim the fur around your dog's hot spot using pet hair clippers. I highly recommended using dog clippers instead of scissors or other grooming tools because they'll get closer to the skin without the danger of cutting your dog.

You'll notice that the fur inside the hot spot has fallen out, so you will only need to trim a bit of that hair around the edges. The goal is to remove all hair that is touching the hot spot. This helps to relieve irritation and will also aid in allowing the skin to dry out faster.

2. Clean the Area

Next step is to clean the area with antiseptic wipes or an antiseptic spray. This spray will help to kill any germs and prevent further infection on the dog's skin.

Try to find a product that won't sting your pup's skin because this could cause even more irritation and tempt the dog to continue chewing and scratching the area. Let it dry out and keep your dog away from licking the area in the meantime.

Note: Before using any antiseptic sprays or creams mentioned below, make sure to consult with a veterinarian and get their approval. In some cases, especially with chronic hot spots, you need to be particularly careful which treatments you're using.

Hot Spot Treatment for Dogs

3. Apply a Hot Spot Treatment

Now you'll need to use a hot spot treatment. These are usually sold as “hot spot creams” or “anti-itch sprays/creams”. There are two types: light and natural ones, and more strong remedies used for these and other skin infections in dogs. Talk to your vet before picking the exact product to see which one is appropriate for your pet's case.

After your vet has approved it, apply the anti-itch spray or cream to the hot spot. Hydrocortisone based creams and sprays is the most popular treatment for hot spots in dogs, because hydrocortisone was shown in studies to be most effective for this.

My favorite over-the-counter dog hot spot treatments are these three below:

Note: Make sure that your dog does not ingest any of it. After cream application, I recommend you use an Elizabethan collar or an inflatable collar for a few days. Personally, I recommend a soft/inflatable collar over Elizabethan collars since dogs like those better.

Use a dog Elizabethan collar

4. Know When to Talk to a Vet

If your dog has chronic hot spots or they turn severe quickly, you should not treat them at home. Instead, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to go over a long-term treatment plan.

Also, if the dog's hot spots have any type of discharge or have a bright red color, they may be infected, in which case you should absolutely avoid treating the area by yourself at home, and need to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Far more serious skin complications are possible here.

Your vet will likely clean the spots in the clinic and send you home with a prescription skin cream that will clear them up quickly. These creams are often antibiotic-based and are not available to purchase over-the-counter. If your dog has chronic hot spots, you may also be prescribed a medicated shampoo that should help with the condition.

Natural Hot Spot Remedies for Mild Cases

5. Natural Hot Spot Remedies for Mild Cases

While you can find over-the-counter dog hot spot sprays and creams to buy online, for very mild cases, you can use a natural, chemical-free hot spot remedies like these. This is what I've successfully used with my dogs in the past for their mild cases.

Calendula oil is the best natural hot spot remedy among the three mentioned that I have found to work on dogs. You can buy this as an oil (like this), lotions or salve (like this). It works well to clear up hot spots on dogs quickly without any harmful chemicals or harsh ingredients that might irritate your dog's skin even more.

If you have experience with any of your own home remedies for how to treat hot spots on a dog, please share them in the comments below. I'm always looking for more natural treatments, and I'd love to try them with our pets, as I'm sure other readers would, too.

READ NEXT: How to Use Coconut Oil for Dog Skin Problems (Based on Studies)

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