Hot Spots are one of those less then desirable skin irritations seen in pets. Often, you’ll here your vet refer to them as moist eczema, but you … well, you can call them hot spots. They occur when your dog itches, scratches or licks him or herself excessively, eventually forming a wet scab on the fur. But what do you with a hot spot?


Hot Spots (also known as Summer Sores or Moist Eczema) can seemingly appear spontaneously anywhere on a dog’s body; the surrounding area can rapidly deterioriate too. This moist, raw skin disorder has a variety of causes but the most consistent factor is bacteria.

Anything that irritates or breaks the skin can create the environment for bacterial contamination if the surface of the skin has but only a little a bit of moisture on it. Such incidences of moisture can be such seeminly innocuous things such as as a recent bath, swim, stroll in the rain, or playtime in wet craze. Even a slightly oozing sore can provide enough moisture and/or nutrient for a bacterial infection to take hold.

What causes hot spots and can they be prevented?
Anything that causes itchiness of the skin can lead to the development of hot spots on dogs. Some common triggers are atopy (allergies to things in the environment such as grasses, trees, weeds, dust mites, etc), food allergies, fleas, mites, insect bites and skin wounds. A bacterial infection of the skin (typically caused by staph) develops by taking advantage of the damaged inflamed skin. The infection is often deep in the dog’s skin and, in addition to the moist oozing appearance, an odor is often present.

Although there are various types of “hot spot”-causing bacteria, most respond to oral and topical antibiotics. For some reason, cats rarely acquire hot spots.

How are hot spots treated?
The goal to treatment is to clear the bacterial infection, relieve the itching and pain, and identify and remove the underlying triggers if possible. The hair in and around the dog’s hot spot is usually clipped to allow initial cleaning of the area and the application of topical medications. Topical treatment with sprays, creams or ointments to kill bacteria and help with pain and inflammation are often used. Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed for a course of three to four weeks and sometimes longer. Often a short course of corticosteroids (i.e. prednisone) is given to relieve the itching and pain due to the inflammation. Antihistamines may also be used to help with itchiness.

Don’t gag; don’t sweat; as long as the wound is not an open one, revealing the muscle or fat beneath, you should be able to treat it yourself. Grab the following supplies and get to work:

  • Electric hair clippers, if you have them
  • Scissors that you are comfortable using
  • Soft, clean cotton cloths or towels, or a generous supply of paper toweling
  • 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and warm (not hot) water
  • A commercially available soothing, anti-itch spray, preferably alcohol-free
  • Bacitracin, Polysporin, or another broad spectrum antibiotic ointment
  • Size-appropriate non-adherent wound dressing
  • Cotton gauze on a roll
  • Adhesive tape
  • Bitter apple or other awful-tasting spray
  • Plastic Elizabethan collar

You’ll probably need a helper to hold your dog while you do this, especially if the wound you’re treating is bothering her.

  1. Using the clippers and scissors, try to trim away as much hair as possible from the wound, extending an inch beyond the wound in every direction. (If the hair over the wound is caked with discharge, try the next step first, and then come back to the trimming.)
  2. Soak your cloth or towel with the hydrogen peroxide and water mixture and repeatedly blot the entire wound, rinsing the cloth off frequently. You’ll soon find that the wound doesn’t look nearly as awful as it did earlier. Once the area seems to be clear of dirt, debris, and dried blood, put away the cloth.
  3. Now give the entire area a few good squirts of anti-itch spray, taking care to go all the way to the edges of the trimmed hair.
  4. Apply a thin film of antibiotic ointment to one side of the non-adherent dressing and press it directly to the wound.
  5. If the hot spot is on an extremity, simply wrap the gauze around the limb 2-3 times and then use adhesive tape to encircle the ends of the gauze. If the site is on an area such as the shoulder or hip, it is sometimes possible to wrap gauze in a figure 8 around the front or rear limbs. If the spot is on your dog’s belly, back, or chest, you may need to get enough gauze and tape to wrap entirely around her abdomen or thorax.
  6. Almost done; now apply the bitter apple or equivalent spray to the bandage to prevent licking or chewing. (The addition of an Elizabethan collar will improve your chances of success.) If you can keep the dressing on for 3-5 days, you’ll be surprised at how much improvement will take place!

Would Vetericyn be helpful in the treatment of hot spots on dogs?
Yes. Vetericyn liquid or hydrogel can be applied topically to kill bacteria and help cleanse the wound and speed healing without depleting vital moisture from the skin. It has the additional benefits of being non-irritating, non-toxic and non-staining to your dog’s skin or dog’s haircoat. If the hot spot persists see your vet.