Hotspots in dogs: what causes them?

Hotspots in dogs are a common summer complaint and they can be frustrating to treat. A hotspot is the common name for a superficial moist dermatitis; anything that causes itchiness and inflammation of the skin or a small wound in the skin creates the environment for bacterial contamination.

The more your dog scratches, the worse the bacterial infection becomes.

Even a slightly oozing sore can provide enough moisture and/or nutrient for a bacterial infection to take hold.

 Hotspots often spread under the cover of the fur so that by the time you notice them they are well established and spreading.

Hotspots: what causes them?

• Insect bites

• Small wounds

• Allergies

• Fleas

• Painful joints

• Boredom

Self trauma due to scratching and licking leads to secondary bacterial infection resulting in a wet, oozing and often very painful lesion.

Hotspots: what can I do?

  1. If your pet develops a small lesion you can very carefully clip the hair around the hot spot with animal clippers. If the area is too big, shave it. Exposing it to air will dry out the moisture and help speed healing.
  2. Clean the area with a mild water-based astringent or antiseptic spray, or specialized shampoo, and pat dry.

However, if lesions are extensive,  it is best to get your dog to the vet as they can be very painful.  Your vet may need to sedate your pet in order to shave and clean the hotspot without causing your dog distress.

Hotspot above tail

Hotspot area shaved and cleaned, and cortisone cream applied by veterinarian


Treatment usually involves antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and the use of a cone to prevent licking.  The vet may give your dog a cortisone injection to jump start the healing process. Your vet will also help you to identify the underlying cause and advise on preventative measures like a change of diet (allergies), treatment for external parasites or for painful joints. Hot spots may take two weeks to finally look like they are going to heal.
Hotspots are more common in summer because it’s hot and ticks and fleas are more prevalent thus it us important to use tick an flea treatments on a regular basis. If your pet is a swimmer make sure you dry their coat properly and groom them frequently.


Keep your dog well groomed, especially in hot seasons. Any dog that has matted, dirty hair coat is at greater risk of developing hot spots. Many owners will have their long or thick-furred dog shaved closely in the summer. If the fur is allowed to accumulate too much moisture, the wet skin underneath can become the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth and hot spots.

Article by Dr Esmaré van der Walt, EberVet Pet Clinic



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