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Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis, are red, moist, hot and irritated lesions that are typically found on a dog’s head, hip or chest area. Hot spots often grow at an alarming rate within a short period of time because dogs tend to lick, chew and scratch the affected areas, further irritating the skin. Hot spots can become quite painful.

Why Do Hot Spots Occur?
Anything that irritates the skin and causes a dog to scratch or lick himself can start a hot spot. Hot spots can be caused by allergic reactions, insect, mite or flea bites, poor grooming, underlying ear or skin infections and constant licking and chewing prompted by stress or boredom.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Developing Hot Spots?
Dogs who are not groomed regularly and have matted, dirty coats can be prone to developing hot spots, as can dogs who swim or who are exposed to rain. Additionally, dogs with hip dysplasia or anal sac disease can start licking the skin on their hind end. Thick-coated, longhaired breeds are most commonly affected.

When Is it Time to See the Vet?
You should visit your vet for an exam as soon as you notice any abnormality in your pet’s skin, or if your pet begins to excessively scratch, lick and/or bite areas on his fur.

How Are Hot Spots Treated?
First, your vet will attempt to determine the cause of hot spots. Whether it is a flea allergy, an anal gland infection or stress, the underlying issue needs to be taken care of. Treatment may also include the following:

Shaving of the hair surrounding the lesion, which allows air and medication to reach the wound
Cleansing the hot spot with a non-irritating solution
Antibiotics and painkillers
Medication to prevent and treat parasites
E-collar or other means to prevent self-trauma as the area heals Balanced diet to help maintain healthy skin and coat
Dietary supplement containing essential fatty acids
Corticosteroids or antihistamines to control itching
Hypoallergenic diet for food allergies

How Can I Help Prevent Hot Spots?
The following tips may aid in the prevention of hot spots:

Make sure your dog is groomed on a regular basis.
You may also want to keep your pet’s hair clipped short, especially during warmer months.
Follow a strict flea control program as recommended by your veterinarian.
Maintain as stress-free an environment for your pet as possible.
To keep boredom and stress at bay, make sure your dog gets adequate exercise and opportunities for play and interaction with his human family and, if he enjoys it, with other dogs.

How Can I Make My Dog Feel More Comfortable?
Your veterinarian will best be able to prescribe the care and medications needed to make your dog more comfortable and allow the hot spots to heal. He or she may also recommend the use of an Elizabethan collar around your dog’s neck to keep her from biting and licking the lesions. Such a collar should not be used as a sole means of treatment, since the skin lesions will continue to be painful if left untreated.