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First Aid for Hot Spots

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First Aid for Hot Spots

Face, neck, hips, and above the tail: What do these areas have in common? These are the most common locations of the emergency skin condition called moist pyodermatitis, often called ‘hot spots’. The location of the hot spot can help determine the underlying cause.

Hot spots usually start out small yet grow in size rapidly (within a few hours). Chewing or licking at the sore exacerbates the problem and the sore may quickly become infected. Like the name suggests, hot spots may feel ‘hot’ or warm and are an extremely painful, itchy, and often oozing area of skin. It is one of a few skin-related emergencies frequently treated by veterinarians.

Hot spots occur most frequently during the hot and humid summer months to dogs with a long or dense hair coats. The spot originates as a local irritation to the skin. Anything that interrupts the normal protective function of the skin is an irritation. This includes excessive moisture, injuries or skin trauma, improper grooming, allergies, and chewing or scratching. No matter the initiating cause, appropriate first aid can help comfort your pet until veterinary care is available. It can be scary if your pet gets a hot spot and you are unaware of how to treat it or at least take some of the irritation away. By visiting a veterinarian service like the Houston clinic will ease the symptoms of your pet to get them back to their happy pain-free self.

Hot spots left untreated grow rapidly in a few days and infection will spread into deeper layers of skin and will compromise the ability of your dog to fight off the infection. Also, these nasty wounds often become infested by maggots, that will feed off your dog and can cause life threatening anaphylaxis. If the hot spot is large, already infected, or has maggots, it is best to seek emergency treatment from your vet.

There are some common items in a canine first aid kit that can be helpful in minimizing your dog’s pain and infection until you can reach civilization for a veterinary exam. If you believe your dog is developing a hot spot and you feel comfortable applying basic first aid, here are my suggestions for hot spot care.

  • Apply an e-collar to prevent further self-induced trauma to the sore.
  • Clip hair coat away liberally around edges of the wound. The wound needs to dry up and hair will trap the moisture to the skin if not clipped away.
  • Clean wound with sterile saline and cotton balls.
  • If sore is small, a dog-approved topical spray for hot spots can be used (no alcohol based sprays- they sting!).
  • Antibiotic ointment can be applied but do NOT place any bandages over wound.
  • If more than one spot or if the wound is large, a medicated shampoo may work best. Please purchase a high quality shampoo from your veterinarian. When treating a skin infection, cost cutting for generic shampoo will not be effective.
  • If your dog has previously had hot spots, your veterinarian may have already prescribed medications to take along in case of a skin issue. If not; benadryl is a relatively safe medication to give dogs to help decrease itch and it has minimal side effects. The normal dosage on this is 1mg/1lb of body weight given by mouth. This can be repeated up to 3 times daily. Discuss this option further with your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about dosing or side effects.

As always, if your dog is too painful to perform first aid, put the muzzle on your dog and take him in on emergency. Animals in pain can bite! Some animals will require sedation or anesthesia in order to have the wounds treated effectively and minimize pain. Also, your vet can prescribe medications to help fight infection and manage itch and inflammation. In some clinics laser therapy may also be available to help speed up your dog’s recovery.

Please check over your dog’s skin daily; skin is the biggest organ of the body and it plays a vital role in keeping pets healthy and free of disease. If you do notice a suspicious sore get it checked out by your veterinarian. A hot spot can be confused with other types of skin conditions.

Dr. B bonus fact: Skin issues and parasites are two of my favorite topics to discuss and to treat. It was difficult to keep this blog brief!


Amanda Burow, D.V.M. (Dr. B), is a graduate of Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Burow’s patient list includes hunting dogs of all varieties, as well as several field trial dogs and full time sporting guide dogs. In addition to practicing general veterinary medicine, she has special interest in the areas of preventive care, emergency medicine, and dermatology. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors and on the lake, staying active, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Mud River is proud to share these tips from Dr. B with our customers. Keep in mind it is best to work with your local veterinarian to determine the needs for your animals.