How to keep hot spots from becoming a hot topic for your pet

When it comes to my pets, hot spots are a dreaded experience, for both them and me. Dogs, moreso than cats, are most prone to these viscous bacterial inflictions and treating them can be even more frustrating.

Our old boy, Milo, used to suffer royally from hot spots. At 14 years old, this poor Golden boy was in a constant state of scratching, biting, licking and rolling to try to relieve the misery of his hot spots, often referred to as “moist eczema” by the veterinarian.

Hot spots are formed when something like a bug or flea bite (even “seemingly innocuous things such as a recent bath, swim, stroll in the rain or playtime in wet grass” according to irritates the dog’s skin and causes

him to start scratching.

Like anyone, the more he scratches, the more irritated the spot becomes, and so, the more he scratches, licks and bites.

The moisture from his mouth (which is already filled with bacteria) compounds the vicious cycle causing a scab to form, filled with infection.

If not caught in time, the poor dog can have most of his fur scratched from the spot, which has now grown in size leaving a rather bald, red, irritated looking patch of exposed skin.

Catching the hot spot in time, before the skin breaks, can make the difference between helping the infection to heal at home versus a trip to the vet.

With the aid of a few over-the-counter oral or topical antibiotics, a good cleaning, clipping of the fur to allow the air to help dry the area and often the use of an Elizabethan or pillow collar to keep the dog from further irritating the area, you can keep the infection in check and help it to heal.

Milo was to the point that the veterinarian prescribed doses of Benadryl, which were not working, so off to see Dr. Jess we would go.

If you find your dog going bonkers with scratching and licking a particular skin irritation, recommends the following helpful guide:

How To Treat a Hot Spot

1. Trim the area 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.

3. Apply hydrocortisone spray or hydrocortisone cream (with a veterinarian’s prescription) to stop the itching and help promote healing.

4. Prevent your dog from biting, licking or scratching the hot spot affected area. Placing an Elizabethan collar around your dog’s neck, for example, can be an excellent tool to keep him/her from biting and licking at it.

5. Keep an eye on the area to make sure it continues to heal and doesn’t worsen or spread.

Hot spots often require a visit to the vet, who will likely prescribe topical medication usually in the form of a Gentamicin/

Betamethasone spray, and possibly oral antibiotics. The vet may also give your dog a cortisone injection to jump-start the healing process.

Getting a handle on a hot spot before it gets out of hand is the biggest challenge.

Nothing can make your dog feel more miserable. Don’t hesitate calling the vet for guidance as soon as you see a hot spot forming to get a jump-start on the healing process!

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.