Dog Hot Spots: Why They Won’t Heal and What You Can Do

Dog owners often face the challenge of dealing with hot spots — those frustrating, inflamed, and itchy areas on a dog’s skin. When a hot spot won’t heal, it can cause distress for both the pet and the owner. But why do some hot spots refuse to heal, and what can be done about it?

What is a Hot Spot?

A hot spot, also known as acute moist dermatitis, is a skin condition characterized by red, moist, and irritated patches that can appear anywhere on your dog’s body but are most commonly found on the head, hips, and limbs. Hot spots are extremely itchy and can grow rapidly if left untreated.

Causes of Dog Hot Spots

The root cause of hot spots is anything that irritates your dog’s skin and triggers an intense urge to lick, chew, or scratch. This can be a reaction to an insect bite, an allergy, a skin infection, or even an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism. Stress and boredom can also lead to excessive licking and hot spots. It’s important to identify and address the root cause to prevent the recurrence of hot spots.

Why Don’t Some Hot Spots Heal?

Several reasons can account for a hot spot that won’t heal:

1. Persistent Underlying Triggers

As mentioned above, hot spots can be triggered by several factors. If the underlying cause is not addressed, the hot spot is likely to persist.

2. Lack of Adequate Treatment

If the hot spot is not properly cleaned and medicated, it may not heal as expected. The area must be kept clean and dry to prevent infection and promote healing.

3. Frequent Licking or Scratching

Dogs naturally tend to lick or scratch their wounds, which can further irritate the hot spot and delay the healing process.

Treatment for Non-Healing Hot Spots

1. Visit Your Vet

It is essential to consult your vet if your dog’s hot spot won’t heal. They can accurately diagnose the problem, rule out any underlying conditions, and recommend the best treatment plan.

2. Follow the Treatment Plan Diligently

It is crucial to stick to your vet’s treatment plan, which may involve topical medications, oral antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or even antihistamines to manage allergies.

3. Prevention of Licking or Scratching

Use an Elizabethan collar or ‘cone of shame’ to prevent your dog from further irritating the hot spot. There are also dog-friendly sprays that can discourage licking.

4. Address Underlying Issues

If your dog’s hot spots are due to allergies, fleas, or a specific diet, make sure these issues are addressed. Changing your dog’s diet, using hypoallergenic shampoos, or implementing a regular flea control regimen can help.


Q: Why is my dog’s hot spot not going away?

A: The hot spot may not be going away due to persistent underlying triggers, lack of adequate treatment, or frequent licking or scratching by the dog.

Q: How long do dog hot spots take to heal?

A: With proper treatment, most hot spots will start to improve within a few days and completely heal within 1-2 weeks.

Q: How do you know when a hot spot is healing?

A: Signs of a healing hot spot include decreased redness, a reduction in size, and the absence of pus or discharge.

Q: How do you treat a dog with a bad hot spot?

A: Severe hot spots should always be treated under the supervision of a veterinarian. Treatment usually involves a combination of cleaning the area, topical medications, oral antibiotics, and possibly a cone to prevent further licking or scratching.

Q: Can hot spots kill a dog?

A: While hot spots themselves are not life-threatening, if left untreated, they can lead to severe skin infections that can have serious health implications for your dog.

Q: What are the signs of a hot spot on a dog?

A: Signs of a hot spot on a dog can include visible redness, swelling, or an area that appears wet and inflamed. You might also notice your dog excessively licking, chewing, or scratching a specific area. There may be a loss of hair in the affected area, and you could observe a foul odor if an infection has set in.

Q: Are some dog breeds more prone to hot spots?

A: Yes, some breeds are more susceptible to hot spots than others. Dogs with thick coats, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds, tend to be more prone to this condition. However, any breed can develop hot spots if conditions conducive to their formation exist.

Q: Can I use home remedies for treating my dog’s hot spots?

A: While some home remedies, like applying a cold compress to soothe the area or using a mild hypoallergenic soap for gentle cleansing, can provide temporary relief, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian for a proper treatment plan. This is especially important if the hot spot is large, appears infected, or if your dog seems to be in a lot of discomforts.

Q: Can stress cause hot spots in dogs?

A: Absolutely. Stress can result in obsessive licking, chewing, or scratching, which can lead to the formation of hot spots. Addressing the cause of the stress, such as a change in environment or separation anxiety, can help manage the recurrence of hot spots.

Q: How can I prevent my dog from getting hot spots?

A: Regular grooming, maintaining a healthy diet, ensuring your dog is free from parasites, and timely treatment of any skin infections can all help prevent hot spots. If your dog is prone to this condition due to an allergy, regular vet check-ups and appropriate medication or allergy shots can also be beneficial.

Q: Is it normal for a hot spot to scab over during healing?

A: Yes, as a hot spot starts to heal, a scab may form over the area. It’s important not to remove this scab, as it’s part of the natural healing process. However, if you notice that the scab is becoming larger or more inflamed, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet.

Q: Can hot spots spread to other areas on a dog’s body?

A: While a hot spot itself does not spread, the underlying cause, such as a flea infestation or an allergic reaction, can trigger more hot spots on other areas of your dog’s body. This is why it’s important to identify and treat the root cause of the hot spot.

Q: Can I use human medication, like Benadryl, for my dog’s hot spots?

A: While some human medications, like Benadryl, can sometimes be used for dogs, it should only be given under the direction of a veterinarian. Dosages can vary greatly based on a dog’s size and breed, and some human medications can be harmful or even fatal to dogs. It’s always safer to consult with a professional before administering any medication.

Q: How can I help my dog feel more comfortable when they have a hot spot?

A: You can help your dog feel more comfortable by preventing them from scratching, licking, or biting the area. Using an Elizabethan collar (or “cone”) can be useful in this case. You can also try to distract your dog with toys or games. However, these are temporary measures and it is important to consult your vet for appropriate treatment.

Q: Can hot spots recur in the same location on my dog?

A: Yes, hot spots can recur, particularly if the root cause of the problem has not been addressed. For instance, if the hot spots are due to an allergic reaction to a particular food, and the dog continues to eat that food, hot spots are likely to recur.

Q: How long does it take for a hot spot to heal on a dog?

A: The healing time for a hot spot depends on its size, severity, location, and the dog’s overall health. With proper care and treatment, small hot spots might heal within a few days. Larger or more severe ones might take a couple of weeks or more. Your vet will be able to give a more accurate timeline based on your dog’s condition.

Q: Is there a specific season when hot spots are more common in dogs?

A: Hot spots can occur at any time of the year. However, they are more common in warm, humid weather. The moisture trapped under the fur creates an ideal environment for bacterial growth, leading to hot spots.

Q: Can hot spots in dogs be a sign of a more serious underlying condition?

A: While hot spots are often caused by allergies, insect bites, or minor skin irritations, they can also be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition. Certain health issues, such as hypothyroidism or autoimmune disorders, can make dogs more prone to skin problems, including hot spots. It’s always best to consult your vet if your dog frequently develops hot spots or if they persist despite treatment.

Q: Is it okay to bathe my dog with a hot spot?

A: Unless your vet advises otherwise, it’s generally okay to bathe a dog with a hot spot. However, it’s essential to keep the hot spot as dry as possible afterward, as moisture can worsen the condition. Use a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo, and avoid scrubbing the hot spot, which can cause further irritation.

Q: What kind of diet is best for a dog prone to hot spots?

A: A balanced diet rich in essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 and omega-6, can help improve your dog’s skin health and reduce inflammation. Some dogs may develop hot spots due to food allergies. In such cases, an elimination diet, under the guidance of a vet or a pet nutritionist, may be needed to determine the allergen.

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