A "hot spot" is the common term used for a superficial skin infection that results when the normal skin bacteria overrun the skin's defenses as a result of damage to the skin surface.

This is most often started by your dog chewing or scratching at the site. In the first stages of hot spot formation, the skin becomes moist, inflamed (red), pruritic (itchy), and infected. Then, as the bacterial infection sets in, pus can ooze from the damaged skin.  This can lead to the skin forming a tightly-adherent crust from the dried pus and damaged surface, and eventually loss of hair over the infected site.  Furthermore, at the peak of a hot spot’s inflammation, many dogs show intense pain and agitation when the site is touched or approached.

Hot spots can enlarge rapidly.  So, early diagnosis (before your pet's hot spot involves a large area of the body) is important. Although both dogs and cats can get hot spots, dogs are the most likely to develop this problem.


Anything that creates irritation to the skin, thereby causing your pet to chew or scratch at the site, can cause a hot spot. Such causes include insect (fleas/flies) bites, allergies (atopy, food allergy), bacteria, yeast, mites, excess skin surface moisture, heavy/dense hair coats, and skin trauma.


Clipping and cleaning the area can be crucial to clearing up the lesions. Since these lesions are often very painful (think of a burn) this may require sedation. Clipping allows the lesions to dry out and makes it possible to use topical medications more effectively.

Further treatments may include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, and pain relievers.  In order to insure your pet is not able to further traumatize the hot spot, and to give it a better chance of healing more quickly, your veterinarian may strongly recommend you place an Elizabethan collar on your pet.

Most importantly, your veterinarian will try to determine what incited the lesion in the first place. Based on this, your veterinarian will likely recommend addressing those causation issues too. 

This will not only help clear up your pet’s current problem, but will hopefully make recurrences of your pet’s hot spots less likely in the future.

Dr. Jean Greek, DVM, DACVD, Dermatology & Allergy Clinic for Animals.

If you have any questions or concerns, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ASK US.