Many pet parents encounter them over the course of their pets’ lives. Those angry looking, sometimes oozy patches of skin that often cause intense itching and licking. We’re talking about the dreaded hot spot.

Hot spots are one of the most uncomfortable conditions for an animal. They’re painful and irritating, and they can spread rapid fast. So, it’s important to know how to treat hot spots on dogs at home, and if there’s any way to prevent them in the first place.

So, what causes these not-so-hot spots, and what can you do about them?

What are Hot Spots?

Also known as superficial canine pyoderma or acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are localized, reddish sores. They’re characterized by intense itching and licking of the skin. This licking and scratching causes the skin to become inflamed and infected. It will often appear moist and will be red and sometimes warm to the touch.

They can occur anywhere on the body, but they’re most often found on a dog’s head, chest, groin, and in and around the bum. You might notice some bleeding as your dog chews and licks at the spot, and you might also notice a not-so-pleasant smell thanks to the open, wet skin and the presence of infection-causing bacteria.

Hot spots are caused by any sort of skin trauma that causes your dog to lick, scratch or chew at a certain spot. This could be something as simple as a bug bite that they bite or chew at, a small cut or scrape that they lick at, or any other skin irritant that causes your dog to pay extra attention to a specific area. This licking, scratching and chewing gets the irritated skin moist, the fur keeps it moist, and that combination causes the skin to break down.

Bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus, takes advantage of that broken skin, and an infection develops. That’s why the wound starts to ooze and become painful. And since it bothers your pup, they’ll keep licking and chewing it, meaning it stays moist, which then makes the skin a good breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria. This is why hot spots can be so hard to get rid of!

How to Treat Hot Spots on Dogs at Home

As soon as you find a hot spot, it’s time to take action. You want to get to it before it spreads.

Here are some basics on how to treat hot spots on dogs at home.

  • Start by trimming or shaving the hair around the hot spot. Fur can become trapped in the wound by the pus and you’ll have a much harder time healing the hot spot. Exposing the area to air will dry out the moisture and help speed up healing. This also lets your natural remedies get all around the wound.
  • Use cool water and a gentle natural cleanser to clean it. Remember, hot spots can be very painful, so be gentle. Rinse it well after cleansing, and pat it dry.
  • Gently disinfect it to remove bacteria. We like povidone-iodine (brand name Betadine). It’s an organic iodine that has no side effects and does a good job controlling most skin bacteria. You can buy povidone-iodine at most pharmacies and some health food stores. Dilute the solution with purified water until it’s the color of iced tea. Apply it to the wound using a soft wash cloth or gauze.
  • Once you’ve cleaned and dried the wound and applied your remedy, you want to prevent your dog from biting, licking or scratching the hot spot. An Elizabethan collar (a fancy name for that fun plastic cone) around your dog’s neck is a good way to do this.
  • Don’t cover or wrap the hot spot. You want to let it breathe. Covering it will stop it from drying out.

Natural Remedies to Treat Hot Spots on Dogs at Home

1. Calendula

Calendula is a popular herb that can help calm the skin, relieve the itch, and regenerate the skin to help it heal. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which help to relieve pain and the inflammation in the hot spot.

To make a calendula salve, you’ll need calendula (8 to 10 oz), coconut oil (2 to 3 cups), beeswax (1 oz ). 

Place the coconut oil and calendula in a crockpot set to low and leave for 24 hours. Once your oil has taken on the color of the calendula, strain the herbs from the oil and put back in the crockpot with 1 ounce of beeswax for every 8 ounces of strained oil. Once the beeswax melts, remove it from the heat, pour it into small tins or a small mason jar, let cool, then cover.

NOTE: If the hot spot is oozing a lot, keep the calendula for once it starts to heal a bit, otherwise it could clog up the skin.

2. Colostrum

Colostrum is mother’s first milk. It’s produced in the first few days after birth and it provides newborn mammals with all the nutrition they need to thrive in those first few days. Colostrum contains many elements that make up its healing properties, but some of the best are immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies. These antibodies can neutralize viruses by fighting bacteria and help with healing.

To use it topically, mix it with water, enough to form a thick paste, then apply it to the affected area. It will dry up quickly, which is good. Apply it daily.

[RELATED] For more information about colostrum, read this next.

3. Black or Green Tea

Tea contains a chemical called tannic acid which helps draw out any bacteria and relieve sores. Green tea and black tea contain the highest quantity of tannic acid. It’s non-acidic, so it won’t sting.

  1. Steep one tea bag in a cup of water
  2. Allow the tea bad to cool
  3. Place the cool teabag directly on the hotspot and allow it to sit for a few minutes
  4. Do this several times during the day for a week

4. Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is made by bees that tend to flowers of the Manuka plant that grows in New Zealand.

Compared to other types of honey, Manuka honey has been shown to be more potent and health-boosting because of its higher methylglyoxal (MG) concentration. It also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties that can speed healing and fight bacterial infections. It has anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties as well.

Once you’ve cleaned and disinfected the wound, apply a thin layer to the hot spot daily.

An Ounce of Prevention

Hot spots are a pain literally, so do your best to stop them before they happen. Here are some tips:

  • As mentioned, hot spots on dogs are most commonly caused by trauma, which can’t always be avoided, but in the case that your pet does get a bite or scrape, you want to clean the wound and dry it right away to prevent a hot spot from developing.
  • A cone can also help stop them from licking or biting at the spot, which in turn will keep it dry.
  • Hot spots can also happen when the skin stays too wet for too long. If your dog loves to romp in the rain or swim, make sure you dry it thoroughly afterwards. This holds true for bathing, too. You want to keep that skin dry.
  • Proper grooming can also help prevent hot spots. Get rid of any irritating matting, and keep her fur maintained.

It is also important to note that hot spots may also be a symptom of an underlying issue. By giving the immune system the attention it needs, feeding a healthy, fresh food diet, including essential fatty acids, and providing lots of exercise and mental stimulation, you can also help prevent hot spots by keeping overall health in check.

The healing time for hot spots on dogs depends a few different things, including how early you caught it, how dry you can keep it, and the course of treatment you’ve chosen. If you keep an eye on them and act quickly, most hot spots typically dry and heal over a course of several days. The healing process for severe hotspots may take quite some time, but just stick with it and keep using those remedies. Good luck!