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One of the most traumatic and upsetting skin conditions that we commonly see in dogs is the Superficial Pyoderma or Hot Spot.

What is a Hot Spot?

A Hot Spot is a rapidly growing area of infection on your dog’s skin.

A mild itchy spot seen one day, can develop into a moist, red oozing wound over night. Often a crust forms in the hair over the wound, and this can hide the extent of the skin damage underneath.


A hot spot always comes secondary to another cause. These can include skin allergies, moist skin folds, small scratches, fleabites, or grooming cuts, and anything else that damages intact and healthy skin. Once an infection is established (usually Staphylococcus bacteria), the hair coat helps to trap pus, keeping the skin moist and allowing crusts to form from dried pus.


The Hot Spot quickly gets larger from the infection and scratching. This one, below an ear, is already 5cm by 7cm and could double in size by tomorrow. 

Microscopically your vet will see numerous inflammatory cells called neutrophils. These are the main ingredients of pus. (The purple blobby cells below). Bacteria are often also seen.

Discharges on the skin layer may contain 1000s of neutrophils. This is an indication of pus.

Hot spots are usually very painful and can easily double in size each day they are left untreated. This is why it is important for your dog to see the vet for this type of skin condition.

The surrounding normal looking skin can have infected spots called satellite lesions. These small lesions are itchy and irritating. With a little scratching the surrounding area all becomes a part of the larger Hot Spot lesion.

How do you treat a Hot Spot?

Hot Spots will get worse because of the dog traumatizing the area. To help stop this self trauma we can:

  • Apply an E-collar to stop the dog from scratching
  • Start medication to decrease the irritation. This can be either cytopoint or corticosteroids
  • Control the infection with antibiotics
  • Decrease amount of purulent discharge on the skin by clipping and cleaning the wound. (This can be very difficult as these skin lesions can be very painful).
  • Sometimes a sedation or anaesthetic is needed to clip not only the wound but a significant amount of surrounding skin to monitor for new lesions spreading over the body
  • Hot Spots are bacterial infections that can overwhelm the bodies defenses and cause systemic illness, where your dog can become extremely unwell. These extreme cases will need intensive care including intravenous fluids, intravenous antibiotics and strong pain relief.

How do you prevent a Hot Spot?

Some breeds of dogs such as Golder Retrievers and Labradors are particularly prone to Hot Spot dermatitis. Caring for small skin lesions and keeping your dog as clean as possible can avoid recurrent problems.

Understanding the underlying cause of Hot Spots is key to managing your dogs skin and avoiding these upsetting skin lesions. Dogs that are prone to Hot Spots should

  • Be on regular flea and tick control
  • Have a management plan for skin allergies
  • Be washed regularly in an antibacterial shampoo such as Pyohex®
  • Have any small skin irritations treated with a soothing cream
  • Consider applying an E-Collar and start medication as soon as your dog becomes itchy
  • Perhaps have a shorter clip in the warm months, to enable easier management of the skin

If you are concerned your dog is developing a Hot Spot you can

  Make an Appointment with the Vet

or call us on 9913 7979

Register as a new client using our online form.

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