Hot Spots on a Golden Retriever: What to do

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Veterinarian Examining Golden Retriever for Hot Spots

Does your Golden Retriever have a hot spot? These unpleasant areas of sore skin are common in the warmer months and can develop rapidly, causing both you and your dog a lot of distress. Luckily, they usually respond well to veterinary treatment and most resolve within 1-2 weeks.

Read on to learn how to help your dog with a hot spot – and how to prevent them getting more.

What are hot spots and what do they look like?

Hot spots are focal areas of bacterial skin infection, technically named acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis or ‘wet eczema’. 

They’re usually red, sore and moist, often with discharge or pus – and they’re usually very itchy and painful. They often develop and expand very rapidly over 1-2 days, so it’s important to pick up on them and start treatment as soon as possible.

hot spot on dog's paw
Hot spot on a dog’s paw

In dogs like Golden Retrievers, their thick coat can hide the initial infection, so if you notice your dog scratching or chewing an area make sure you check their skin carefully.  See more pictures of hot spots

Are Golden Retrievers more prone to hot spots?

I commonly see Golden Retrievers with hot spots, as well as other breeds with similar dense, thick coats. These coats are perfect for keeping the skin warm and moist and allowing infection to take hold, especially if they get wet or dirty. If your retriever has other underlying health issues like allergies this will also predispose them.

What can you do to help treat a hot spot at home with your golden retriever?

1. Clip the affected area

Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments so one of the most important steps you can take is to clip the fur over the hot spot. This allows the skin to breathe and lets you visualise how far the hot spot extends – if in doubt, clip a larger area to make sure it can’t spread out into the surrounding fur. 

Be careful – hot spots can be very sore and your dog may not let you near it. If your dog is showing signs of distress, it may be best to let your vet clip the area. If needed, this is sometimes done under sedation.

2. Use a buster collar

Golden Retriever with funnel collar because of a hot spot

Your dog may not like it, but a buster collar is essential for any hot spot. Licking, chewing and scratching the affected area will quickly make it worse. Soft inflatable collars can be better tolerated than plastic cones – but check they’re still effective, as depending on the location of the hot spot, some dogs will be able to reach around an inflatable collar. If they’re scratching the hot spot, you can also try using baby socks to prevent damage from their nails.

3. Bathe the area

golden retriever bathing with a duck toy on head and bubbles

I recommend chlorhexidine bathing once or twice daily – leaving it on for 5 minutes each time – for all hot spots I see. It’s effective, safe for dogs and available without prescription. Make sure to use it as directed – scrubs containing chlorhexidine often need to be diluted in water first. Below is an example product available on Amazon:

Pet Honesty Chlorhexidine Dog Shampoo for...
  • Effectively Help Treat Skin Issues - PetHonesty's Chlorhexidine Shampoo is made with Chlorhexidine and Ketoconazole for the safest and most effective way to help treat your dog or cat's skin issues right in your own home. The shampoo is has a light cucumber melon scent to help combat smelly skin issues. Our advanced formula deodorizes the fur, helps remove knots from fur, and the essential oils contain the additional benefit of helping manage skin-related issues.

4. Carry out regular preventative care

Regular grooming and keeping your dog’s coat clean, dry and healthy can help to prevent hot spots. It’s also vital to work with your vet to manage any underlying health issues like allergies, which can predispose them to further skin infections. Skin supplements including omega 3 may also help your dog’s skin barrier; YuDerm is one example. 

Learn more about the best home remedies to treat hot spots.

When to see the veterinarian

All dogs with a hot spot should see a vet as soon as possible. Although these are very treatable, they expand rapidly and cause a lot of pain. Your vet is likely to prescribe steroids (either topical or oral) to reduce the itching and inflammation, and in many cases antibiotics, which are usually topical. 

Read more about hot spots and what you can do about them

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  • Dr. Primrose Moss, Vet Surgeon

    Dr. Moss graduated from the prestigious University of Cambridge in England with a Bachelor's of Veterinary Medicine and a Master's in Zoology. She is currently a veterinary surgeon at Avonvale Veterinary Centres in the UK. Her aim is to provide reliable and accessible information to pet owners, enabling them to make better informed decisions about their pets' care.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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