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Pictures of Hot Spots on Dogs (Moist Dermatitis) + Vet Info

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collage of pictures showing hot spots on dogs

This article was updated on September 28th, 2023

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Ouch! Is your dog experiencing hot spot pain? Because hot spots are one of the most common skin conditions in dogs, it is important to know how to treat these nasty sores.

Hot spots, technically known as acute moist dermatitis, are red, inflamed areas of skin that can seem to appear overnight. In this post, we will review six high-resolution pictures of hot spots on dogs, including close-ups and pictures of common areas where hot spots often appear.

What Do Hot Spots Look Like on Dogs? (7 Pictures)

vet examining dog skin at the clinic
vet examining dog skin and fur in the clinic

These spots may occur anywhere on a dog but are most common behind and under the ear, legs, and on the hips. The area will be moist and typically have some purulent oozing. Often there is matted fur covering and hiding the hot spot.

Pictures of Hot Spots on Dogs

Seeing an oozing sore on your dog’s face, head, limbs, belly, etc. can be deeply unsettling. And chances are, you will smell it too. Yuck.

A hot spot is essentially an area of a dog’s skin that has become inflamed and/or has a bacterial infection. Picture a raw and wet scab, as showcased in the picture below.

dog licking area near a hot spot

Below is a picture of a hot spot on a dog’s tail:

picture of a hot spot on a dog's leg

Close-up Pictures of Hot Spots on a Dog

As you can see in the pictures below, hot spots are often:

  • red
  • inflamed
  • with a moist appearance

They also often seem to appear overnight.

Let’s look at several close-up pictures:

hot spot on dog skin close up

hot spot on a dog

Pictures of Common Locations Where Hot Spots Frequently Appear

Hot spots often appear behind and under the ear:

Hot spot on dog's neck

or on legs and paws, as pictured below. The dog licked it until it’s red, and bleeding:

What Causes Hot Spots?

If your dog comes down with a case of hot spots, don’t feel bad. It’s not necessarily a sign you failed to keep them healthy. Hot spots occur for all sorts of reasons, including the following:

  • Allergies
  • Fleas
  • Minor skin scraps and cuts
  • Stress / Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Fear
  • Trapped moisture (like after swimming or bath time)
  • Dirty coat
  • Anal sac disease

Initially, your dog feels “off” somewhere on their body. Maybe it is due to an underlying cause or maybe because they picked up parasites somewhere, got a scratch while running in the woods, roughhousing with the neighbors’ pooches, etc. Later, they lick and chew on the spot. This makes it moist and inflamed and…uh oh! Unfortunately, a bacterial infection is born.  

Is My Dog in Pain?

There is good news. Hot spots are relatively benign and will not put your dog’s life at risk. However, they can make your dog’s life absolutely miserable. As explained above, they are caused by retained moisture in the hair or irritants against the skin. Dogs successfully recover from hot spots all the time. It just takes the right treatment.

Prognosis and Treatment of Hot Spots

More likely to occur in the summer months, hot spots cause biting, itching, and scratching and require immediate attention to prevent them from a) getting worse and b) spreading.

First and foremost, be gentle. Hot spots are painful. The affected skin area will need to be clipped and cleaned. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are used to treat infections and remove the itch. These may be applied topically or given orally.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

Above all, a hot spot needs to stay:

  1. Dry
  2. Clean

This means NO licking!

So, as annoying as your dog may find it, a plastic cone or Elizabethan collar will likely have to be worn, at least until the hot spot begins to heal. Infections can range from mild to severe. Therefore, getting advice from your veterinarian is always recommended.

What You Can Do at Home to Treat Hot Spots

For most dogs, hot spots can be a chronic issue, something that will pop up again and again throughout their life. If your dog happens to be one of these unfortunate pups, treating those hot spots at home will be not only convenient but also less expensive. After an initial diagnosis, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine points out that oftentimes, these sores can be treated at home; many clear up in 3 – 7 days. However, addressing the underlying cause is paramount, or the hot spot will simply return.

One of the best at-home treatments is an anti-inflammatory spray such as Vetricyn Hot Spot Spray or PetMD Hydrocortisone Spray, featured below. Both of these sprays include potent anti-inflammatories to decrease the itch and soothe the angry skin to break the cycle of your dog’s scratching:

Vetericyn Plus Hot Spot Spray for Dogs Skin...
  • DOG HOT SPOT CARE: Spray a few times daily to relieve irritated skin that cause excessive scratching, chewing, and licking.
Pet MD Hydrocortisone Spray for Dogs, Cats,...
  • 1% Hydrocortisone Spray for Rapid Relief from Skin Irritations Caused by Bites and Other Skin Conditions.

Other ways you can help your dog’s hot spots at home is to clip the hair from around the area to allow the wound to dry. You can wash the area with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly. Applying aloe vera or vitamin E lotions can also provide some relief, just make sure your pup doesn’t lick them off before they get a chance to absorb.

Veterinary Treatment

Shaving a border of hair from around the lesion is sometimes helpful for healing. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories can be used to treat any potential infection (if present) and remove the itch. These may be applied topically or orally. The hot spot will also need to be clipped and cleaned.

The most important part of treatment is addressing the underlying cause, as the dog will get more hot spots if this cause is not addressed. Causes are varied and include fleas, allergies, and other infections, such as ear infections. Almost anything that causes a dog to scratch can result in a hot spot. Costs of treatment will depend on the underlying cause but average between $150-$500.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

How to prevent hot spots? 5 Suggestions

As with most canine medical conditions, curing a hot spot is more difficult than preventing one. Ideally, we want to avoid hot spots in the first place. Here are five easy steps to follow to prevent hot spots.

Practice Good Doggy Hygiene: Does your pooch love to roll around in the mud? Tangled hair? Is dirt trapped in the coat? Implement a strict bath time and grooming routine to minimize skin irritants.

Avoid Products that Trigger Allergies: Did you know – a whopping 20% of all dogs will have allergies over their lifetime? Dogs who are allergic to foods (such as dairy, wheat, beef, egg, etc.) can feel very itchy indeed. Read the label and don’t buy foods or treats that trigger a scratchy allergic reaction.

Say Goodbye to Boredom: Some dogs lick nonstop because they are bored. Just like how we humans bite our fingernails or tap our feet, dogs lick. Lack of mental stimulation can result in wet, raw, exposed skin that turns into…yes, you guess it…a hot spot.

Exercise, games, training, puzzles, and toys can all help with dog boredom.

Feed Supplementary Fatty Acids: Fish oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It’s full of Omega-3 fatty acids. Building a strong skin barrier is key to preventing hot spots, and daily vitamins with fish oil could work wonders.

Consider Flea and Tick Medication: Lastly, if your dog is forever bringing home fleas and ticks from the dog park, campground, boarding facility, and so on, ask your vet about preventative medication. Those itchy little fleas can go live somewhere else!

A guide to treating and preventing hot spots on dogs. For more tips and tricks to keep your four-legged best friend happy, healthy, and hot spot-free, follow along at Senior Tail Waggers.

View: Pictures of common dog skin problems and conditions.


  • Dr Whittenburg, Hospital Director

    Dr. Jamie Whittenburg is a Veterinarian Director at 'Senior Tail Waggers' and Director and Owner of Kingsgate Animal Hospital, a full-service animal hospital in Lubbock, TX. She graduated from Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and has over 17 years of experience working as a veterinarian & hospital director.

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