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Hot Spots: Acute Moist Dermatitis

By: PetPlace Staff

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Acute moist dermatitis, also known as hot spots, are localized, moist, reddened bacterial infections of the skin. A hot spot starts because something irritates the skin. The body's response is either to itch or become inflamed. The itching then causes the dog to lick or chew the area, which further damages the skin, and creates a cycle of itching, scratching and chewing.

Hot spots can be caused by anything that irritates the skin and initiates an itch-scratch cycle, but the most common irritants are fleas. Other causes are allergies (flea, inhalant, food), parasitic disease (sarcoptic and demodectic mange), anal gland disease, poor grooming, tick and mosquito bites, burrs, and summer heat. They are most common in long-haired and heavy-coated breeds, and are more prevalent during the summer months.

What You Look For

You don't have to look very hard for signs that your dog has acute moist dermatitis. Typically, your pet will exhibit the following:

  • Areas of hair loss with very red skin that is moist and oozing
  • In some cases, the skin becomes crusty or scabbed
  • Intense scratching. Hot spots are extremely itchy and your dog will scratch without letup


    Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize the cause of acute moist dermatitis and exclude other diseases. Your veterinarian can usually make a preliminary diagnosis based on a history of rapid onset and the clinical appearance of the lesions.


    Treatment will be directed at relieving the itching, healing the lesion, and treating the underlying cause. Your veterinarian may prescribe cortisone-like drugs and antibiotics. He may also clip the area and cleanse it with antiseptic solutions.

    Home Care

    At home you should follow directions for care outlined by your veterinarian. Included in your at-home care might be:

  • Until healing is complete, clean the affected areas with antibacterial and astringent products daily and leave the area open to air.
  • Make certain your dog has sufficient water while receiving corticosteroids and allow frequent trips outside to avoid possible soiling mishaps.
  • Initiate an aggressive flea control program if necessary.
  • Hot spots are usually painful so take precaution when treating the area – even the friendliest dog may snap or bite.

    Preventive Care

    If your dog has repeated problems with hot spots, limit sources of irritation to the best of your ability. Your may want to take the following precautions:

  • Follow a strict flea control program and apply an appropriate insecticide or repellent to your dog to prevent flea bites. Frequent medicated baths can help, too.

  • Keep your dog's hair clipped short during summer months.

  • Depending on the location affected, cleaning the ears regularly and expressing the anal glands may be beneficial.

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