Why does my dog get hot spots?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – I really need your opinion on what may be wrong with my Labrador retriever. For the past 2 to 3 years she has had problems with hot spots. She has had them on her bum and under her neck. We have tried different food (food allergies), flea treatment and have had blood tests and scrapings done. She was borderline on her thyroid test so we tried thyroid medication. I've tried medicated shampoo. Her bum cleared up and has been fine since but her neck has not and is just worse than ever. She is 11-years-old and I would like her to be comfortable in her old age. My vet seems to shrug it off and I am seriously thinking of seeing another vet. Can you give me any treatments that I can try before doing so? Thank you your time is greatly appreciated.


Tracey Spina


Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote that your dog has suffered intermittently from "hot spots". Hot spots, also known as "acute moist dermatitis", 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.

None knows for sure what causes hot spots. Because of this – they are impossible to prevent. 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

This is a relatively common problem –especially in long-haired and heavy-coated breeds, and are more prevalent during the summer months.

An article that might be helpful to you is Acute Moist Dermatitis (Hot Spots).

The typical treatment consists of local shampoos which are you are doing (especially shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide, anti-itch sprays (especially those that contain hydrocortisone, lidocaine or pramoxine also are helpful but short-acting and cortisone type drugs. Antibiotics are also indicated.

There is no magic treatment that works for all pets. This is a frustrating disease because there is no cure and the problem can return.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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