What Causes Hotspots on Dogs?

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Hotspots on dogs are irritated, infected, and inflamed patches of skin that will cause pain and itchiness for your dog. Known sometimes as summer sores, pyotraumatic dermatitis, and acute moist dermatitis, hotspots display hot, red, and raw skin at the sight of the sore. In more serious cases, your dog may have hair loss and oozing pus around his hotspot.

The root cause of this canine skin condition is an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin. Biting, licking, rubbing, and scratching are natural responses to an irritant on the skin, but these repetitive actions are also what trigger the overgrowth of bacteria.

Once you have determined that your dog has a hotspot, it is important that you find the underlying issue so that you can eliminate it and prevent these itchy, painful sores from recurring.

Common Causes of Hotspots on Dogs

Hot spots can be caused by almost anything that irritates a dog’s skin and causes him to lick and scratch himself excessively. Hot spots can be caused by allergies, infections, pain, or even emotional stress.


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One of the most common causes of hotspots in dogs is allergies, both food and environmental. When your dog has an allergic reaction, his skin becomes very itchy and irritated, which will cause him to lick and gnaw at his coat and skin. This licking and scratching may cause a hotspot to develop.

Hotspots tend to develop during the summer months, when it is hot and humid and the plants have all bloomed. All of these components increase your dog’s chances of developing environmental allergies. Ragweed, grasses, mold, and polluted water are a few of the many known allergens that may irritate your dog’s skin and trigger a reaction that turns into a hotspot.


Both ear and anal gland infections are known triggers for hotspots on dogs. If a dog is constantly rubbing his face on the ground due to an ear infection, the irritation can cause a hotspot. The same situation occurs for anal gland infections due to dogs repetitive biting and scratching near the infected area.

Underlying Pain

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Underlying pain in your dog is another cause of hotspots. Although this cause is less common, hotspots can be misdiagnosed as an allergic reaction, when they are actually because of underlying muscle, nerve, or bone pain.

It is important to monitor your dog throughout his treatment to see if he is not improving. Reach out for additional guidance from a veterinary professional if you suspect the cause is an underlying pain.

Emotional Stress

Your dog may be self-inflicting a hotspot sore due to emotional stress. This form of self-infliction can be for several different reasons, including boredom, stress, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. When a dog is under emotional stress, they may react with obsessive chewing and licking on his body. This underlying cause is one of the hardest to treat as it is a dog behavior issue and not a reaction to a known irritant.

Other causes of hotspots include mange, matted hair, poor grooming, and insect bites. There can be several causes that can trigger your dog to react and form a hotspot, so it is important take your dog to the vet to figure out the underlying cause and get appropriate treatment.

Every dog has the potential to develop this skin problem, but long-haired breeds with thick-coats, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds tend to be at the greatest risk. No matter the breed, if your dog develops a hotspot, it is crucial that you narrow down what the particular cause is to treat him efficiently and prevent these painful, sensitive sores from multiplying. Knowing what causes hotspots on dogs is just as important as knowing how to treat the symptoms.


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