How to Treat & Recognize Dog Hot Spot Healing Stages

How to Treat Dog Hot Spots

When your dog develops a hot spot, it can feel like you have let your dog down. You may think “How did my dog’s sore get this bad?” Well, don’t worry. We have you covered. Hot spots are bacterial infections that can be treated at home with a bit of know-how and the right products. And they often heal very well. Still worried? We’ll walk you through how to recognize dog hot spot healing stages and give you some tips to help prevent future hot spot issues.

What Is a Dog Hot Spot?

“Hot spots” are inflamed sores or lesions that have become infected. Oftentimes, hot spots begin as small problems like a few bug bites, but they become infected from scratching and chewing and blow up in size rapidly. Dog hot spots can look quite nasty and be quite painful, but they’re common and can be treated.

What Causes Hot Spots?

One thing dog owners always want to know is what caused their dog’s hot spots. Many are surprised to learn the initial trigger is often extremely minor skin conditions. The severity of dog hot spots comes from the exposure of bacteria from the cyclical problem of scratching, not getting relief, then scratching more. This leads to a chew-itch-chew cycle.

Essentially, hot spots occur when a dog feels the need to scratch. As your dog scratches, they introduce bacteria (most often Staphylococcus) into the wound, which triggers an infection. Unfortunately, the infection makes the dog’s wound even itchier, which results in more scratching and spreading the bacteria and worsening the wound.

The beginning of a hot spot itching cycle can begin as any of the following:

  • Bug bites (often fleas, chiggers, or ticks)
  • Food allergies
  • Flea dermatitis
  • Skin infection
  • Thorn or scratch
  • Anxiety chewing or scratching
  • Skin debris
  • Coat moisture
  • Ear infection

Dog hot spots usually crop up during hotter times of year. This is because the humidity can cause dogs to feel itchier, bugs are more active when it’s warm out, and dogs are more likely to go for a swim to cool off when it’s hot outside.

Identifying Dog Hot Spots

Moliere's hot spot

Picture of dog hot spot

Image source: “Moliere’s hot spot” by moria is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hot spots are large hairless lesions that may be red or yellow from infection. They often look wet and may have an off-putting smell. They can begin as a small patch of red and balloon to the size of a frisbee. How spots occur on the base of the tail, 

As a hot spot heals, it will shrink in size, change color, and eventually fully heal. 

How to Treat Dog Hot Spots at Home

How to Treat Dog Hot Spots

For at-home treatment, you will want to prevent further damage to the wound and stop the infection from worsening.

To stop the infection from spreading further or deeper, use a topical treatment that is antibacterial and relieves the itching.

To prevent your dog from licking and scratching the hot spot area:

  • Cover the hot spot with gauze and bandage. An elastic bandage is an excellent choice since it can wrap around your dog and be clipped to itself.
  • Use a cone to prevent your dog from chewing.

As the wound heals, you will want to keep it clean and re-apply antibacterial liquid when you change the bandage. This will help prevent the hot spot from drying out and scabbing over. You may also want to learn more about how to encourage your dog’s wound to heal fast.

Hot spots can be treated at home. However, if the hot spot does not begin to heal within a couple of days, you will want to bring your dog to the vet. If you are worried your dog is in pain, you will also want to visit the vet for an anti-inflammatory pain-relieving medication.

Identifying the Dog Hot Spot Healing Time in Stages

It’s important to monitor your dog’s hot spots to ensure they’re healing well. If your dog’s hot spots do not go through this progression, you will want to call your vet.

Stage One: Within 72 hours, the hot spot should soften from bright red or yellow to pink or pale pink.

Stage Two: Swelling should go down and the hot spot should not be hot to the touch. The color will continue to turn paler pink to white.

Stage Three: The margins of the wound should begin to build new flesh and shrink.

Phase Four: New tissue will begin to “knit” over the wound.

Stage Five: Finally, fur will return and the skin will appear normal, again.

Read this article for a more detailed description of the healing stages of your dog’s wound.

How Long Is the Overall Dog Hot Spot to Healing Time?

Just as dog hot spots appear quickly, they also heal quickly. So, if you’re wondering “How long does it take a dog spot to heal?” The answer depends on your dog’s health, treatment, and body. For most dogs, healing will begin within two to three days of treatment. Then, your dog’s hot spot should heal within 7 to 10 days of treatment.

How to Prevent Dog Hot Spots

The easiest way to prevent hot spots is to treat the underlying cause of your dog’s itching. Your approach to prevention depends on the problem, but you will want to start with identifying the problem. 

  • Treating fleas with preventative medication can prevent flea bites and flea dermatitis.
  • Dogs with anxious chewing often benefit from more exercise, behavioural training, or anti-anxiety medication.
  • Allowing your dog to fully dry and brushing your dog after swims can prevent trapping excess moisture.
  • Food allergies can be treated with the help of your vet or an elimination diet.
  • Ear infections can be prevented by cleaning your dog’s ears regularly.
  • If your dog is a boredom chewer, provide more mental enrichment such as treat puzzles and playtime.

Prevent a flare-up of an unhealed hot spot by monitoring the dog hot spot healing stages. Until your dog’s hot spot is fully healed, it’s vital to ensure your dog doesn’t cause the wound to become re-infected. Knowing when to spot bandaging the sore can be the difference between a one-week dog hot spot healing time and a three-week healing time.

For Dogs with a History of Hot Spots

Finally, if you notice your dog has a small cut or scrape, treat it immediately with antibacterial liquid and cover the wound. If hotspots recur regularly, see your vet for help at better identify the source or cause.

Preventing, Healing, and Treating Dog Hot Spots

If your dog develops a hot spot, don’t panic. While the wound may look serious, hot spots are commonly treated and will clear up within a week or so with some basic care. Remember to prevent future hot spots by getting to the bottom of the cause of your dog’s need to scratch.

Order VetMed’s antibacterial liquid to help your dog heal fast and prevent future ear infections with our ear cleaner.