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Hot Spots On Dogs: The Ultimate Guide



Hot spots on dogs are a nightmare!

They’re not only painful, but they’re stressful for your dog and they’re stressful for you too. Preventing hot spots should be high up in your priorities when it comes to your dog’s care.

And treating them without antibiotics should also be a high priority. The good news is you can with the following list.

Here are the best natural home remedies that can help ease the pain, itch and stress that comes with your dog’s hot spot. But first, it’s important to understand … what are hot spots on dogs, and what causes them?

What Are Hot Spots On Dogs?

Hot spots on dogs are also called acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis or pyoderma. They’re an immune-mediated response of the skin. They appear as red, moist, irritated, sometimes oozy skin lesions. And they can show up anywhere on your dog.

Hot spots also tend to appear suddenly, with no warning. If they’re untreated, they can also spread very fast. So if you see one on your dog, it’s important to start treating it right away.

Hot spots on dogs can stem from an allergic reaction, insect bites, poor grooming or underlying disease. They can even be caused by boredom or stress. Thick or long-haired breeds are most often affected.

Whatever the cause, there are always safe and effective natural treatments. But before choosing a solution, you’ll need to understand the cause of your dog’s hot spots.

What Do Hot Spots On Dogs Look Like?

A hot spot can begin as a small spot the size of a bug bite. That’s why hot spots are often mistaken for a bite early on.

But your dog will lick, chew and scratch because of the discomfort. And that will speed up the spread and causes it to get worse. In fact, a hot spot can grow to 5 or 6 inches in diameter in just a few hours.

As the hot spot gets bigger, your dog may show signs of fatigue. This is the infection setting in. You’ll also see:

  • Hair loss in the infected area (caused by your dog chewing the spot)
  • Cherry red color
  • Moist and raw skin
  • Skin that is inflamed and sore
  • Oozing clear or yellowish pus
  • Bleeding

RELATED: Home remedies for itchy dogs …

Where Do Dogs Get Hot Spots?

The most common places dogs get hot spots are on the side of their face, neck and chest. You may also find hot spots on your dog’s belly, legs, tail or paws.

What Causes Hot Spots?

You’ll need to watch your dog closely to figure this out. Try to remember what has happened recently in his life that might have caused the hot spot.

  • Insect Bite – Has he been somewhere where he might have been bitten by an insect?
  • Summer Heat – Is his coat matted in the area of the hot spot so the skin underneath can’t breathe? This might happen to a thick or double-coated dog in summer.
  • Food sensitivities –Has he eaten anything unusual that might have caused an allergic reaction?
  • Environmental allergens – Has he been around grass, pollen or mold? What about swimming in scummy pond water?
  • Injury or instability in the body – Does he have a sore spot, such as an achy hip or knee that he’s been licking or chewing?
  • Fleas – Does he have fleas? Flea allergy dermatitis can also cause hot spots.
  • Skin infection – is your dog prone to skin problems? Could the skin be infected from excessive scratching or chewing?

Or maybe there’s an emotional cause:

There’s one other thing that’s good to know, and that’s whether the hot spots are acute or chronic …

Is It Acute or Chronic Hot Spots?

Many hot spots are acute – meaning they come and go quickly. Conventional vets often diagnose them as flea bites or allergic reactions.

But sometimes hot spots can be chronic. If your dog gets them often, it may be a sign of a deeper problem. Canine herbalist Rita Hogan suggests some possible underlying causes:

  • Liver disease and imbalance
  • Immune disease
  • Muscle tension, pain or injury

If your dog gets hots spots along his spine, look for tension in the area under or around the hot spot. That may give you some clues.

What To Do For Chronic Hot Spots

If your dog suffers from chronic, recurring hot spots, it’s best to consult your homeopathic vet, who may recommend other remedies. This is especially true if they seem to be due to mental or emotional causes. Some commonly used ones are Pulsatilla, Graphites and Arsenicum album.

Countless other homeopathic remedies may work for more chronic cases where hot spots recur and the mental or emotional picture is appropriate. Bach Rescue Remedy can be useful to add daily. It helps where there’s prolonged household or environmental stress or where life or family changes are affecting your pet.

You can put a few drops in your dog’s water bowl. Do this even if there are other dogs in your household. It won’t affect them if they don’t need it. Chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture or acupressure can also help with chronic hot spots.

How To Manage Hot Spots Naturally

When treating hot spots, Canine Herbalist Rita Hogan treats them both externally and internally. That’s because she views hot spots as a warning beacon. They’re telling you to treat from within. This means you need to strengthen your dog’s digestive and immune function … while supporting internal organs.

1. Clean The Area Around The Hot Spot

If your dog develops a hot spot, start by trimming the hair around the area and cleaning any pus or dead skin. Just remember that this spot can be quite painful so be gentle!

2. Rinse The Hot Spot To Prevent Infection And Itch

You want to relieve pain and assist with healing by stopping the hot spot from scabbing. You also want to avoid bacteria overgrowth while it absorbs or irritates toxins. Start with this herbal rinse to clean the area.

Herbal Hot Spot Rinse

Mix all of the following ingredients together and put them in a glass bottle. A spray bottle with a gentle mist is a good idea but not necessary.

10 drops crab apple flower essence
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
8 oz boiled, cooled filtered water
20 drops Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris)
10 drops echinacea tincture

Optional: replace 4 oz water with 4 oz witch hazel or rose water for extra drying or cooling support.

Trim around the hot spot. Then flush or mist and let dry. Do this 3 or 4 times in the first 24 hours.

3. Apply A Healing Powder

The next step is to help the hot spot begin to heal. Try this healing powder.

Healing Powder

1/4 cup of powdered bentonite clay
1/8 cup of powdered echinacea, plantain leaf or yarrow

Note: If you don’t have the other herbs, you can use the bentonite clay alone.

Sprinkle on the area and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes. Rinse off with tepid water or the above wash. Do this 2 or 3 times per day.

4. Apply Herbs To Promote Healing

Once the hot spot starts healing, use a salve made with calendula or St John’s wort oil. These herbs calm the skin and remove the itch, while dispersing inflammation.

If there’s drainage or excessive scabbing, hold off on using calendula. Wait until the hot spot starts healing with minimal drainage. You don’t want to clog it.

For painful, dry or healing hot spots, you can also use a calendula and goldenseal as a hot spot spray for dogs. Add 15 drops of each tincture to one cup of spring water. Mist 3 to 4 times a day.

5. Heal From The Inside Out

The next step in healing your dog’s hot spots involves internal remedies. This includes feeding fresh whole foods.

You also want to give your dog supplements to boost his digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics, essential fatty acids and antioxidants. These are important for long term healing.

6. Support Your Dogs Elimination Organs

You also need to support the elimination organs like the digestive tract, kidneys and liver. This will help balance out the body and support whole-body healing.

Herbs like milk thistle, dandelion, and St John’s wort can help cool the system and support the liver.

A tincture of whole burdock can dissipate heat out of the system and cool it from within … as well as support kidney function.

The digestive tract will be supported by the foods and supplements mentioned in the previous step.

General Dosage Guidelines: Give half a drop of tincture for each pound of body weight. Give it to your dog twice daily. If you’re using a glycerin extract use one drop for each pound of weight.

7. Support The Lymphatic System

Keeping your dog’s lymphatic system moving is also an important part of healing. The lymphatic system removes toxins and cellular waste and it transports white blood cells throughout the body. An active lymphatic system also decreases inflammation and helps fight off further infections.

Two herbs that work well for stimulating the lymphatic system are calendula and cleavers. Choose calendula for dogs who are energetically cool to neutral. Cleavers works well for warm to hot dogs. Many dogs with underlying immune issues or organ imbalances are warm or hot.

General Dosage Guidelines: Give one drop of tincture for every 10 pounds of body weight.

What Not To Use For Your Dog’s Hot Spots

There are some treatments that are commonly recommended for hot spots. But these aren’t the best choices. Here’s why …

Oral Steroids And Other Medications

Using conventional medications, such as oral antibiotics, is not a good idea. It can even be harmful over the long term.

Skin conditions, like hot spots, are never “just skin conditions.” They always have an underlying cause. The hot spot is nothing but a symptom of that underlying disorder. That’s why it’s important to address the cause of the hot spot … otherwise, it will just keep coming back.

Conventional medicines almost always work by suppressing symptoms. In this case, the hot spot is the symptom. That’s why so many conventional medicines start with “anti”. There are antifungals, anti-inflammatories and in this case, antibiotics. All work to treat the signs of the disease but do nothing to make sure your dog doesn’t get sick again.

Remember … you can get through this without antibiotics or conventional drugs. And you need to try hard to do this.

RELATED: Read this before you give your dog antibiotics …


Neosporin is not a hot spot remedy. It’s an antibiotic cream that shouldn’t be used on your dog or your dog’s hot spot. It isn’t made for dogs and comes with a long list of side effects that can do more harm than good.


Don’t use peroxide to treat your dog’s hot spot. Peroxide can damage the skin and delay healing.


Using Benadryl to treat hot spots isn’t advised. It’s an anti-histamine that suppresses the body’s natural healing response.

It may take away the itching and inflammation from your dog’s hot spot, but it doesn’t solve the root of the problem.

Instead try quercetin. This natural substance can turn off histamine production and reduce inflammation. That’s because it has antioxidant, anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s even called “Nature’s Benadryl.”

Coconut Oil

It turns out coconut oil isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While it is generally safe for topical applications, it’s not a good remedy for hot spots. That’s because it’s a moisturizer.

Hot spots are already moist and wet. When caring for hot spots the strategy is to dry them out. As they heal they dry out and scab over. If there’s a layer of coconut oil, they can’t do that.

So if none of these options are good for your dog’s hot spots … what can you use?

Natural Alternatives For Hot Spots

Here are some proven natural remedies you can use to replace treatments that aren’t good for your dog. These natural remedies are actually more effective. They won’t stress your dog’s immune system, so it’s less likely those hot spots will come back.

1. Calendula

Calendula can be used to treat hot spots caused by various types of skin irritations. It comes in many forms: cream, salve, oil and lotion, teas and tinctures.

This well-known herb can reduce itching and inflammation. It promotes quick healing of skin tissue. And the best part is, it’s extremely effective for calming the itch.

You can buy calendula products at any health food store. It’s safe for your dog even if he licks it. For hot spots, you’ll want to avoid tinctures made with alcohol as they can sting or irritate the area.

Apply calendula liberally on the affected area and repeat as often as needed. You can also try this recipe.

Calendula Lotion For Hot Spots

– 1/4 tsp table salt
– 1 cup of filtered water
– 20-40 drops of calendula tincture

Mix together the salt and the water. Add the calendula tincture.

Note: Calendula is good for open wounds too. Try This Calendula Recipe.
Use a clean cotton ball to sponge the lotion onto the hot spot 2-4 times a day.

2. Hypericum

Also known as St John’s Wort, hypericum is another great option for treating hot spots. It’s even better if you combine it with calendula. Together these herbs reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing.

Hypericum and calendula tincture diluted in water is called HyperCal. It’s an effective and relieving antibacterial wash for hotspots.

You can buy hypericum and calendula tinctures on Amazon or at your local health food store. Then put 12 to 15 drops of each in 1 cup of warm water. Use the water as often as necessary to relieve the itching and clean the hot spot area. Don’t forget to dry the area with a clean cloth when you’re done.

You can also buy HyperCal already made in some places. Just ask for it at your health food store and they’ll know what it is.


In the US you can only buy HyperCal as a cream, so it’s best to buy separate tinctures and mix them yourself.

3. Black Tea

Hot spots on dogs tend to be pretty moist, so use black tea to dry up a hot spot. The tannins in black tea can help stop bacterial infections and help the hot spot heal.

Steep a black tea bag in 8 ounces of water. Let it cool. Then you can use either the tea bag or a cotton ball to apply tea to the sore. Hold it to the hot spot for several minutes or longer if your dog doesn’t seem to mind it.

4. Colostrum

Many people give their dogs colostrum as a supplement to strengthen the immune system. But you can also use colostrum topically to help heal hotspots. It helps speed skin repair and prevents skin infections.

Make a paste of colostrum powder mixed with distilled water. Smear it on your dog’s hot spots. It’ll dry out quite quickly … so it’s a good idea to wipe it off daily and reapply it as needed.

RELATED: 12 ways colostrum can help your dog …

5. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is good for your dog’s hot spots as it will help relieve the itch. You can use a weak dilution of 1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part water.

Spritz or gently dab this on the hot spot.

Should I Use An Elizabethan Collar For My Dog?

The hot spot on your dog needs to heal. So your dog can’t lick or chew it. But you don’t want to wrap or cover the hot spot … it needs to breathe to heal.

If your dog continues to lick or chew at the hot spot, it might be time for an Elizabethan collar.

General Care

In addition to these hot spot solutions, make sure your dog has lots of mental and physical stimulation based on his breed, age and health. Groom your dog often and make sure there are no fleas. Provide fresh, spring water (with no fluoride or chlorine).

And remember … natural remedies like these are much safer and more effective than conventional medicines. They can help solve the issue that’s causing your dog’s hot spots. Conventional “anti” medicines just suppress the hot spot temporarily, and you’ll see it return later.

If you feel you need help, find a homeopathic vet in your area. If you don’t have access to a homeopathic vet, you can find one at the AVH website. Most will do phone consults so they don’t have to be local.

With just a little help, you’ll be able to treat hot spots and other common issues at home.

BONUS: How To Prevent Future Hot Spots 

Preventing hot spots on your dog is an ongoing process. It will support ongoing good health too. Here is a holistic whole-dog approach to preventing hot spots:

  • Use safe and natural mosquito and flea control 
  • Maintain clean sleeping areas
  • Reduce exposure to known allergens
  • Feed a healthy whole food raw diet to support the body’s immune system
  • Eliminate processed foods that cause inflammation
  • Reduce and eliminate toxins around the house
  • Practice good grooming to promote healthy skin
  • Avoid over-vaccination to minimize reactions and skin allergies
  • Exercise your dog to promote overall good health

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