PetMeds® Causes of Your Dog’s Itchy Skin and Hair Loss (Hot Spots)

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog
If your dog has persistent hot spots, they should be examined by your veterinarian It happens all the time: One day your pet has a shiny coat full of luster and the next day there is a large patch of hair loss that is sensitive, moist and oozing. Sometimes the skin is sticky and this can cause your pet to be very uncomfortable. In worse cases, these sticky lesions can also be scratched until they bleed. This common sudden skin change in dogs is often referred to as a “hot spot” which refers to a sudden area of intense skin inflammation as described above.

These areas can emerge anywhere on a pet’s body, but most commonly are seen under the ears or skin folds of the neck, and often down the lower back or flank areas. The causes of these frustrating and often painful eruptions are usually allergy based; either flea bite allergy, inhalant/contact allergy, and/or food allergy. Obviously a thorough flea combing should be done to make sure there is no evidence of flea infestation or recent exposure to fleas. Such pets should be on a good flea preventative program using such products as Frontline Plus or Advantage, or a natural form of flea prevention for clients more holistically oriented. The most first line of treatment in such pets with hot spots is to soothe the skin both topically and through oral medication. Oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine or clemestine can help break the itch cycle, as well as cleaning the area with a dilute antibacterial soap, and then adequately drying.  Topical anti-inflammatories such as Be Soothed, Excel Hydrocortisone Spray and Miracle Mist Skin Spray can all potentially help in offering the pet relief.

In some cases it is necessary to see a veterinarian who will usually clip the hair from around the area to allow it to heal, and clean and dry the area thoroughly. On occasion it is necessary to sedate the pet, in order to properly treat very sensitive hot spots. If the eruption is severe, oral antibiotics are often prescribed such as Cephalexin and/or short courses of oral Prednisone or Temaril-P, until the lesions dry and heal. With time and patience, most pets are back to normal in a short period of time. In those pets that have repetitive hot spots, it is important to explore the various underlying allergic causes mentioned in this article to cure this tendency long term.


  1. Posted January 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Nothing seem to stop Lizzy, my dog, from licking and bitting
    her feet. Can you help me with this problem?

  2. deborah stephens
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I’ve been told that this is due to an allergy of some type. I try to make sure that I do not contribute by making sure my dogs don’t walk thru carpet fresh or freshly shampooed carpets, or on mopped floors.

    Derpending on her size, (check with your vet for dose), Dogs CAN take Diphenhydramine anti-histamine for allergies.

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Dephenhydramine dose is usually one half to one mg per pound twice daily. Other anthistamines to try include chlorphenrinimine or tavist to name a few. Also can try fatty acids like nordic naturals pet omega 3 fatty acids.

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    This is usually due to inhalent/contact allergies to molds, grasses, trees, dander, housedust, pollens, etc or food allergens. Try antihistamine like benadryl at dose of one half to one mg per pound twice daily. Also consider using fatty acid added to meals like nordic naturals pet omega 3 fatty acid which may help when used long term. Consider DMG liquid as well as proanthozone from 1800petmeds.

  5. meghan
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    my dog is constantly biting and scratching right above her tail…about 5-6 inches long. it gets to the point of being raw cause she will scratch at it so much…she will even roll on the carpet to make it feel better…we put a cortizone cream on it and it goes away for a little while usually about 2-3 days then comes back. she also gets an oatmeal bath quite often…her fur is rough and brittle…we cant really aford to take her to the vet but we are trying to find some answers.
    please help! :)

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Check for fleas and/or make sure on good flea control. Also good be underlying inhalent/contact allergies and/or food allergies. You could try oral benadryl at dose of one mg per pound twice daily and adding a fatty acid to her meals such as super pure omega 3 from 1800petmeds.

  7. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Check for fleas and make sure on good flea control. Also possible to have inhalent/contact and/or food allergies. Try antihistamine like benadryl or chlorphenirimine, as well as fatty acid like Super pure omega 3 from 1800petmeds.

  8. Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Can i get a cortizone shot to give to my dog at home. Vet bills are outragous and i have taken my other dog to the vett and they gave herr a shot along with a large bill of $236. Please help me out if you can or have this type of shot.

  9. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Cortisone shots can only be given by licensed vets.

  10. marilyn
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink


  11. Tamara
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    My golden retriever has licked a large raw spot on her back end what can I do to heal it and make s
    Her comfrotable

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like could be hot spot. Try topical betagen from 1800petmeds or you can use topical hydrocortisone to area. Benadryl at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily may help ease itching. If signs persist or worsen, see vet.

  13. Posted November 30, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I have a 4 year old springer spaniel who is miserable spring to winter! I think I have isolated her allergies to oak trees/leaves and possibly grass. It is not fleas, it is not her food. I have tried the Yucca Intensive and it may have helped a minor amount, if at all. She is on Benadryl TID, and she still has raw paws, and raw chin as well as one front axilla. The eruptions on her skin have quieted down since we are in later fall/early winter (had several hard frosts now). I put Sulfodene 3 way ointment (Benzocaine/Salicylic Acid)on the open spots. Besides allergy testing/shots, is there anything else known to counteract these allergies? Thanks so much!!

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted December 6, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    You could ask vet about allergy control meds, including the wonderful new drug apoquel, which is sometimes hard to get, as it was on back order for long time. Also can consider low dose cortisone or cortisone alternatives like atopica, or cyclosporine. I would also consider adding fatty acid to meals like nordic naturals pet omega 3 from 1800petmeds. You could also consider holistic options like NAET therapy, which you can google on line, as well as consulting with a veterinary homeopath. to learn more about homeopathy, see the booklet on the website as well as my website Many homeopathic vets do offer phone consultations.

  15. Belindal Martin
    Posted May 1, 2015 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    My lab’s leg has been broken and for that I used Dermapaw thrice a day, within 7 days it healed the leg.

One Trackback

  1. [...] Skin allergies are amongst the most frustrating health problems exhibited by both dogs and cats, and are likely the most common reason for veterinary visits outside of wellness exams.  Pets present with various manifestations of self trauma from licking, biting or scratching at themselves. Commonly affected areas include the lower back, feet, ears, chest and abdomen. However, any area of the body can be affected.  Many pets can develop secondary yeast or bacterial infections of the skin or ear canals, which often add to the discomfort.  [...]

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