Pyotraumatic Dermatitis

(Acute Moist Dermatitis, Hot Spots)

Pyotraumatic dermatitis is an acute, rapidly developing surface bacterial skin infection that occurs as a result of self-inflicted trauma. These lesions are created when the animal licks, chews, scratches and rubs a focal area of skin in response to an itchy (pruritic), painful stimulus. Because the lesions are warm to the touch, they are often called “hot spots.” It is usually a seasonal problem that becomes more common when the weather is hot and humid, and fleas are the most common irritating stimulus. Hot spots are common in dogs, especially in thick-coated, long-haired breeds. They are rarely seen in cats.

Clinical Signs:

  • The lesions appear as hot, red and moist areas. They occur most frequently on the trunk, tail base, lateral thigh, neck and face.
  • Some hair loss over the area may be noticed.
  • Intense itching (pruritus), which quickly makes the lesions worse and very painful.

Treatment and Outcome:

  • The underlying cause should be identified and treated.
  • Carefully clip the hair from the lesions to expose the “normal” edges of the lesion. If lesions are large, consider using sedation.
  • The lesion will be sore, so gentle cleansing with a medicated shampoo such as Doc Roy’s Medicated Shampoo or Hexadene Shampoo is important.
  • Apply topical medications to lesions twice daily. Avoid medications that will dry or sting, because this will draw attention to the site and increase self-trauma from licking or rubbing. Alcohol-containing products should also be avoided.
  • If pruritus is mild, a topical analgesic such as ResiCORT Leave-On Lotion, Oatmeal & Baking Soda Shampoo & Conditioner, Allercaine Spray or a cream or solution that contains corticosteroids should also be applied.
  • Treat the original disease that induced the self-trauma to the skin (fleas, allergy). The outcome is much better if the underlying cause can be corrected or controlled.
  • If the cause of the hot spots is fleas, aggressive flea control should be initiated.


  • Lesions may be slow to heal, but gentle cleansing of the area on a daily basis will speed recovery.
  • Owners should wash their hands after treating an infected animal to prevent contamination with Staphylococcus. Although human infections are rare, the microorganism could present a danger to owners who are immunosuppressed.
  • If the lesion is around the neck, you can use a collar to prevent further damage from licking. Collars include the Recova Clear Collar, EJay Bite Free Collar, or EJay Check Collar.
  • Keeping long coats well groomed also helps prevent hot spots.

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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