Dog Hot Spots

A hot spot, or lick granuloma, is a spot where a dog has licked or chewed itself so much it caused a sore.  This sore is generally hot to the touch, hence the term “hot spot.”    The dog will continue licking it, which expands the sore and can cause a serious injury, infection, and even death if left untreated.


The causes of lick granulomas are somewhat controversial.  While some clearly start as a result of a thorn or grass awn rubbing the skin, others have more nebulous causes.  Some dogs chew holes in their skin as a result of allergies.  If your dog chews every time he gets to play in deep grass, allergies are probably the culprit.  In this case, your veterinarian can prescribe some anti-itch medication, allergy medicine, or tell you to avoid the allergen if possible.

The other cause of the lick granuloma, or hot spot, seems to be anxiety or boredom.  If boredom, the dog needs to be provide with a more stimulating environment.  Toys such as the buster cube, which are filled with dry dog food and dispense it when the dog plays with the cube, help.  Attention from you will help, too.


The first thing to do when faced with a hot spot is visit the veterinarian.  Together, you can work to find the cause and treat that.  You will also need to stop your dog from licking on the current sore so it can heal.  That can be tough.

There are bittering agents, such as bitter apple, that come in an ointment intended to be put on the sore so the dog quits licking it.  Sometimes these work, sometimes they don’t.  An Elizabethan collar, or cone, will keep the dog from licking.  However, the dog must be monitored at all times when wearing the collar, as it can hang up on things and choke the dog.

German Shepherd Dog

If the cause of the lick granuloma is anxiety, the hot spot is harder to treat.  Some research suggests that an antidepressant often given to people with obsessive compulsive disorder may have some success in treating the problem.  Working with a certified animal behavior consultant to find the root cause of the anxiety and treat it is also important.  The medication is only a band aid.  The root cause must be treated or the problem will just reoccur, often in the same place.  Your veterinarian can recommend a good animal behavior consultant to you.

Lick granulomas are very frustrating problems for both the dog and the owner.  Working with your veterinarian to solve this dilemma is essential to your dog’s well being and your peace of mind.

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You may have a dog that won't sit up, roll over or even cook breakfast, not because she's too stupid to learn how but because she's too smart to bother." - Rick Horowitz