If you have a dog, you’ve likely heard of both ringworm and hot spots. But what is the difference between the two? How can you tell if your pet is experiencing a dog hot spot vs ringworm? What are the risks to your pet’s health and how can they be addressed?
We’ve got all your answers about dog hot spots and ringworm right here, plus some additional tips to keep your dog’s skin happy and healthy.
What You Need to Know About Dog Hot Spots
The most common questions about hot spots on dogs include:
- What do hot spots look like?
- What causes them?
- What are the risks of a dog hot spot?
- What are some remedies for hot spots?
What Does a Hot Spot Look Like on a Dog?
Hot spots are also known as acute moist dermatitis, and these large, red lesions are fairly common in dogs. These spots can occur anywhere, appear quickly, and are often inflamed, irritated, and even bleeding. They may start small and spread as your dog licks the area repeatedly.
What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?
There are a number of different causes for hot spots on dogs. One common cause is allergies – if your dog inhales or eats something they are allergic to, it can cause itching and hot spots. Another cause for hot spots is infections of the ear or skin (such as pyoderma) and insect bites like those from fleas.
Really, anything that causes your dog to itch can result in a hot spot because they will lick their skin and irritate it, forming the lesion. The discomfort from the lesion will then cause them to lick more, and the problem will worsen.
Poor grooming is another cause of hot spots because dogs will chew and bite at their matted fur, causing the skin to tear and wounds to open. Furthermore, a coat that is not groomed properly can’t do its job of wicking water away from the dog’s skin. This means more moisture, which creates a breeding ground for hot spots.
Simple boredom can cause your dog to develop hot spots. Dogs need mental and physical stimulation daily, and a bored dog might start licking as a bad habit (in much the same way humans might bite their fingernails). These hot spots often develop on the dog’s paws and front legs because it’s the easiest place to reach when a dog is lying down and bored.
A dog with mobility issues might also develop hot spots in the same way an immobilized person develops bedsores. Dogs with limited movement end up lying in the same position constantly, and this creates singular pressure points where lesions appear.
This happens most often in bony areas of the body like elbows, hips, and ankles. It also happens most often with senior dogs who naturally have less muscle on their bodies and less movement in their lives. These bony pressure points are painful and dogs have an instinct to lick where they feel pain, which worsens hot spots.
If your dog’s hot spots are centralized just beneath their tail, they may be suffering from anal gland inflammation. Dogs try to address this pain by licking repeatedly around their rectum and causing hot spots in this area.
Hot spots are more common skin conditions in the warmer months and among certain breeds, including Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. Additionally, dogs who regularly spend time in the water will be more prone to hot spots because of the increased moisture in their fur.
What Are the Dangers of a Hot Spot?
Hot spots are relatively common and easy to fix with proper grooming and care. If the owner is proactive, most dog hot spots will heal in about the same time as they appeared. If a dog is experiencing chronic hot spots, they might need to be tested for various allergies, hyperthyroidism, and joint issues, or even assessed for mental health conditions that are causing incessant licking. Skin infection is also a concern if your dog’s hot spot doesn’t heal quickly, but hot spots generally won't cause lasting damage.
How to Deal with Dog Hot Spots
The key is to make your dog comfortable to get them out of the itch-and-lick cycle. Obviously, in addition to healing the hot spot itself, you’ll want to find out what caused it and treat the problem at its root.
This might mean updating your dog’s grooming schedule, treating them for insect bites or allergies, providing them with more interactive toys to prevent boredom, introducing CBD to support their physical movement and reduce lesions from immobility, or consulting your veterinarian to address more serious issues like anal gland inflammation or other extreme hot spot treatment.
What You Need to Know About Dog Ringworm
Ringworm, also known as dermatomycosis, is very different from hot spots and often a more serious skin condition. Telling the two apart can be difficult, but ringworm is distinctive from hot spots in:
- The way it looks
- What causes it
- The dangers and risks it poses
- How it is addressed
What Does Ringworm Look Like on Dogs?
Ringworm appears in most dogs as patchy, often circular spots of hair loss, and the affected areas of skin are often scaly and dry. The bald skin may have a gray or pinkish-red appearance. It’s rarely itchy, but sometimes the ringworm patches can become scabs. Another common symptom of ringworm is brittle claws.
Ringworm gets its name from how it appears in humans: spots of red raised rings on the skin. This is not what you’ll see on your dog’s body when they have ringworm.
What Causes Ringworm in Dogs?
Ringworm is a fungal infection that lives on the outermost layer of skin and usually affects younger dogs. It is caused by a collection of fungi – in dogs, it’s usually caused by a fungus called microsporum canis. To get ringworm, a dog has to come in contact with the fungus, which is a very easy thing to do.
Spores of microsporum canis can be transmitted to your dog from an infected animal or person, or any object that has been touched by someone with the infection. These spores can live for more than a year on various items, including bedding, carpet, furniture, and even your pet’s water bowl. Animals with ringworm often shed brittle hairs (hence the bald patches that are associated with the infection) and these hairs can then spread the fungus to other animals or people.
What Are the Dangers of Ringworm Fungus?
The main concern with ringworm fungus is that it’s highly contagious and can be transferred among both animals and humans within your household. While immunocompromised animals and people – such as the elderly, babies, puppies, and senior dogs – are the most at risk, anyone can contract it. For both humans and people, it’s an uncomfortable and unsightly condition that needs to be treated. Untreated, ringworm could spread across your dog’s body and cause them to lose all their hair.
What Happens If My Dog Has Ringworm?
Ringworm will require a veterinary visit and a diagnosis. Your vet will likely take a skin scrape and do testing to identify the infection, then recommend a course of action which may include anti fungal creams. If it’s ringworm, you’ll need to wash your hands and decontaminate infected areas of your home thoroughly – remember, every hair or skin cell can carry some of the infection and transfer it to other people or animals.
Until your dog is free of ringworm, you’ll likely want to keep him or her in an area that’s easy to clean, like the kitchen or bathroom.
Treatment can be either topical, oral, or both. Topical treatments can be creams, anti fungal ointments, or a medicated shampoo, and this approach often requires you to shave the infected areas and trim your dog’s nails to reduce contamination. Oral treatments will help speed along healing and fight the infection. Your veterinarian will probably want you to come back when you’ve finished treating your dog to ensure the infection has cleared.
Keeping Your Dog’s Skin Healthy: Preventing Hot Spots and Ringworm
Hot spots and ringworm are both relatively easy to prevent with proper skin care and a clean, safe environment for your pooch. To reduce your dog’s chances of getting ringworm or hot spots, be sure to:
- Implement a regular bathing routine
- Groom your pet’s coat properly
- Use a flea treatment
- Pay attention to your pet’s diet
A Regular Bathing Routine
A regular bathing routine is crucial to the health of your pet’s skin and coat. If bath time is a stressful experience for your dog, keep them calm with our Pretty Pup CBD Shampoo with refreshing green tea and cucumber. You can also use our Itchy Pup CBD Shampoo to soothe their skin with oatmeal and olive oil if they’re experiencing hot spots. (Note: CBD shampoos are not a medical treatment; if your dog is experiencing skin issues, please consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.)
Always make sure you dry your pet thoroughly after the bath or when they’ve been swimming. Moisture creates a perfect environment for hot spots and skin infections.
Grooming Is Important for Coat and Skin Health
Beyond a healthy bath regimen, your dog’s coat will likely need other care as well. From simply brushing their fur every now and then to getting a full-on grooming appointment with a haircut, your dog’s grooming needs will depend on their breed, size, and type of coat.
If you notice that your dog is prone to matting, you’ll need to brush more regularly to avoid hot spots and infection. It’s also possible that your dog has a very high-maintenance coat that is more than you can manage, in which case you should use a professional groomer to take care of your pet and keep them healthy. Coat grooming isn’t vain – it keeps your dog healthy and comfortable.
Your Dog Might Need a Flea Control Treatment
Depending on where you live and your dog’s level of outdoor activity, it might be wise to use a flea control treatment. Fleas can cause itching which can result in hot spots, so by keeping the fleas away from your dog’s skin, you can prevent this discomfort. Your veterinarian can recommend a flea treatment that will work for your dog.
A Balanced Diet Supports Healthy Skin in Dogs
Your dog’s diet is crucial to their overall well-being, and that includes their skin. A healthy dog diet will include plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which are most easily found in fish oils. These fats support your dog’s skin as a robust, protective barrier and reduce the likelihood of allergies and infections.
Prevention Is Easier When It Comes to Dog Hot Spots and Ringworm
While it’s important to be able to identify a hot spot or ringworm in your pup, we hope you never have to do so. By taking a preventive approach and being intentional about your dog’s lifestyle and hygiene, you should be able to avoid the inconvenience and discomfort of these skin conditions.