I'm a cat lover to the max! I have helped rescue and re-home over 100 cats. My family cats fill my heart with joy every day.
What Is a Hot Spot?
A "hot spot" on your cat (or even on your dog) will look like an area of fur that is missing. It could be just a bald patch, or the bald patch could also resemble a lesion, with the skin broken and fluid oozing from the skin.
How do I know about this? It happened to my cat.
Miss Kitty With a Hot Spot Under Her Arm
What Are the Causes of Hot Spots?
According to my veterinarian, there are several possible causes for hot spots.
1. Diet Contains Too Much Starch/Carbohydrates
Check to see if you are feeding your cat a high-quality cat food. If not, consider switching. One option is a grain-free diet. Grain-free pet food is readily available at most pet food stores. Natural Balance and Blue Buffalo Wilderness are two brands with grain-free options. The grain/carbohydrates (corn, rice, etc.) in most cat food can cause an overgrowth of yeast in/on your pet.
- Diet: Allergies could be food allergies (see above), especially to wheat or grains, or your cat could be sensitive to the type of cat food you selected (this includes fillers, preservatives, dyes, and other additives).
- Environment: Allergies could also be environmental and from something in the house. Check to make sure your household cleaners such as odor reducer (sprinkled in the carpet), etc. are not triggering an allergy.
- Litter: Also check your kitty litter. It's possible that your cat is allergic to perfumes in the litter. Try a wheat or corn-based alternative, or any of the other perfume-free options available today.
As your pet ages, they are more susceptible to many ailments. None of my cats ever had hot spots until my oldest kitty was around 12 years old.
View of Hot Spot, Mostly Healed
How to Get Rid of Hot Spots
Ok, so now you know a little more about hot spots and some things you can try to change to help get rid of them. But is there anything you can do right now to help heal your cat? Here are some options.
1. Take Your Cat to the Vet
Get advice and treatment from a professional. My veterinarian said that sometimes an all-raw diet helps cats get rid of hot spots, but it only works sometimes. And such a drastic diet change should be done gradually, since the feline digestive tract is sensitive. If you change your cat's diet too quickly, your cat could start throwing up or exhibiting other signs of gastrointestinal discomfort.
Do cortisone shots work?
My vet also said that cortisone shots often clear up hot spots. Sometimes one shot does the trick, but other times it may take two to three—one every two weeks until it clears up. Be warned that cortisone is a steroid hormone and can have negative side effects, especially on older pets. There have been reports of pets going blind, becoming ill, or even dying after receiving a cortisone shot in extreme cases. Most pets will not experience any side effects, and it may clear the hot spots right up. Just be sure you know the risks before allowing your pet to be given a cortisone shot.
2. Hot Spot Anti-Itch Spray
Many pet stores carry anti-itch spray which will help relieve some of your cat's discomfort while he or she heals. You will find that there are many more sprays for dogs than cats, so just ask a store helper to assist you in finding the right product if you cannot locate it yourself. The one I tried, which seemed to help, was PetRelief Anti-Itch Spray for Cats.
3. Homeopathic Remedy: HomeoPet Hot Spots
I used HomeoPet Hot Spots treatment on my cat when she had hot spots. It seemed to help tremendously. I also changed her diet and the cat litter to try everything possible, but I do think this treatment made a huge difference.
4. Soft Cat/Pet Cone
I can't stress enough how much of a difference it can make to put a cone on your cat when trying to heal hot spots. Cats will often lick the site of the infection, making it more raw and increasing the size of the hot spot. Blocking the cat from doing so with a cone will allow the hot spot to heal without it getting aggravated.
Soft Pet Collar
How I Resolved My Cat's Hot Spots
My cat's hot spots seemed to be getting worse for a time—growing bigger and not healing. I noticed she was licking these spots quite frequently. So, I got a cone and put it on her. At first I tried a padded kind, the Comfy Cone Pet E-Collar, but it didn't look very comfortable. I already had the hard plastic kind from a previous vet visit, but those weren't my favorite either.
Success With the ElizaSoft Recovery Collar
I eventually tried a "soft" collar cone, the ElizaSoft Recovery Collar, and that one ended up being my favorite. It was flexible, so my kitty could still squeeze between legs, and it still kept her from licking the spots. The only thing I didn't like was that it has a fixed-size opening for the kitty's head, so you have to slide it over the cat's head. After that, it's easy. It's a drawstring tie, so you can get it as tight as needed.
Tip: Double knot the tie. My cat scratched at the cone and somehow managed to untie the bow and get out of the cone. After I double-knotted the bow, that didn't happen anymore.
Cons of the Soft Cone
Although I do really like this pet collar, it doesn't wear well after a lot of scratching from a cat. My kitty kept scratching her ears and scratching the cone. The drawstring started shredding, and so did the collar. It still works, but it will probably need to be replaced after my kitty wears it for a month. Still, to me, it's worth it, because it's comfortable for my cat.
How Long Does It Take to Heal?
After using the cone and treating her with HomeoPet's Hot Spots for several days, everything really started turning around. The biggest hot spot under her arm, which was about five inches across, started drying up. The icky stuff came off, and then it was just bare skin. What an improvement!
I decided to give my kitty a break from the cone and took it off for one day and night. After that, it was oozing icky stuff again just from her licking it too much. So, back on the cone went. Once again, after having the cone on for several days and doing the treatments, there was no more oozing. This time, she is keeping it on until fully healed.
Success With the Cat Cone and HomeoPet
It's been several months, and Miss Kitty's hot spots healed up completely with the use of the cone. I didn't remove the cone until the hot spots had disappeared entirely and her fur had started growing back in. That did the trick! I'm so happy to report that she has not had any hot spots for months now!
Video: Hot Spots for Cat Lovers
© 2011 Amber Killinger
Carolyn on August 25, 2020:
Our cat religiously gets what we think are hot spots each fall, which we think is an allergy to fleas we might carry in on clothing. We treat the fleas and him but he pulls the hair out of his back side every year. Any recommendations?
Claire Watts on January 19, 2020:
Very good Information, my friends cat teddy is suffering from Hot Spot.
Diane on November 07, 2019:
My poor cat named teddy, hes a tabby mix,an awsome male cat. Hes smart in alot of ways, he knows what num num is, its food, he knows what treats are,very smart cat. I have CORTISONE for humans, i put a little on his hot spot with 2 band aids will it make him feel worse until i can come up with some money next week to take him to the vet. I pray it will help him not hurt him, i put very little on it with 2 bandaids. Please tell me what else I can do till NOVEMBER 15th, 2019
mark on February 23, 2019:
Please Never de claw a cat they are easily trained Highly Intelligent and won't "TEAR Everything up!!v As Ceasar Romano said You have to B the alpha and they will follow..
Amber Killinger (author) on August 29, 2018:
That's a great suggestion Joey. Thanks so much for sharing that.
Joey on August 27, 2018:
As an alternative to a cone, my cat is now wearing a dog t-shirt size M and he can no longer lick the bald red angry hot spot on his shoulder. After months, it finally has a scab. Like the author, I won't let him go without his t-shirt until it's completely healed because his licking seems obsessive on that one spot (he's licking the t-shirt now) and I'm almost sure he'll re-injure it unless it's healed and the fur has grown back. He looks cute in his Batman T.
Amber Killinger (author) on August 01, 2018:
I had good luck with anti-itch spray to help relieve some of the itching and discomfort. Is the cone rubbing on the hot spot by chance? The most important thing I found was to find a way to keep my cat from licking or scratching the spot. Any type of rubbing on it kept it from healing. If it's been 3 months, you may want to take him back to the same or different vet to see if there's anything else they think can be done.
Jay on July 31, 2018:
hi amber so my kitty is about a year old he developed this hotspot around his neck nearly 3 months ago, I've taken him to the vet and his had the cortisone injections and the works but he still keeps on scratching the past day his been in alot of pain, moody and wants to be left alone I'm really worried and wondering should i go to another vet for a second opinion or is there anything i can do at home besides an e-cone?
Amber Killinger (author) on June 30, 2018:
Hi Karen. In most circumstances, you shouldn't need to give your cat a bath unless you're doing it to help with allergies you have to cats or if your vet told you to for some special reason. Cats bathe themselves and so most are very clean. Taking her to the vet for the hot spot sounds like a good idea. You might consider anti-itch spray to help alleviate her discomfort in the mean time. I hope she gets better soon!!
karen on June 30, 2018:
my cat is 10.5 years old. I have been giving her a bath every month but his last three or so months I didn't cause I was feeling well. Now I see her have a hot spot down my her tail. I gave her a bath right away from the pet store it says medicated on the bottle oatmeal and tea tree good for itchy and dry skin. I may take her to the vet next week to see what is the best thing to do. I haven't changed her food for four years but I did just give her a lick a bowl as a treat twice in two months I wonder if this may have cause it so I will not give it to her anymore.
Amber Killinger (author) on June 27, 2018:
Hi Jacey. If I were in your shoes, if the kitten is weaned, I would trap her and take her in the house to treat her. Keep her locked in a small room like a bathroom until she is healed and then you can let her back outside if you want. I have done that with several adult feral cats. They aren't happy to be confined and in a strange place...but it allows them to be treated and healed.
Jacey on June 24, 2018:
I have a problem right now, my KITTEN has a hot spot on her neck. I don't have vet and I want to heal it myself, but here is the big problem, I live in the country in the middle of nowhere and my kitten is a outdoor wild kitten, and it has a mother, so I don't have anything to help her.
Leslie on November 16, 2017:
My vet immediately ruled out food allergy because my cats have been on raw food for a couple years. They feel like rabbits their coat is so dense and soft. The OTC spray from Petsmart has appeared to reduce a lot of the red spots/hot spots. Just one left, which is likely the origination of this issue. As it’s taking the longest to heal. I’m using 21st Century Hot Spot spray for cats. To me, it smells like the Chloraseptic spray for sore throat. And that spray, from when I used it, made my mouth and throat numb for a bit. Thanks for this site... good to know other people going through the same issues. What we do for our cats :)
Amber Killinger (author) on November 12, 2017:
Leslie, one other thing you could consider is your cat's diet. I have one kitty who has a lot of issues with dry skin and dandruff and her fur used to feel dirty. I switched my cats to grain-free diets except some food with rice and her skin is much better and her fur feels soft again. It took several months to see a difference.
Amber Killinger (author) on November 12, 2017:
Hi Leslie, so sorry to hear of the ails of your elder kitty. It sounds like you're doing everything you can for him.
Leslie on November 12, 2017:
I had my 16 yo male cat diagnosed by vet as having general dermatitis. After 6 days on dermalone and a cone, it healed. Took cone off and he went right back to licking. Cone back on and healed again... took cone off... Yep, you guessed it, he licked again and red spots appeared. His hair has grown back but if he keeps licking, he’ll take it off again. He can’t live in the cone. I bought some hotspot spray from Petsmart. Going to apply 3 times a day. See how that works. As my vet said, a lot of times, the cause can’t be determined and his age complicates things. My cat has a heart condition and can’t be given oral or a shot for fear of heart failure. So only topical can help him. This whole thing has been exhausting, with many sleepless nights. Senior cats are very hard to take care of. I have another 16.5 yo cat with no issues.
Amber Killinger (author) on October 14, 2017:
Wow Krista, that's great information. Thanks so much for sharing. Hopefully other pet owners can benefit from this information.
Krista on October 14, 2017:
I had this very similar issue! After finally switching to a hypoallergenic food from the vet... I realized it was a good allergy. It turns out, my cat is allergic to chicken, which is almost in every pet food. I've been lucky to find many foods now exclude chicken as the vet tells me that the most common food allergy for pets is CHICKEN!
Deborah on September 02, 2017:
my cat seems to have two hot spots just in front of her ears. Vet says he doesn't know what it is. Looks like blisters which when scratched bleeds and looks awful. She had anti inflammatory and antibiotic injections, and told to bathe in salt water, the lesions tripled in size within 3 days. Return to vet, gave us hibiscrub to bathe twice a day, which is drying it up. Was given steroids but we didn't give her as she has a heart murmur, so gone back to the liquid antibiotic given once a day. Only got a cone by second vet visit. We had been on holiday, one of our other cats bullies her, we had a cat sitter. Don't know if she was stressed, or the new food she had or her flea drops, no idea which. If it's hot spots we don't want them ever again. Half her face looked burned, sore, bloody and weeping and not drying up but spreading over her face until we got the hibiscrub from the vets. Which is available from Chemists. She is 4 years old.
emhontz on August 08, 2017:
My Phoebe is 12-13 years old and just in the last few years has developed a major hot spot on her belly. I have switched food, changed the type of litter and I had been taking her to the vet on a regular basis for a steroid shot and antibiotics. The shots will help to dry the oozing, but it always comes back. I just ordered the HomeoPet cream and a collar hoping that will help her. She leaves a mark everywhere she sits or lays down - it's disgusting. It hasn't been bleeding, so I just put blankets everywhere and clean up after her. I'm hesitant to take her back to the vet because they suggested having her seen by a vet dermatologist 2-3 hours away $$$$$$!!!!!!! I'm going to look into a grain-free diet and see what the ingredients are in what I have been giving her now. Anything I give to her has to be ok with my 16 yo male cat who has had urinary issues since he was 5. Pets!! I have been doing my research and I hope that I'm not missing anything. Are there any other suggestions?
Amber Killinger (author) on May 03, 2017:
Hi Frustrated momma.
I'm so sorry to hear about the troubles with your kitten. What does your vet say about the hot spots?
One other consideration is maybe stress.
My sister has a cat that recently was licking herself, creating hot spots and she determined it was stress related. Her household has multiple cats and one of the other cats was sometimes aggressive towards this one and the stress exhibited as hot spots. My sister isolated the hot spot kitty for several weeks in her bedroom, with a separate litterbox and food, and door shut to keep all other cats out. The cat calmed down and she eventually healed from the hot spots. My sister said she could tell the cat was more relaxed when separated from the other cats.
I have heard of some cats having anxiety issues and sometimes medication can help, but that's something your vet would need to determine. If it's stress, maybe Feliway could help.
May I ask why an e-collar isn't an option with her? Is this a new kitten? If so, sometimes change can bring on stress and once she gets used to her new environment she may calm down.
I sure hope you get it figured out. Good luck!!
Frustrated momma on May 03, 2017:
My kitten is on an excellent diet - vet approved. No fleas or ticks. Top quality litter. and she still gets hot spots. I have lick guard for her spots but the little stinker wipes it off (on my pillow no less! and that stuff stinks something horrible). she used to only have one on her front arm ... but now she has them on her back hip and belly and back thigh. we went from just 1 to 5 and they are huge and itchy oozing and scaley. I just don't knw what to do anymore with her. I am desparate to find something that will work for her. I can NOT put any type of e-collar on her.
Lyverne Miller on May 01, 2017:
Thank you! Have cat about 8 years old, has 1st hot spot...was not sure what to do..this is a great help.
Susan on February 27, 2017:
THANK YOU soooo much for sharing!! It was like we were telling our story. That is exactly what we are experiencing! We have tried band-aids & spray. The collar we found was way to tough, so now we get the soft one
Amber Killinger (author) on February 20, 2017:
Barbara, I personally would not condone declawing a cat. Maybe you can try a different vet to get a second opinion.
Barbara harling on February 20, 2017:
My vet suggested to have my back nails removed . I don't want to do this.the hot spot is behind his ear and the cone would be on the wound. .i don't want to do what the vets recommended.
Amber Killinger (author) on November 24, 2016:
Hi Rose, from my experience all cats hate the cat collars but if you can get it on her it may help in the long run. Good luck!
Rose on November 19, 2016:
I have adopted a semi feral young cat (11 mos. old). And she has 2 hot spots that have just started, trying to start treating it before it gets to the oozing stage everyone speaks of.
I live on a remote island of Hawaii (Molokai). There is a vet on the island, so I will check in with them. Prior to finding this posting (which is very helpful!!) I read on another site, to try swabbing the area with a dilute solution of betadine... does anybody know about that?
I have ordered some grain free dry food.
I'm not sure how well she will take to a cat collar being semi feral...
thanks for posting this information.
Paige on May 26, 2016:
My cat has a spot on his back that is at times very hot to the touch, and he has licked most of the hair off the spot but he doesn't have any open wounds and his skin is not red. He doesn't scratch it and he meows when people touch it. Because of where it is located my Mother thinks it arthritis. He is an older cat. Any thoughts?
Debbra on May 18, 2016:
This was very helpful, as my poor Philly has been suffering with this at times. Thank you, everyone. My vet was not in favor of steroids, though my old vet used them and it fixed the problem almost immediately.
Amber Killinger (author) on February 16, 2015:
I hope you do try a cone or e-collar before giving up. That was the only thing that made a difference with my kitty to allow the lesions to heal.
jrhall22 on February 16, 2015:
I realize you posted this 3 years ago, but thanks for all the ideas. My cat (also named Ms. Kitty) has a hot spot on her back that occurred after a flea infestation. We got rid of the fleas months ago, but she still obsessively licks her back and causes bleeding sores. I've taken her to the vet several times, but all they do is give her antibiotics and a cortisone shot, charge me over $100 and send us on our way. I asked the vet if an e-collar might help but he assured me that it would only make her mad and she could still rub her back under furniture to scratch it. I currently have her in a medical pet shirt, but she keeps getting her paws stuck in the shirt and can't get around. I had to lock her in the bathroom, because our other 3 cats were picking on her. I'll try switching her food, the aromatic spray and possibly the soft e-collar before I give up. I just hope something works!
Tanya on November 24, 2014:
My girl's about the same, 9 pounds. I just hope with the velcro she can't remove it - with the rigid cone she learned how to remove it!
Thanks for all your help!
Amber Killinger (author) on November 23, 2014:
I bought this one: ElizaSoft Recovery Collar, SIZE: SMALL 5.5in. My kitty is about 9 lbs, so fairly small. I felt better putting a soft cone/collar on her so she could be more comfortable. I didn't take it off her for weeks because when I did, she licked the spots and aggrevated them. She healed only after I left the collar on without giving her breaks from it.
I wish you luck with your kitty.
Tanya on November 23, 2014:
What size cone is the one your kitty is sleeping in? It looks like it extends at least an inch past her adorable face? I'm just second-guessing myself on the size I bought - I thought the X-Small would be too short so I got the Small. I'm hoping it's ok for not letting her get her face around it. When your girl had to wear it did you take it off while watching her so she could clean herself after using the litterbox?
Tanya on November 23, 2014:
Ok Amber, thanks! I phoned around today and neither my local animal hospital nor Paulmac's had soft padded cones, only the hard rigid ones, which I had one from before & the little vixen removed it! I've purchased one on ebay called a ProCone. I picked the closest supplier so hopefully it gets here sometime this week (Michigan to S. Ontario)
Amber Killinger (author) on November 23, 2014:
Tanya, I highly recommend putting and keeping a cone on your cat until the hot spots go away. Try it for at least a couple of weeks. I had to do that to get my kitty to stop locking her hot spots. Her licking them made them worse and prevented them from healing.
Tanya on November 23, 2014:
I forgot to add that she has been on fish oil for some time now. It is called Ascenta FelineOmega3 fish oil supplement. She doesn't take it on her own so I have to syringe-feed to her slowly with an eyedropper. My other kitty is a good boy - if I pour some into a dish for him he will lap it up on his own. He's got the best fur in the neighbourhood! And my girl's got the worst:(
Tanya on November 23, 2014:
My little girl cat has been battling hot spots several times now. She's been on Prednisone pills 2 or 3 times, each time it only works at the full pill or half pill dosages - then we wean down to a quarter pill the spots start to return. Even the vet said she cannot be on these pills indefinitely as they suppress the immune system & can damage the liver over time.
I switched her food 2 days ago to a wheat-free diet. I spent nearly $70 on Performatrin dry & all kinds of grain-free moist food. So far no improvement. She is still licking her spots red & they are oozing. At least she switched over to this new food readily, as she is a picky eater. I know dietary changes take time to show in the skin, I just am impatient for her to start feeling & looking better! Right now she looks like the victim of an acid attack:(
I have tried a couple of times to dab on some cooled plain black tea with a teabag - nice cool tea should feel soothing to a 'hot' spot. I also put a small amount of Apple Cider Vinegar in some cool water & dabbed that on a couple of times. I had hoped the vinegar would taste repellent enough that she's leave the area alone, but I still catch her licking it. Perhaps the ACV will help her a bit from the inside.
Has anyone here had any success with a cone called Contech ProCone? I just purchased a size Small one on ebay.
Amber Killinger (author) on June 26, 2014:
I'm happy to say that Miss Kitty has not had any recurrences of hot spots since I wrote this article. So happy!!
Amber Killinger (author) on November 01, 2013:
When this first happened I switched cat food to a grain-free and kept her (and all my kitties) on that since then.
It's been a year and a half since I posted this article and luckily Miss Kitty has not has any recurrences of hot spots. Yay!
Heather Lear from Tampa, Florida on September 20, 2012:
My cat Semi is dealing with this as we speak, I don't like the comfy cone pet E-collar. He is very uncomfortable and is unable to eat or drink in it, I have to take it off constantly to get him to eat and drink. I did use the other soft collar, I must have had the wrong size because he was able to push it down and get to his wound. I will do that and get the hot-spot spray for him. Steroids don't work good with him because he is Diabetic. My poor old kitty. I am so happy about this post, I was starting to lose it mentally.
Angie Horn on July 06, 2012:
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! That article on hot spot on cats was very helpful.
Ruth McCollum from Lake Oswego, Oregon on May 01, 2012:
I have a cat, that I battle hot spots with badly. I have to take him for cortisone shots, which I must say helps a great deal.AS YOU SAID, THERE ARE RISKS.Changing their diet gradually is also recommended by my vet. Flea control is a major help too. Great Hub, Great info.Learned some new things I didn't know.Wonderful job!
Mel on February 06, 2012:
Thank you for sharing your cat's experience with hotspots (with pictures!!!!!)
I just found out a lesion with hard crusts hanging on top of the lesion under my cat's arm.... she wouldn't stop licking it and it's bleeding and oozing out clear liquid...
Bringing her to the vet later and hopefully she won't be given cortisone as it sounds quite scary...
Thanks for sharing again!
Hot Spots on Dogs
Hotspots on dogs are frustrating, irritating skin lesions that among other things are characterized by intense itching and licking of the skin. Below are common questions that dog owners ask about hot spots on dogs.
What Are Hotspots?
According to Dr. Henry Cerny, DVM, MS of Yankee Hill Veterinary Hospital, hotspots are a condition involving an area of the skin which has become inflamed and infected. Also known as superficial canine pyoderma or acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are seen and localized reddish sores. The skin appears red and moist. Sometimes it may ooze and can be very painful.
Hotspots are characterized by intense itching, biting and continued licking making the condition even worse. Sometimes, hair loss may be seen.
Hotspots can occur anywhere on the body such as the head, chest, groins and the rear end. It is common to see this problem in dogs that are not groomed regularly and those who are exposed to wet conditions such as swimming and rain. Dogs with thick coats and those that are long haired are also commonly affected.
What Causes Hotspots on Dogs
While most people generalize that hotspots are caused by bacterial infections, it is actually anything that irritates the skin and causes itching that leads to their development. Skin irritation causes your dog to scratch and licks the skin making it red and inflamed.
Bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus takes advantage of the broken skin developing into an infection with oozing and painful wounds. Wet skin from continuous licking and oozing makes the skin a good breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria which makes it even hard to deal with the problem.
Common things that trigger itchy skin include
- Food allergies
- Allergies to grass, weeds and dust mites
- Fleas, ticks or mosquito bites
- Poor grooming
- Conditions such as hip dysplasia and anal gland disease
Also known as summer sores, as the name suggests, hotspots are said to be less common in cold temperatures and may only a problem during the hot seasons.
Are Hotspots on Dogs Contagious?
It is common to have people worry whether canine hot spots are contagious to other dogs or humans. While they can rise fast and dramatically spread on the dog’s body, hot spots are not contagious to humans or other dogs.
While bacterial hotspots are not contagious, those that are caused by scabies and fungal infections can spread to humans and other dogs in contact. Skin conditions such ringworms are also contagious.
The only way to tell whether hotspots on your dog are bacterial or fungal is by having a vet run a culture of the skin scraping to rule hotspots that can be contagious.
Will Hotspots on Dogs Go Away?
Hotspots can be easy to manage depending on how far they’ve spread and where they are located. The goal is to treat bacterial infection and relieve itching. Removing the underlying triggers makes sure that your dog stops itching making the infection even worse.
Do Hotspots on Dogs Bleed?
Bleeding is quite common due to extensive scratching and biting on the already broken skin. The infection is may grow deep into the dog’s skin. In addition to oozing pus, there may be bleeding.
Do Hotspots on Dogs Smell?
Open, wet skin and the presence of infection-causing bacteria may also cause the skin to smell. Once they start to ooze pus, hot spots can have a very foul smell.
Treating and Preventing Hot Spots on Dogs
Hot spots are one of the most common skin conditions in dogs, particularly in the summer months. These painful, oozing sores can appear seemingly out of nowhere and often spread rapidly. While hot spots are frustrating to deal with, they can be treated and even prevented with the right management.
What Are Hot Spots?
Also known as acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are localized areas of skin inflammation and bacterial infection. Often a hot spot will begin as a small red area that owners may mistake for an insect bite. Unlike an insect bite, a hot spot will rapidly worsen and spread, developing into a hot, red, oozing, and painful lesion.
What Causes Hot Spots?
Hot spots are often triggered by scratching, licking, or chewing the affected area. The resulting trauma to the skin causes inflammation and secondary bacterial infections. Unfortunately, this self-trauma only makes the area more itchy, which causes a self-perpetuating cycle of itching and scratching. Thus, any condition that causes your dog to feel itchy has the potential to result in a hot spot. Common causes of the itching/scratching cycle in dogs include:
- Flea allergy dermatitis
- Food allergies
- Atopic dermatitis
- Ear or skin infections
- Anal sac disease
- Contact irritants
- Stress or boredom resulting in excessive licking
- Coat that is dirty or matted
- Moisture trapped in the coat from swimming or bathing
Many of these conditions are chronic problems that can lead to recurring hot spots if they are not appropriately managed. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause for your dog’s hot spot is one of the most important factors in preventing future skin problems.
Some breeds such as Golden Retrievers, St. Bernards, German Shepherds, Labradors, and Rottweilers are predisposed to developing hot spots due to their thicker coats. Hot spots are also more likely to occur during warm weather and periods of high humidity. Dogs that are frequently wet from swimming, bathing, or inclement weather are more prone to developing hot spots due to the excess moisture held against the skin by their coats.
Symptoms of Hot Spots
Many skin conditions have similar symptoms, so it is important to consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog. Hot spots are typically well-defined areas of redness, swelling, and hair loss. They can occur anywhere, but are most commonly seen on the head, limbs, and hips. The affected area is moist and may discharge pus or fluid, which can lead to crusting and matting of the surrounding hair. Hot spots are painful and very itchy, and will rapidly grow as the dog’s scratching continues to traumatize the area.
Treatment for Hot Spots
If you suspect your dog may have a hot spot, the first step is a visit to your veterinarian. While it may be tempting to wait for the hot spot to resolve on its own, delaying treatment will only make the problem worse. In order to treat the hot spot effectively and prevent it from recurring, your veterinarian will need to determine the underlying cause. They will perform a full physical examination on your dog, and may recommend additional testing such as a skin scrape to look for parasites. Once the underlying cause of your dog’s itching has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate treatment.
Treatment of hot spots typically involves some combination of the following:
- Clipping the hair around the area to prevent matting.
- Cleaning the affected area with gentle antiseptic solutions such as chlorhexidine.
- Prescribing topical or oral antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections.
- Prescribing topical or oral steroids to control inflammation and decrease itching.
- Using medicated wipes or solutions to gently clean the area daily.
- Applying an Elizabethan collar (e-collar or “cone”) to prevent continued scratching.
Fortunately, once your veterinarian has initiated treatment for the hot spot, most dogs improve rapidly. In many cases, the hot spot resolves in as little as 3–7 days after the start of treatment.
Preventing Hot Spots
The best way to prevent additional hot spots from occurring is to identify and address the underlying cause of your dog’s itching. Good parasite prevention, treatment of skin infections, and management of allergies are essential to stop scratching and prevent trauma to the skin. Good hygiene and routine grooming can also help. For dogs that swim or bathe frequently, it is also important to ensure their coats are thoroughly dried after these activities.
If your dog is licking due to stress or boredom, increasing daily exercise and active play time can alleviate this problem. Using environmental enrichment such as puzzle toys or slow feeders is a great way to keep dogs mentally stimulated, even if you can’t be there to play with them. Your dog will love the additional activity and will be healthier too.
Supplementing fatty acids is another option to prevent and manage skin disease. Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are found in fish oil. These fatty acids not only have anti-inflammatory properties, but also help promote a healthy skin barrier, making your dog less susceptible to allergens and infection. Topical aloe vera may also help soothe damaged skin and decrease itching, but it is important to ensure your dog does not ingest the aloe, which can result in vomiting and diarrhea.
Hot spots are an itchy and painful problem for your dog, and may become a recurring issue if the underlying condition is not addressed. Fortunately, with good management, your dog’s hot spot will resolve quickly and will not result in any permanent damage.
For your dog’s health, it is important to address skin issues both topically and internally. NaturVet Aller-911 Allergy Aid Soft Chews provide a source of natural antioxidants to support a healthy immune system, while the synergistic blend of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA help maintain proper skin moisture and respiratory health. When hot spots do occur, NaturVet Aller-911 Hot Spot Foam with Aloe Vera quickly helps soothe itchy, irritated skin on contact and the added bittering agent stops self-trauma by deterring licking and chewing. With these tools, your dog’s hot spots will hopefully be a thing of the past.
5 Tips for Getting Rid of Hot Spots on Dogs
Hot spots cause your dog to lick and itch on a certain area often, sometimes to the point of rawness in order to ease their suffering. This problem is usually caused by fleas, ticks, bug bites, dust mites, dry skin or allergies, but it can be easily cured with the right information. The following article will share with you a number of ways to remedy hot spots on dogs.
1. Give It Access to Air
When your dogs have a hot spot, it can be made worse if the skin is not allowed to breathe due to long hair. The moist, red area needs to dry out in order for it to properly heal. If you notice your dog paying too much attention to a single area, look for a hot spot and determine its size. Use a pair of scissors to trim the hair over and around the irritated skin, trimming about an inch of extra space all the way around. This will prevent the hair from growing in too fast, giving the hot spot enough contact with air to dry out and heal.
2. Use Baby Shampoo
Dog's skin is sensitive to certain chemicals and fibers. Baby shampoo is specially formulated to protect the skin, which means that the shampoo is incredibly mild. Hot spots on dogs can be soothed by dabbing baby shampoo onto the area using a cotton ball. Massage the hot spot carefully with the shampoo. Do not rinse afterward, as the shampoo needs to be absorbed by the skin in order to facilitate healing and cool the irritation.
3. Try Cortisone Spray
Hot spots on dogs are warm to the touch and tender but a dog’s skin is sensitive to many lotions and creams. Cortisone spray cools the hot spot as it acts as medication. This will prevent the dog from wanting to scratch the area.
4. Prevent Your Dog From Licking with a Funnel Collar
The natural instinct of your dog is to scratch or lick damaged skin. Your dog doesn’t know better but this will cause the hot spot to become increasingly worse. A funnel collar goes around the neck and extends past the head of the dog to prevent them from further injuring themselves. These are relatively inexpensive and they can be bought from your vet or from most pet stores. Be sure you get the right size for your dog so it is not too loose or too tight.
5. Soak the Spot with a Tea Bag Cure
Tea contains a chemical called tannic acid, which has the ability to draw out infections. The highest quantity of tannic acid is found in black and green tea. So steep one tea bag of either of these kinds in a cup of water and then remove it. Allow the tea bag to cool down for a few minutes then let it sit directly on the hot spot. Repeat a few times during the day for about a week and the irritation should heal.
How to Detangle Cat Fur
Last Updated: March 29, 2019 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
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Cats have earned a reputation as effective self-groomers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need your help in staying clean and healthy. Old, infirm, overweight, and long-haired cats in particular are more susceptible to tangled fur, which can become clumped mats or knotted dreadlocks. These tangles are not only unsightly, they can also cause discomfort, facilitate skin disorders, or harbor worms, mites, or other pests. While preventing tangles through regular brushing and examinations is the best way to go, there are options for removing matted fur at home. If all else fails, or if you are unsure of your ability to remove the tangles safely, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian.