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5 Things to Know about Dog and Cat Hot Spots

Caring for Your Pet's Skin Health

By Meredith Alling. June 22, 2012 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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5 Things to Know about Dog and Cat Hot Spots

Check out these top 5 facts on hot spots in order to prevent your pet from suffering from this extremely painful skin infection.

Hot spots are painful skin infections caused when pets excessively lick, bite, or scratch their skin in order to soothe an underlying condition. Marked by red, swollen patches of skin that ooze and give off a foul odor, hot spots can appear anywhere on your pet’s body and become worse if left untreated. Here are five facts to consider when looking to treat and prevent hot spots:

1. Locate the Source

Hot spots are caused when your pet excessively licks, bites, or scratches their skin. If your pet is engaging in these behaviors, chances are there is an underlying condition that is causing them to do so. Once you identify the source of the itching and irritation, you and your veterinarian can treat the hot spot infection as well as the underlying cause, and hopefully keep your pet from getting hot spots again in the future. Common underlying causes include skin allergies, fleas, mites, or other parasites, long coats paired with negligent grooming, internal infections (such as ear or anal gland), and stress.

2. A Sudden Infection

Many owners are surprised when they first see a red, swollen patch of skin on their pet. Hot spots can seem to appear out of nowhere, and in a short amount of time the affected area can grow from just a dot to several inches across. The sooner that you identify a hot spot on your pet, the easier treatment will be and the less your pet will suffer. Always take note of any unusual licking or scratching as it may signal the beginning stages of a hot spot or alert you to a hot spot that is hidden by long hairs. 

3. Persistent Pain

A hot spot is one of the most painful skin infections that your pet can suffer. The constant licking, biting, and scratching that causes and perpetuates a hot spot happens because your pet is trying to soothe the agonizing irritation. It’s not uncommon for a pet with a hot spot to become aggressive or run away if you try to touch them, so be careful in how you approach and avoid contact if possible. If your pet’s hot spot is particularly painful, your veterinarian may recommend an office visit so that your pet can be sedated or anesthetized before they are bathed. Your veterinarian may also prescribe a topical treatment that will not only fight the infection, but also help to soothe the pain and the itching. Cool compresses or those that contain tea (which is recommended for its drying properties) are also sometimes suggested to soothe the pain, but ask your veterinarian about the best way to utilize compresses on your pet’s particular hot spot. Remember that your pet cannot get rid of this painful infection on their own, and it is up to the owner to identify and treat the problem.

4. Who is most susceptible to hot spots?

Pets with long hair or heavy coats are most likely to get hot spots, especially in warmer months and before they are about to shed. This is because long and thick hairs can become matted and stuck to the surface of your pet’s skin, creating the perfect conditions for a skin infection to form. Owners of pets with long hair or heavy coats should pay special attention to grooming to prevent hot spot development. Bathe your pet regularly and always dry their coat completely - bacteria thrives in wet environments. Regular brushing is also helpful in keeping hair from becoming matted. While animals with heavy coats are most likely to get hot spots, any animal is susceptible so all owners should practice proper grooming and care.

Pets who swim a lot are also more susceptible to hot spots, so be extra careful if your pet likes to take a dip from time to time.

5. Ask a Professional

Many owners attempt to treat their pet’s hot spots at home without first consulting their veterinarian. As with any health condition, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian first to discuss the best course of action. While treating the infection at home may work for some pets, others may require sedation or anesthetization before bathing as well as prescription topical or oral antibiotics. Talk to your veterinarian to ensure that your pet is receiving the least painful and most effective treatment.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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