Hot Spots on Dogs and Cats

Hot Spots on Dogs and Cats
expert or vet photo
vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

A hot spot is a painful skin infection that can really make your pet miserable. Luckily, they are completely preventable. Find out what you need to know to protect your pet.

A hot spot is one of the most painful skin infections that your pet can suffer. Characterized by red, swollen patches of skin that ooze, give off a strong odor, and become hairless, hot spots can occur anywhere on your pet’s body and often appear in multiples.These painful infections are caused when your pet engages in excessive licking, chewing, or scratching to try to soothe areas of skin that are irritated by fleas, mites, or other skin parasites, improper grooming, skin allergies, internal infections, or stress. Most hot spots are treated with topical creams and/or oral antibiotics, and you can take preventative measures to keep your pet from suffering from hot spots in the future.

Hot spots form when your pet excessively licks, chews, or scratches their skin in order to soothe an area that is bothering them. Breeds with long or thick coats are more likely to get hot spots, as dense clumps of moist hair stick close to the skin before shedding, creating the perfect hot and wet environment for an irritating infection to form. Improper or neglected grooming only makes these environments worse, and can be a factor in causing hot spots on all breeds, not just those with heavy coats. Other factors that may initiate hot spots include skin allergies, mites, fleas, and other skin parasites, internal infections, and stress. Additionally, dogs who swim a lot are more prone to hot spots.

Hot spots are easily identifiable, manifesting as red, swollen, circular patches of skin usually 1 to 4 inches across. These spots often seem to appear out of nowhere, and can grow rapidly in size in a short amount of time. Hair loss is typical on and around the hot spot, as is a foul smelling odor and oozing pus. If you see that your pet is obsessively licking, chewing, or scratching any part of their body, take a look -- they may be developing a hot spot or worsening an already existing one.

Hot Spot Treatment for Dogs and Cats

If your pet has a hot spot, chances are it will not go away without treatment. Because hot spots are so painful, many animals need to be sedated or anesthetized before any treatment can be enacted. Treatment generally consists of clipping the area of surrounding hairs, washing your pet with a gentle cleanser, then applying a topical cream or powder as prescribed by your veterinarian. Depending on the severity of the infection, oral antibiotics may also be administered. Some home remedies - such as compresses and over-the-counter products - may also be used to treat hot spots, but consult with your veterinarian first.

Your pet’s hot spot will not heal if they continue to lick, chew, or scratch the area, so an Elizabethan or Bite Not collar can be used to keep your pet from engaging in these harmful behaviors. You can help prevent your pet from getting hot spots in the future by keeping them properly groomed (especially in hot weather), providing plenty of drinking water to eliminate toxins, and treating any underlying conditions such as insect infestations, skin allergies, or internal infections that may be causing your pet’s skin to become irritated.

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.

Was this article helpful?
Skin Allergies Hot Spots

You May Also Like

Image for Dog and Cat Dermatitis: Itchy Skin in Pets
Dog and Cat Dermatitis: Itchy Skin in Pets

Diagnosing and Treating Your Pet's Itchy Skin

Read More
Image for Ringworm in Pets
Ringworm in Pets

Hot to Spot and Treat Ringworm Skin Infections

Read More