As you feed your cat dinner, you notice a red patch of missing fur around the base of its tail. It wasn’t there this morning when you fed it breakfast. What happened?
A hot spot, or pyotraumatic dermatitis, is a painful area of inflamed skin where your pet has scratched, licked or chewed away the fur in an attempt to stop an itch. In just a few hours, a cat or dog can increase the size of a hot spot by several inches. Here are 5 things that you can do at home to help relieve the pain before visiting the vet.
1. Keep the area clean.
If it isn’t too uncomfortable for your pet, you may want to start with trimming the fur around the hot spot to make it easier to keep it clean. Gently wash the area with a mild, unscented soap and if you have it on hand, use a veterinary antiseptic to kill bacteria. Don’t use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide which can irritate the skin further.
2. Try hydrocortisone cream to ease the itching and inflammation.
Can you use hydrocortisone cream on dogs and cats? Yes. If you’ve got an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream (1% concentration) in your medicine cabinet, apply a thin layer to the hot spot to help soothe the skin. You can apply it up to twice a day.
3. Soothe the skin with vitamin E or aloe vera gel.
As an alternative to hydrocortisone, you can break open a capsule of vitamin E and apply it once or twice a day or look for a product meant for treating hot spots in pets that contains this vitamin. Unscented, alcohol-free aloe vera gel can also help speed healing.
4. Stop your pet from licking using a post-operative protection shirt.
A post-operative protection shirt for dogs and cats is helpful in preventing your pet from making the hot spot larger by licking and chewing it. Don’t try covering up the hot spot with a bandage or clothing as it needs to be exposed to air to help dry it out.
5. Get rid of any fleas.
Check your pet’s skin thoroughly for signs of flea bites. If your pet is overdue for a topical flea treatment, apply the usual prescribed amount between their shoulder blades to eliminate this frequent cause of itching and hot spots.
When to See the Vet
Hot spots may start out as a small problem, but they can quickly grow into large and painful patches. Visit your veterinarian if the condition worsens, doesn’t resolve after a few days, or your pet is really uncomfortable. Itchy skin that becomes a hot spot may also be due to seasonal or year-round allergens, or an allergic reaction caused by your pet’s diet. If repeated skin infections are seen, searching for underlying medical reason is always a good idea.
There are many conditions that may reduce a pet’s ability to fight skin infections. If your pet still gets hotspots frequently, you could ask your veterinarian for a topical spray to keep on hand and use at the earliest sign of it recurring. How do you prevent hot spots on dogs and cats? Damp skin is prone to infection, so you can help prevent recurrences by making sure your pet is dry after grooming, swimming or coming in from rainy days.
By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM
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Disclaimer: Our authors do not endorse any products or services that may have been mentioned. All advice presented is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.