Does Your Pet Have a Hot Spot?

Have you ever noticed your pet excessively licking, biting, or scratching a specific area on their body? This behavior can lead to an infection in the upper layer of the skin otherwise known as pyotraumatic dermatitis, or a “hot spot.”

Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained what commonly causes these areas of raw, red skin.

“Hot spots are typically caused by an inflammatory insult, including allergies, insect bites, or other causes of itch in dogs and cats,” Diesel said. “We most commonly see hot spots on the back or rump of dogs due to flea-allergy dermatitis and behind the ears, due to underlying and unaddressed ear infections.”

While hot spots can occur in just about any breed of dog or cat, dogs with longer hair coats seem to be more prone to this skin condition, especially during warmer months, when it is humid.

To keep your pet’s itching and scratching from causing an even deeper skin infection, Diesel said it is best to have a hot spot evaluated by a veterinarian right away.

“Treatment often relies on breaking the itch-scratch cycle, addressing the infection, and keeping the pet from further traumatizing the wound,” Diesel said. “This may involve a combination of anti-inflammatory medications, topical antiseptics, and a local treatment for the wound. In addition, some sort of mechanical barrier, such as an e-collar or T-shirt, can help stop the pet from causing a deeper infection.”

While there is a possibility that hot spots will recur, the best chance for prevention is to address the underlying cause.

“This would include consistent flea prevention, treatment of ear infections, and identifying and managing allergies under the direction of a veterinarian,” Diesel said.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.