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Cat Hot Spots: Causes & Treatment

Much like dogs, cats can develop hot spots. These are often triggered by a skin infection or other potential causes. Today, our Fort Worth vets explain what causes hot spots on cats, list symptoms of the condition, and discuss treatment options. 

What are hot spots on cats?

There is much information to be found online about hot spots on dogs. However, you might also wonder, "Can cats get hot spots?". The answer is 'yes' - and they are not uncommon for kitties. Acute moist dermatitis (also referred to as pyoderma or "hot spots") is one of the most common skin infections in cats. 

What are the symptoms of hot spots on cats?

You may notice hot spots on your cat's face, chin, belly, or the. base of the tail, though they can develop on any part of the body. 

A skin infection caused by a hot spot is initially itchy, inflamed and moist. It will typically cause the infected skin to become red and your cat may or may not lose hair. A pus then forms, causing the wound to become more wet. Moisture may get trapped in the repairing hair, leading to mats developing on top of the wound. 

Once the pus scabs over or dries, the damaged skin will stick to the infection site, resulting in a crusty, moist bed of infection that will likely grow very uncomfortable and even painful for your cat. The skin may also feel warm to the touch. 

Matted fur can often disguise how severely the underlying skin is affected. Your cat may bite, chew or scratch, causing the condition of the hot spot to deteriorate and become more uncomfortable. This is why it's important to bring your cat to a veterinarian for an exam and treatment as soon as possible. 

Why do cats get hot spots?

Numerous factors can contribute to the formation of hot spots on a cat's skin. These superficial skin lesions develop when a cat licks, bites, scratches, or chews on the skin's surface. While cats typically have some amount of fungus, bacteria, and yeast on their skin, a cat's actions can cause the skin to become irritated, which in turn triggers an overpopulation of bacteria, producing the ideal environment for an infection to develop. 

Hot spots are more common during the summer months when weather is hot and humid. However, this skin condition can occur year-round depending on the underlying cause. Bugs or allergies can trigger itchiness year-round, leading to hot spots. 

Long-haired cats and those with thicker, heavier coats may be more likely to develop hot spots since their saliva often gets trapped under the fur and may infect the skin, causing it to become itchy. Many types of Staphylococcus bacteria commonly present on a cat's skin. They can cause bacterial skin infection. Staph infections are not typically contagious in cats. 

Your cat's hot spots may be caused by a variety of inciting conditions, including:

  • Anxiety, stress, or behavioral issues that cause over-grooming
  • Pain due to injury, trauma, or disease that can cause your cat 
  • Fungal infections such as ringworm 
  • Bacterial infections 
  • Allergies to environmental triggers, pollen, or fleas
  • Parasites such as fleas, ants, ear mites, mosquitos, or skin mange

Generally, a wound or injury anywhere on the body can lead to hot spots, since your cat only needs to bite, chew, or scratch at the skin for a few minutes for normal bacteria to overpopulated and a skin infection to develop. 

How can a vet diagnose hot spots on my cat?

Your veterinarian can perform a physical examination and may run diagnostic tests to identify hot spots or other skin issues. They will likely review your cat's medical history for any previous hot spots and potential triggers. Your cat's breed, sex, age, known allergies, and the location of the hot spot(s) may also factor into the diagnosis. 

What are treatment options for cats with hot spots?

At A-Animal Clinic & Boarding Kennel, we understand that spotting hot spots or other acute skin conditions on your cat can be very concerning. Our veterinarians can provide dermatology services to help treat, manage, and prevent flare-ups of these conditions. Treatment for cats with hot spots is a multi-step process and options may vary depending on the condition's underlying cause. To treat the hot spot itself, your veterinarian will shave or cut the hair around the hot spot before cleaning the area thoroughly. 

We can conduct a preliminary exam of your pet (which may include asking you questions about your pup's current health status and history, including their exposure to allergens), then develop an individualized treatment plan to treat your pet's condition. 

The veterinarian may recommend these or other methods of managing your feline friend's condition depending on the cause of the hot spots: 

  • Allergy testing to confirm environmental or other allergens 
  • Vaccines to treat allergies
  • Changes to your cat's diet or environment
  • Prompt treatment of ear mites and/or ear infections
  • Taking appropriate measures to reduce your cat's stress 
  • Hypoallergenic shampoo and/or hydrating leave-in conditioner specially designed for cats
  • Immunotherapy treatment to desensitize your cat to specific allergens 
  • Antihistamines or other prescription-strength allergy medications

Your cat may also be fitted with an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from continuing to lick, scratch, bite or chew the area. 

While hot spots can be distressing for you and your cat, they are usually easy to treat but should be addressed as soon as possible to alleviate discomfort and prevent risk of more serious infection and health complications. 

If your pet's skin condition is severe or chronic, we may refer you to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist and work with them to ensure your pet receives the highest quality care possible. 

How can I prevent my cat from developing hot spots?

The best way to prevent hot spots from developing on your cat's skin is to avoid exposing them to potential triggers, such as infections and allergic reactions. Allergy testing may be recommended to help identify any allergies your pet may have. 

Our vets at A-Animal Clinic & Boarding Kennel are always available to answer any questions and concerns you may have about treatment or at-home care. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed symptoms of hot spots or other conditions on your cat's skin? Contact our Fort Worth vets and schedule an appointment today.

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We're accepting new patients at A-Animal Clinic & Boarding Kennel! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Fort Worth. Get in touch today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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