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Hot spots in dogs and cats

A hot spot is a common problem in dogs and cats. Frequent scratching at a specific area can cause a local inflammation of your pet’s skin. The underlying cause is often a health condition that is accompanied by a lot of itching. The hot spot itself also causes itching, which means your animal will keep scratching itself. This can quickly result in big, nasty skin spots.

Dog and cat lying down

Hot spot symptoms

  • Your dog or cat is itching frequently in one specific area
  • Occasionally your pet is not hungry and has fever
  • You can see a wet spot in your animal’s coat upon closer examination
  • After shaving off some hair, you will be able to see red skin that is covered with a yellow layer of pus. This is moist eczema that can form within a few hours after frequent scratching or licking a skin spot

How do hot spots in dogs and cats develop?

The cause of frequent licking and scratching is the uncontrollable itching sensation, also known as pruritus. This itching sensation can occur after flea and tick bites, mite infections, ear infections or ear mite infections.

Flea allergies

A dog that is oversensitive to flea bites (flea allergy) develops itchy bumps. Your dog will then bite, lick or scratch these lumps. This causes the skin to damage. A vicious circle develops: itching leads to scratching, which leads to further skin damage. This skin damage causes an even more itchy feeling (and leads to more scratching). Within a few hours, a wet damp area underneath the coat arises which shows all the characteristics of inflammation: the skin is red, warm, swollen and painful. Later on, a red and bald spot formed on the skin on which a layer of pus is formed. This can dry out to become a crust. The most common areas for hot spots are the hindquarters, crotch, base of the tail or on the thighs.

Ear infection

Furthermore, hot spots often occur in cats or dogs that have an itching sensation or pain in their ears. For example, due to an ear infection or ear mite infection. The hot spot is usually located under the ear on the cheek area. Often times, aside from the visible red (bald) spots, a large part of the contiguous skin is inflamed and infected as well. The extent and degree of inflammation of the skin can cause an ill and apathetic animal.

What to do in case of red spots in dogs or cats?

Identifying the underlying cause

If you discover a hot spot in your cat or dog, it is important to take immediate action. The coat should be shaved so that air is able to reach the affected area. This will also give you a better understanding of what is really going on beneath the coat. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to shave around the area of the hot spot, as this can be very sensitive. If this is the case, it is a good idea to consult a veterinary physician. If the cause of the itching is found, it should be treated accordingly.

Treatment of hot spots

The hot spot should be carefully shaved and washed. Afterwards, local treatment can provide relief. If it is still a starting hot spot that is not yet infected, you can treat it locally. It is important to clean the area several times a day (for example with Vetramil honey ointment) and to then treat it with Dermacool, Espree Hot Spot Foam or Dermiel Wound Ointment. However, if this does not work sufficiently, it is best to consult your veterinary physician. In some cases, the inflammation is so severe that the administration of an itch-inhibiting ointment, antibiotics and/or painkillers are necessary. Your veterinarian is able to advise you what to do.


The first days after treatment, it is important for the area to heal. Your dog or cat is not allowed to scratch or lick the area. A few items that can help are the Comfy Cone Collar or Medical Pet Shirt, available for dogs and cats.

How to prevent hot spots

Tick and flea prevention is not only important in spring and summer, but in winter as well! In dogs that swim regularly, the effect of flea repellents can be reduced. Does your dog swim often? Then it is advisable to treat your dog against fleas even more. A dog that swims a lot is also more likely to have ear infections. So check the ears regularly.

Pups and kittens are most likely to have ear mites. This can be determined by means of an ear examination by the vet. Do not treat your animal against ear mites without a check-up by your veterinary physician.

Do you have questions about hot spots or skin conditions in general? Please contact our veterinary physician by mail:

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