In Emergency medicine we don’t tend to see many acute dermatology cases.  Most skin issues can wait until the family veterinarian is available for treatment.  One exception is a nasty “hot spot”.  Hots spots can worsen dramatically in a few short hours and it is in the animals best interest to start treatment as soon as possible to control the infection and manage the pain and irritation.

What are hot spots?
A hot spot is a localized area of skin irritation and infection.  Hot spots can appear on any area of an animal’s body, but are frequently found around the neck and ears or hind end of an animal.  Hot spots are often referred to as pyotraumatic dermatitis which is a self traumatic condition where your dog or cat may be contributing to the actual development.  There is often an underlying condition that needs to be treated in addition to the hot spot to decrease the possibility of reoccurrance.   Causes range from an allergic reaction to an insect bite to a bacterial skin infection, or an ear infection and even poor grooming habits.  Highly matted cats are more likely to get a hot spot that can become seriously infected before being detected.

Treatment usually involves shaving the hair around the area and applying an antiseptic solution.  In severe cases removal of the infected skin, also known as debridement, may be necessary to allow the underlying tissue to heal.  Depending on the depth of the affected tissue special bandaging may be used to encourage regrowth of healthy tissue. Steroids and/or anti-inflammatory medications can be taken orally or applied topically to provide relief from the pain and swelling. Antibiotics are prescribed for up to three weeks to treat the bacterial infection.  Whatever form of treatment prescribed, you will want to accompany it with an Elizabethan collar if the lesions are anywhere near the head or the neck to prevent your cat from future self damage by biting or scratching themselves.

Warm, moist environments tend to increase the likelihood of your pet starting a hot spot.  Be sure to keep “Lucky” brushed and mat free and start treatment right away if you see a hot spot forming on your pet.