Hotspots in cats: What you should know
Hotspots are also known as acute moist dermatitis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. They are infected sores that occur mostly in warm, humid months. Like dogs, any cat is at risk of developing hotspots from excessive scratching, licking and biting which causes their skin to develop skin sores.
There are a few signs to be on the lookout for if you suspect your kitty has developed a hotspot:
- Excessive licking, biting or chewing at specific spots
- Hair loss or matted fur in the affected area
- Red, inflamed skin
- The formation of lesions or crusty sores
- Sores that ooze
- The affected area is usually warm to the touch
Any factor that makes your cat itchy can be a potential cause for hotspots. These include parasites, allergies, infections, and even warm weather.
Fleas are one of the most common causes of hotspots in cats. The itch that fleas produce causes cats to scratch and groom, sometimes to excess. Flea saliva also contains a protein that can cause an allergic reaction in your cat, further exacerbating the itching and scratching.
Ear mites and skin mites, mosquitoes, flies, and even ant bites can cause an itchy irritation. If your cat is prone to scratching and licking excessively, this can further aggravate the area and potentially turn into a hotspot.
Like humans, cats can develop seasonal allergies to pollen and grass. Other common allergies include cat food allergies, allergies to house dust and dust mites, and allergies to insect bites. In cats, these symptoms present as itchy skin, itchy and weepy eyes, and excessive scratching and licking.
Cats are not immune to picking up skin and ear infections. Yeast, Malassezia, is often associated with ear infections, as an overgrowth can lead to inflammation and subsequent itching. Ringworm is a common fungus that affects cats and is highly contagious and itchy.
Some other causes include psychological factors like boredom or anxiety that cause excessive grooming, pain, eczema, and contact with an irritant.
As mentioned above, any cat can develop hotspots, but certain risks increase your kitty’s chances of developing hotspots:
- Exposure to fleas
- A history of allergies
- Longer and thicker coats
- Depressed immune systems
If you think your cat has developed or is developing a hotspot, be sure to take them to the vet for a checkup. Hotspots can usually be diagnosed with a physical exam, and your vet will be able to prescribe the necessary medication to assist with clearing it up. It is important to identify the underlying cause, whether it be fleas, allergies, or parasites. These underlying causes will also need to be addressed to prevent future hotspots from developing.
Treatment usually looks like this:
- The matted fur is shaved off so that the extent of the lesion can be seen.
- The affected area is cleaned with an antibacterial. We recommend VetMed Wound and Skin Care as it kills microbes like bacteria and fungi, fights infection, and encourages healing.
- The itch is treated, usually with a cortisone injection. Fortunately, cortisone injections are well-tolerated by cats as they usually do not have the same negative side effects experienced by people and dogs.
- The skin infection is treated. Antifungals will be prescribed in the case of fungal infections such as ringworm. Similarly, oral medications, shampoo, or other topical medications may be necessary in the case of yeast or bacterial infections.
- Your kitty may need pain relief from the inflamed area. A cold compress can be put on the area, and VetMed Wound and Skin Care liquid can also be applied to help with pain relief.
- Your cat should be fitted with an Elizabethan collar or cone to stop them from further licking, biting and chewing the treated area.
It is very important that you address the underlying cause of hotspots to stop it from recurring. While hotspots are not contagious, certain parasites like fleas, ringworm, and mites can spread from cat to cat. Unfortunately, this can cause a recurrence in a cat that has already been treated for hotspots.
Parasite preventatives are also highly recommended to stop the spread of ear and skin mites, ticks, and fleas. Be sure to treat all pets in your household at the same time, and wash bedding and toys as well.
In older pets, hotspots may be a result of arthritis or joint pain, and your vet may prescribe pain medication to help ease your cat’s pain. There are environmental modifications that you can make as well to help your elderly cat, such as providing them with a heated sleeping area in colder months and getting a litter box with lowered sides.
If your pet is suffering from hotspots due to food allergies, changing their diet to eliminate these ingredients that cause the allergic reaction may help. Environmental allergies may be more difficult to pinpoint, and your vet may recommend allergy skin testing. In this case, your vet may prescribe shampoo, immunotherapy, and antihistamines. In the case of severe allergy symptoms, your vet may prescribe other medication like steroids.
Finally, you should ensure that your cat’s grooming needs are met. Regularly brush your cat, especially if they have lock or thick fur. Likewise, a regular grooming routine helps to minimise hairballs and will help you notice if your cat is suffering from a hotspot.
So although hotspots themselves are not life threatening, they may indicate that your cat is dealing with some other underlying issues that need attention. If you think your cat is suffering from hotspots, be sure to consult a vet for further analysis.
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