Of course we want what is best for our pets, but this does not mean that we are willing, or financially able, to rush them to the vet’s office every single time something small comes up. Pet hot spots can seem like a perfect example of “something small” that most pet owners feel they should be able to treat at home. However, they can quickly flare out of control if not addressed and treated properly. It is therefore helpful to understand what types of hot spot issues can be successfully handled at home, and at what point a trip to the vet’s office is necessary.

What Are Hot Spots on Pets

When the surface of a pet’s skin is superficially damaged in some way, normal skin bacteria irritates the area and creates an infection that is known as a hot spot. Superficial skin damage most often occurs when the pet chews, scratches or licks at his skin excessively. Unfortunately, while a hot spot is usually very minimal to begin with and is marked only by moist, red, itchy skin, it can quickly become a major issue. The infected skin can begin to ooze, and over time pus can dry on the surface of the skin, forming hard patches over which no hair will grow. A hot spot is normally very painful, even when very gently touched.

A pet’s normal response to hot spots is to lick and chew at the area, which obviously exacerbates the condition. Fortunately, most hot spots can be resolved fairly easily at home. To that end, consider the following points:

  • Hot spots can result from chewing or licking at the skin in response to insect bites, skin allergies, excessive humidity that results in excessive skin moisture, heavy or dense coats, matted coats, skin scrapes, and even just boredom.
  • The location of the hot spot can help in determining its cause. For example, a hot spot that develops in the hip area may be the result of insect bites, arthritis or even an anal gland infection.
  • A hot spot that is small and not yet painful can usually be treated easily and effectively at home. This is done by eliminating the pet’s ability to access the hot spot (usually through the use of an Elizabethan collar), carefully clipping away the fur around the area with grooming clippers, applying a warm, wet compress to the area three times every day for five to ten minutes each time, and then allowing the area to dry before applying a veterinary-approved ointment to the area. You should never cover the area with any sort of bandage, as this will keep it warm and moist and slow the healing process. You should also address the underlying cause so that hot spots do not continue to be an issue.

Any hot spot that is large, extremely irritated, and clearly painful must be treated at the vet’s office. Even when the hot spot is small and easily treatable at home, it is a very good idea to consult with your pet’s veterinarian in order to ensure that every possible precaution is being taken. The veterinarian will help to confirm the cause of the hot spot so that it can be addressed and resolved in order to prevent further hot spots in the future. Some other pet hot spot prevention tips include:

  • Adequate pest control. Your pet should be treated with veterinary-approved flea and tick prevention products.
  • Regular grooming. Especially during the summer and especially on thicker and longer-coated animals, regular grooming is a must.
  • Coat drying. Your pet’s coat needs to be kept as dry as possible in hot, humid weather and after they have been bathed or have gotten wet.
  • Stress and boredom reduction. A pet that receives plenty of exercise and playful stimulation is less likely to bite, chew, and scratch at their coat.
  • Regular vet check-ups. Since hot spots sometimes occur as a result of an underlying health condition, such as allergies, it is important to have your pet receive regular vet check-ups. These check-ups can help to determine health issues early on so that they can be successfully treated before they create problems.