Hot Spots on Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/20/20242-4 minutes

As a cat owner, you want your cat to be happy, healthy and comfortable at all times, so seeing them itching and scratching is worrisome for you, and not much fun for your cat. These are some of the symptoms of what might be acute moist dermatitis or a “hot spot” as it’s more commonly known.

When it comes to skin/dermatologic problems in cats, hot spots aren’t uncommon. Because they can get infected quickly, it’s important to work with your veterinarian as soon as you notice it. They can treat the hot spot(s) and address the underlying cause.

How Can Cats Get Hot Spots?

Just like dogs, cats can get hot spots. If your cat shows signs of skin trauma and hair loss due to excessive scratching, itching and biting, they may have pyotraumatic dermatitis, or hot spots.

Hot spots on cats can result from several underlying causes, so it’s essential to see your veterinarian right away. This ensures they get a proper diagnosis and treatment and keeps the affected area contained. Though the cause of your cat’s hot spots may be a minor health concern, they can cause great discomfort and can become infected if not treated quickly.

What Are the Signs of Hot Spots?

In some cases, hot spots may begin as a small, swollen area similar to an insect bite. In a matter of hours, however, the hot spot area can become more prominent and turn into a painful lesion that can lead to an infection. Symptoms can develop quickly and may include:

  • Red, hairless patches of skin, most commonly found on the head, thigh, belly or neck
  • Lesions that are warm to the touch
  • Matted hair
  • Oozing, open sores
  • Crusty skin
  • Sensitive, painful skin in the affected area

What Causes Hot Spots on Cats?

Seeing a hot spot on your cat can be alarming, and they are caused by cats reacting to skin irritation. This irritation can be the result of:

  • Skin conditions, such as skin allergies (atopic dermatitis) or food allergies
  • Parasites like fleas and mites
  • Fungal infections like ringworm
  • Bacterial infections
  • Excessive grooming
  • Stress

How Are Hot Spots Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will do a physical examination, may run diagnostic tests and review their medical history for any previous hot spots. Your cat’s age, breed and sex, known allergies, and the hot spot location may also be factors in their diagnosis.

Cat Hot Spot Treatment

Treatment for cats with hot spots is a multi-step process, some of which depends on the underlying cause. To treat the hot spot itself, your veterinarian will shave or cut the hair around the hot spot, then thoroughly clean the area.

Treatment may include oral medications, topical treatments, shampoos or injections and your cat may also be fitted with an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from continued scratching or biting in the area.

Though distressing for you and your cat, hot spots are usually easy to treat. As with any health concern, the first step to ensure your cat’s well-being is a call to your veterinarian. With the proper treatment and some love, your feline companion should be on the mend in no time.

For more tips on cat and kitten health, hear from our experts, or visit our Pet Expertise page.

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