This week’s reader Q & A by vet and feline specialist Dr. Rich Goldstein is about hot spots and no, we don’t mean Miami, Maui or Mexico.
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Question: My seven-year-old male Persian has a small oozing hotspot on the back of his head; I suspect from a nick the last time he was groomed. Can you recommend any natural treatments? He’s had them before in the summer but never in the winter. What else might have caused it? He was wearing a new collar but I removed it. Thanks for your help!
Answer: It used to be that when you used the term “hot spot”, everyone knew you were talking about a sore on your dog or cat. Just for “fun”, I googled “hot spot” , and was well into page 4 before the word “sore” even appeared. My, how times have changed! Hot spots in cats may not be as interesting as the “local hot spot”, or a “volcanic hot spot”, or a Starbucks wifi hot spot, but they can certainly be more important!
“Hot spots”, also known as “acute moist dermatitis”, are reddened, moist, highly irritated skin lesions. They are usually itchy, and can progress very rapidly to become painful and infected. Many causes can contribute to the formation of a hot spot, including allergic reactions, insect or flea or animal bites, ear infections or ear mites, fungal infections (ringworm), skin masses, stress or boredom, and “grooming accidents.”
- Once a hot spot is detected, it’s important to jump on it early so that it doesn’t progress to a painful, infected mess.
- Here are a few tips:
- Clean the affected area with a non-irritating disinfecting solution. Notice how I said, “non-irritating.” That means no alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. I know, Grandma always said, “just put a little peroxide on it”. But that’s not always the best thing to use. Ever notice what happens when you put peroxide on a wound? It bubbles! Those bubbles can cause damage to the healthy skin and underlying tissue. And alcohol stings! Better to use something like sterile saline, or a very dilute solution of betadine (diluted to the color of weak tea), which are readily available at your local pharmacy.
- If possible, clip away some of the surrounding hair to help keep the wound clean. A grooming clipper works best. Sometimes using just a pair of blunt scissors to shorten some of the surrounding hair will be enough to help. It goes without saying that extreme caution needs to be exercised so that you don’cut the skin, especially if your kitty gets scared or the hair is matted.
The use of topical treatments in cats can be tricky. Some cats that are fastidious groomers will lick or clean off topical creams and ointments, many of which can be toxic. This toxic list can include not only medications, but homeopathic and natural remedies as well. Some topical treatments can also cause skin irritation.
In addition to peroxide and alcohol, here are some topicals to avoid in cats:
o Zinc oxide (Desitin, and other skin protectants) – can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested
o Cortisone creams – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and increased drinking and urination
o Antibiotic Ointments (Neosporin, Bacitracin) – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain,
o Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca) – can cause weakness, muscle tremors, depression, balance loss
o Salicylate-containing creams (in the aspirin family) – can cause depression, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ulcers
o Any product that says “harmful if ingested” or “may cause skin irritation”.
- One topical product that is reported to be non-toxic and non-irritating is Vetericyn. This product contains very dilute amounts of compounds found in the bleach family (I know I don’t have to say it, but I will: DO NOT — USE BLEACH ON YOUR CAT!). It has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, and can reduce inflammation, pain and itching. (Domino will tell you it works like a charm!). It is available online and in some pet shops. Look for potential underlying causes of a hot spot, including fleas and ear infections, which may require additional treatment.
- Look for potential underlying causes of a hot spot, including fleas and ear infections, which may require additional treatment.
If the wound is deep, infected, not responding to your first aid treatment, or if you are at all unsure what happened, it’s best to have your vet take a look. Sometimes “simple” wounds are not as “simple” as they appear.
Now that your cat’s hot spot is under control, you can head out to your local hot spot, which can be found using your wifi hot spot. Good luck!