Should I use flea medicine if my dog had a hot spot?

My five-year-old Golden Retriever, Sunny, was treated yesterday for a hot spot. The vet recommended that I start using Frontline. Sunny doesn't have fleas, so...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Aug 11th 2006


Is Flea Medicine Compatible With Irritated Skin?

My five-year-old Golden Retriever, Sunny, was treated yesterday for a hot spot. The vet recommended that I start using Frontline. Sunny doesn’t have fleas, so I don’t think he needs flea medicine. What do you think?

Ernest
Walnut Creek, CA

Hot spots are painful skin infections that typically occur in response to skin irritation. In areas where fleas are present, the leading cause of skin irritation is fleas. So I think your vet was right. You should use Frontline (or Advantage).

Even though Sunny doesn’t have fleas, they may still be contributing to his problems. Here is an analogy. A few weeks ago, we had a heat wave in San Francisco. One night, I slept with the window open, which is the closest thing to air conditioning available in San Francisco. Mosquitoes flew in through the open window, and I was bitten several times.

Five days later, I was still scratching my mosquito bites. I did not “have” mosquitoes. Nonetheless, mosquitoes were the source of my skin irritation. The same thing can happen with dogs (and cats) and fleas.

Fleas are not a contagious phenomenon. Sunny does not have to encounter an infested dog to be bitten. In endemic areas, fleas are ubiquitous. Sunny can be bitten any time he is outside. And those bites can lead to all kinds of problems, including hot spots.

Fleas also are very mobile creatures. I once treated a flea infestation in an indoor only cat that lived on the 18th floor of a downtown high rise. The fleas came in through the lobby, rode up the elevator, hopped down the hall, and climbed onto the cat. And the cat was miserable.

I recommend good flea control for Sunny, and for any pet suffering skin problems.