Has your dog been scratching too much lately? Are you seeing raw red spots or oozing sores on your dog’s body? Your dog could have hot spots.
A hot spot is a condition in which the skin suddenly develops red, swelling sores that spread very fast across your dog’s body. With proper care and remedy, you can treat your dog’s hot spots at home and prevent them from coming back again.
What are hot spots?
Hot spots are associated with the following symptoms:
- hair loss,
- pus, and/or,
However, your dog can develop many skin conditions, a great number of which have the same symptoms as hot spots. So, your first step should be to consult your veterinarian. With your vet’s help, you can find out if your dog’s condition is hot spots or some other one that needs as much attention, but a different remedy.
Hot spots are also known as moist dermatitis or summer sores because they usually occur during summer.
Dogs with long or thick fur like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Rottweilers, and St. Bernards are usually prone to getting hot spots because their fur can very easily trap dirt onto their skin.
The spots can develop anywhere on a dog’s body. A spot, however, usually starts in the head, leg, or groin area.
Hot spots can be very itchy and painful. But the more your dog scratches, licks, or chews the spots, the worse these will get and the faster they will spread.
What causes hot spots on dog?
Although hot spots seem to appear on your dog’s body out of nowhere, the main culprit for the condition is bacteria. Investigating your dog’s daily activities and surroundings could help you pinpoint the source of the bacteria. Use the following questions as a guide in your investigation:
- Did an insect or flea bite your dog?
- Is your dog’s fur so matted that it traps dirt on the skin?
- Is your dog having an allergic reaction to a new food or something she or he picked up during your walk?
- Are there allergens like pollen or mold where you take your walks?
- Did your dog splash around in dirty water?
- Did your dog go swimming recently and her or his fur was not properly dried?
- Does your dog have an underlying illness or disease that you don’t know about, like ear infections?
- Does your dog chew or lick her or his body a lot because of mental stress or boredom?
Hot spots generally occur when there is high humidity. The excess moisture on your dog’s body could become a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria could also multiply easily when the skin is broken or scratched even just a tiny bit.
Write down your answers and other observations so you have a lot of information to help you for the next step: choosing a remedy and the best treatment for your dog.
Home remedy for hot spots on dogs
Once you see any inflammation on your dog’s body—however small it may be—consult your veterinarian immediately. The earlier you treat hot spots, the better it will be both for your dog and your peace of mind. Your vet can help confirm the cause of the hot spots and recommend the best remedy or treatment for your dog.
In general, treating your dog’s hot spots involves the following:
1. Cut the hair around the hot spot so the pus will not matte the fur and cause further hot spots. If the spot is very big, shave all the fur around it. Exposing the hot spot will dry out the moisture on the sore spot and may help speed up the healing process.
Since these hot spots can be painful, be extra careful when you cut or shave the fur. Try to give your dog a treat or something to chew on when you are cutting or shaving, so that she or he will be distracted when this is being done.
2. Clean the inflamed area with an antiseptic or astringent safe for dogs. You can also use a medicated shampoo to clean the area.
Dechra Miconahex + Triz Pet Shampoo is highly recommended for its antifungal and antibacterial ingredients that are safe for dogs. Owners have raved about how this shampoo soothes itchy skin and repairs damaged skin.
A quick tip: after lathering the shampoo, leave it on the skin for a few minutes before rinsing, so that the ingredients can seep into the skin.
Be sure to pat the area dry after applying the cleanser or shampooing the area.
3. Apply topical medication or give your dog oral antibiotics. You usually need a prescription for this, so make sure you get one when you first visit your vet.
4. Apply topical medication or give your dog oral steroids to control the swelling and lessen itching. Bodhi Anti-Itch Spray has natural ingredients that help soothe bitten, dry, or itchy skin.
5. Put an Elizabethan collar around your dog’s head so that she or he will not lick or bite the sore spot.
6. Clean the area daily to keep bacteria away. Monitor the spot to see if it is healing properly. If the treatment is done correctly, the hot spot should heal within 3 to 7 days after you start the treatment.
What if you don’t want to use antibiotics?
Even for humans, antibiotics should be given sparingly and never for a long time. Many dog owners would rather not give antibiotics to their dogs, especially to small breeds, since a dog’s body is so much smaller than that of humans. Conventional medicines might also not always work on dogs, since these might be targeting just the symptoms, but not the true cause of a dog’s condition.
These owners usually resort to alternative, natural remedies and treatments after consulting homeopathic veterinarians.
Remedies with natural ingredients like Aloe Vera, black tea, calendula, coconut oil, and hypericum are highly recommended to treat hot spots. Many of these reduce inflammation, thus soothing the swollen skin. They also have natural antibacterial properties that fight infection.
Also, black tea can be used to dry the moisture out of a hot spot. Meanwhile, Aloe Vera is widely known as a good remedy to soothe itchy skin and heal damaged skin. Be careful: do not let your dog swallow the aloe directly, because it can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Homeopathic remedies like calendula pellets are herbs and other natural ingredients turned into granules, pellets, or liquids for oral treatments. Caution: these remedies have potency levels just like conventional medicines. So, it is best to do thorough research on how much to give your dog and until when you can give the remedy. To be safe, consult a professional homeopathic veterinarian before giving anything to your dog.
How do you prevent hot spots on your dog?
As stated earlier, hot spots can be very itchy and painful, so your dog undergoes very heavy mental and physical stress when she or he has this condition. As such, preventing hot spots from occurring again is very important.
To prevent hot spots from spreading or from occurring again, you first need to find out what the cause of the itching is and solve it accordingly. Otherwise, the hot spots will just keep coming back. Here are some tips to help you along the way:
- If the cause is an insect or a parasite like a flea biting your dog, then keep your dog, your home, and your surroundings free from fleas or other parasites. Read the article on Dog Flea Treatment and Prevention to guide you.
- If the problem is an allergic reaction to food, find out which specific food your dog is allergic to so that you can take it out of your dog’s diet. The best way to do this is through the elimination process. Stop giving your dog a certain food for a certain period of time and see if the hot spot improves or not.
- If your dog likes to swim or play in dirty places, maintain good grooming routines and proper hygiene for your pet. Make sure that you dry your dog properly after every trip during which she or he can get wet.
Since hot spots mostly occur during summer, you might want to keep your dog’s hair very short or completely shaven during this season. This way you can make sure that your dog’s skin will not have any dirt trapped on it for a long time.
- If your dog resorts to licking a spot on her or his body because of boredom or stress, then increase and vary your dog’s exercise routine. Play with your dog more often. If you don’t have the time, then buy your dog a lot of toys that will stimulate her or him to play or think. Mental stimulation is as important as physical stimulation for dogs.
- If your dog always develops skin problems from lack of proper nutrition, you can give your dog supplements that have ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids, because these can make the skin and fur healthier.
With a lot of TLC at home, you can make your dog’s summer itch-free. The only thing your dog will lick is your face as thanks for all the attention and care showered on her or him.