Hell, Otherwise Known as a Hot-Spot
An infection arising from your dog's own naturally-occurring bacteria, hot spots at their worst are very painful, bloody and raw and oozing pus. But the side-effects of typically prescribed steroidal treatment is a horrific trade-off. For wanting to find a 'quick-fix' for one problem we can end up creating many more serious ones.
Called hot spots because of the heat they give off, they are red, inflamed and angry-looking in nature: typically hairless, they’re painful and extremely itchy. Normally their symptoms are a dead giveaway, but they can also appear quite suddenly (and develop rapidly!) and catch you on the hop. Your dog’s licking and scratching is due to extreme pain and discomfort. The earlier you can treat the hot spots the better. Because any licking and scratching greatly exacerbates the problem you will also find it much, much easier to get under control if you can catch it early. Chronic scratching and licking of the area is a loud cry for help!
Without being able to pin down the exact cause of the allergy in your dog it can be an extremely challenging endeavour trying to manage a chronic reoccurrence. Food and environmental triggers are varied and complex. However there are a number of steps you can take that will help prevent hot spots (re)occurring. These are not quick fixes but rather a long-term investment in your dog’s health and well-being:
- If using plastic, change your dog's bowl - bacteria are most likely lurking there! Change to metal and clean well at least twice a week. This small change could make a big world of difference.
- Using a completely natural shampoo, free of phosphates and synthetic fragrances, is also a great start! Bloublommetjieskloof Herbal Pet Shampoo has skin-nourishing and conditioning herbal ingredients that relieve itchy skin. Bonus: the mint repels fleas and ticks which helps prevent one of the main causes of animals hot spots; flea allergy dermatitis.
- A teaspoon of flax seed oil (always adjust dosage according to the size of your dog) added to a meal will ultimately improve the condition of your dog’s coat and also acts as a soothant for itchy skin. A supplement of omega-3 fatty acids will improve immunity to allergies.
- Raw, indigenous honey will act as an effective desensitizer, or antihistamine, to indigenous pollens. Bonus: the dogs think it’s a great treat! A tablespoon of local honey given twice a day will go a long, long way to coping with allergies.
- Raw diet: we are big proponents of a balanced raw-diet, having seen the incredible benefit our dogs have gained from meals free of grain and preservatives. Itchy skin conditions associated with allergies are among the symptoms that will be alleviated. What you can expect instead is a shiny and lustrous coat. (Check out Doggy Chef for a source of superior venison-based meals.)
- First and foremost the wound needs to be kept as clean as possible. Trim and, if you can, shave hair around the hot-spot and gently clean with a 1:1 dilution of apple cider vinegar and water. This will help stop the itch and disinfect the area, but please note that stronger is definitely not better in this instance - the ACV must be well diluted.
- Neem oil is now counted a miracle in our family! How we wish that this safe, effective, 100% natural treatment for hot spots had been recommended to us earlier in the lives of our pups. Dilute drops of Neem oil (1:10) into base oils like Jojoba or Sweet Almond and apply to the infected area using cotton wool. The carrier oils offset the pungent smell of Neem, and of course are so good in their own right (they work superbly as natural solutions for dry and itchy skin in dogs). Neem, which contains a combination of remedial vitamin e and essential amino and fatty acids, is used to treat a variety of skin conditions. In dogs, it promotes healthy skin and fur and treats allergies manifesting on the skin - exactly what is needed. Apply at least twice a day and also very much on as needed basis. The oils provide much relief while tackling the skin allergy - the healing benefit is observable.
- Raw aloe: you can apply a thin layer of freshly harvested aloe to the wound - it will soothe the itch wonderfully.
- Evening Primrose oil: your dog's skin, if dry, will be hugely benefited by the use of this oil. Simply massage into skin.
- Coconut oil: inside and out there is no end to the benefits that coconut oil bring! Lauric acid in coconut oil has anti-fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Applied topically it promotes the healing of hot spots and dermatitis. Given orally it promotes nourished skin and sleek, healthy coats and reduces allergies.
- Hemp Seed oil: rich in essential fatty acids and a perfectly balanced combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are readily absorbed into the skin, Hemp Seed oil can offer great relief to dry and itchy skin conditions.
- Oatmeal: add a small amount of water and apply the paste to the areas that are itching. Rinse off with warm water after having let it sit for up to 10 minutes.
If you know that your dog is susceptible to developing hot spots make checking her for any tell-tale bumps part of your nightly routine. You’ll find that they often recur in the same areas: in the armpit, on the chest or groin area, on the tail; quickly examining these areas is easily done, and a good ol' belly-scratch won't go amiss while you're at it.