Treating Hot Spot on your dog:

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What is a hot spot?

If you notice your dog licking the same spot, you might be faced with a hot spot.  They are no fun for dogs and not exactly a good time for you either.  It’s a spot that is irritating your dog, and their reaction is to lick.  Licking causes bacterial or yeast infections.  If caught and treated early you may be able to avoid a trip to the vet.

General Process for Getting Rid of Hot Spots

  1. Shave or cut hair with a margin around the spot then clean and disinfect the hot spot.
  2. Apply an antibiotic or a natural remedy (see below) to relieve itching and encourage healing.
  3. Stop your dog from licking the hot spot until it fully heals. Licking will spread the infection and make it worse!
  4. Identify and remove the underlying cause.

How Can I Treat My Dogs Hot Spot At Home?

  1. Clip the hair around and above the hot spot. You must trim the hair around the infected area to prevent it from getting into the wound and making the infection worse. Use clippers or scissors, and make sure to clip at least a few centimeters all the way around the wound. Note: Be careful when clipping just above the affected area since the skin is damaged. Being rough will make it harder for the skin to heal.
  2. Remove all of the pus from the wound with a moist cotton ball or gauze pad. Dampen it with warm water and gently wipe or dab to remove pus. Removing pus before cleaning is important to avoid pushing pus further into the wound, which could worsen the infection.
  3. Apply sterile saline to disinfect. Even after you remove pus from the top of the skin, the wound is still badly infected. Disinfect by cleaning the wound with sterile saline, which can be purchased at any drugstore in the first-aid section. Use sterile saline at light to medium pressure (between 4 and 15 pounds per square inch or psi) to irrigate the wound. You can poke holes into the top of a bottle or dispense through the nozzle accordingly to irrigate the wound; if you have access to a 6mL syringe or similar, this may work well, too. You can also use betadine (also known as povidone iodine) in its proper dilution if nothing else is available, however, due to the cytotoxic effects of concentrated betadine, sterile saline is preferable.
  4. Use a mild shampoo to bathe your dog's entire body. If your dog has been scratching, hot spots will probably develop in other areas within the next few days, so it's important to clean off some of the loose bacteria and allergens. When brushing them afterward, be sure to break up the trapped balls of hair (some dogs benefit from a raking brush to remove the undercoat). I like to use a dilute chlorhexidine shampoo, but if you do not have a medicated shampoo on hand, any dog shampoo will help. NOTE: do not scrub your dog or use hot water, it can inflame their skin and make hot spots worse.
  5. Apply an antibiotic cream to control the local infection and stop the area from itching. The most effective treatment for an uncomplicated hot spot is a mild steroid/antibiotic cream, which you can purchase over the counter. Neosporin is an effective and safe ointment to use on dogs, but the biggest problem is that most dogs will lick creams off if not watched closely. (If your dog licks the cream off, they will likely develop diarrhea.) A much better solution is to use an ophthalmic solution that contains the same products—an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. The solution is a liquid, and it soaks into the skin quickly so that the dog can not lick it off.
  6. Your dog may need to wear an Elizabethan collar or recovery suit to keep them from reaching back and chewing /licking their irritated skin. A collar is the best way to prevent dogs from causing more trauma and making the infection worse; however, if the hot spot is on the neck, a collar might make the infection worse.

Can I Use Benadryl for Hot Spots?

Some vets also recommend using Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for the itching associated with hot spots, but if you use the clipping and cleaning techniques described above, the drug is usually not necessary. If you decide to administer it, consult your vet first. The dosage I recommend is about 1 mg per 1 kg (or per 2.2 lbs) every 8 hours, orally. (That dose is low and will cause few side effects, but it does cause drowsiness).

Give Your Dog Relief Before Your Vet Visit

I encourage clients to treat this problem at home as soon as possible to relieve itchiness immediately, heal the skin and prevent potential pain as a result of an untreated infection. If the client finds the hot spot in the evening after work, it can be treated three to four times before the next morning to prevent the dog from being in pain a lot sooner.

 

An e-collar or dog recovery suit can be used to prevent dogs from licking or chewing on their hot spots.

How Long Does It Take for a Hot Spot to Heal?

You should see improvement within two to three days, but it can take one to two weeks for the hot spot to completely disappear and for the skin to return to normal.

Can I Treat My Dogs Hot Spot Naturally?

Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera contains an anti-inflammatory compound called chromone which breaks up the cycle of inflammation if your dog is itchy or burnt. This natural remedy is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and contains vitamins that promote skin healing, making it the perfect natural treatment for hot spots.

How to Prevent Hot Spots on Your Dog

If your dog has more than one or two outbreaks, antibiotics and steroids are not the answer. There is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Even if you cannot find out the cause of his hot spots, there are things you can do to prevent it from happening again.

  • Switch your dog to a good-quality diet: The best way to keep the skin in great shape is to avoid grain-based dog food. Try switching your dog to a raw diet made up of mostly meat and raw bones. My dogs also get some fresh vegetables and fruit so that their diet is supplemented with additional antioxidants. You can also try some really high-quality hypoallergenic food brands, but raw food is best.
  • Coconut Oil: The saturated fats in coconut oil can reduce your dog's allergic reaction, which may be enough to stop the itching/scratching cycle that leads to hot spots. You can apply coconut oil to any active hot spots to benefit from its antibacterial properties, but some dogs will just lick it off, so the best way to benefit from it is to give your dog some coconut oil on top of his food once a day. Use about a teaspoon for a medium-sized dog (less for a small dog and more for a large or giant dog).
  • Vitamin E: This is one of the antioxidants that can help stop the itching/scratching cycle. If your dog is allergic and has recurring hot spots, poke a hole in a vitamin E capsule and put a drop right on top of his food.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: The essential fatty acids are important to keep your dog's skin in the best condition. Foods that claim there are “fatty acids added” usually don't contain enough, since omega-3 acids are the most expensive fatty acid. Prevent recurring hot spots and other skin problems by giving your dog a daily dose of good-quality fish oil, like Grizzly Salmon Oil. This is the product I use, and it is made from cold-water salmon and contains a high level of omega-3 fatty acids. To give the proper dose, follow the instructions on the label.
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