Hot spots on dogs, also known as moist dermatitis, are an immune-mediated skin response and are a painful condition where the skin becomes reddened, moist, and swollen, usually due to allergies, an infection, parasites, or moisture trapped within the coat. We notice them when the symptoms appear, which include licking, scratching, biting, and a discharge of pus and fluids.
Hot spots are caused by an initial traumatic incident, usually due to conditions that prompt pets to scratch. Let’s learn more about this issue and what we can do to prevent it.
Hot Spots on Dogs: Causes
As far as skin issues go, hot spots on dogs are pretty common. This is partly due to the variety of factors that can contribute to their formation.
1. Environmental Allergies
Dogs with seasonal or year-round allergies to environmental irritants can develop inflamed skin that supports the creation of hot spots.
2. Food Allergies
Dogs with allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients in their food or treats can manifest that allergy with hot spots on the skin.
If your dog is constantly in the water (whether going for a swim or receiving frequent baths), they might be more likely to develop hot spots. This can be a result of certain pathogens overgrowing in the moist environment or from motion irritating the wet skin.
4. Flea and Insect Allergies
Some dogs are allergic to the bites of fleas, ticks, and other small insects, resulting in an itchy rash that can become a hotspot.
5. Licking or Chewing
Some dogs respond to boredom or stress by biting and licking their skin and fur. This can also occur if your dog's coat is excessively dirty or matted, as dogs often lick and chew in an attempt to clean themselves. Dogs with joint pain and arthritis also tend to lick at painful areas. Whatever the cause, however, excessive biting and licking can leave skin wet, irritated, and in need of dog hot spot medicine.
Irritated or inflamed skin is where hot spots typically begin. If your dog is prone to ear or skin infections, or if they've been exposed to a virus, parasite, or bacteria, they may scratch to get some relief and leave themselves vulnerable to hot spot formation.
7. Anal Gland Issues
If your dog has an uncomfortable inflammation or infection of their anal glands (including anal sac disease), they may bite and lick around the anal area or the base of their tail, which can lead to hot spots.
What Are the Symptoms of Hot Spots on Dogs?
Dog hot spot symptoms often differ from other forms of dog dermatitis, eczema, and other skin issues, although these conditions can sometimes create the environment where hot spots subsequently form. While eczema, also known as atopy, is typically characterized by dry, flaky skin, hot spots are wet and often oozing, and the sores can be quite large.
Your dog may have one hot spot or multiple hot spots. You may also notice changes in your dog’s behavior or temperament because of the discomfort that comes with hot spots. Increased scratching and biting can reveal the site of the infection, but a visit to your veterinarian will confirm the diagnosis (or point to a different one). Dog parents can quickly identify the symptoms of hot spots in dogs by observing their dogs' behavior. In the initial stage of the inflammation, the dog will incessantly chew and lick at the painful site. The discomfort will also influence the dog's behavior, leading to abnormal aggression levels and depression. As the condition develops, you will notice redness and swelling — the symptoms of inflammation — in localized skin patches.
At this point, the risk of secondary infections increases multifold. The pus secreted from hot spots will gradually harden, turning the surrounding hair into matted fur. The more fluids are discharged from the oozing sores, the more moisture will hover over the entire area, causing a foul odor and paving the way for secondary bacterial infections.
Which Dog Breeds Are Predisposed To Hot Spots?
Dogs with thicker coats constitute the highest number of hot spot cases among the canine population. The reason is straightforward: the skin has a harder time breathing in thick-haired dogs or double-coated breeds. In addition, the excess moisture and oils secreted by the skin are trapped in the coat, creating the perfect environment — especially during bouts of high humidity — for all sorts of skin infections, not just hot spots.
The dog breeds with a higher predisposition to developing hot spots are:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherd Dogs
- Saint Bernards
Home Remedies for Hot Spots on Dogs
The Skin Is a Large Part of the Excretory System
The stepping stone toward skin healing lies in understanding its crucial role in the excretory system. The canine body has multiple avenues of eliminating toxins, and when one way is shut, it puts additional pressure on another. But the skin is not designed to replace multiple elements of the excretory system — if overloaded, it will eventually collapse. Such a situation poses even higher risks for double-coated dogs, whose skin already has a harder time breathing — the harder it is for them to relieve the discomfort, the more they'll lick and chew the affected area. Therefore, you must ensure that your dog's skin stays clean throughout treatment for a seamless recovery.
How To Properly Clean a Hot Spot
- Carefully trim the area around the hot spot to allow it to breathe properly. Unless your dog is accustomed to grooming sessions, be sure to enlist the help of a friend or a professional groomer.
- Clean with warm water and apply a pH-appropriate solution to the affected area for disinfection. As a precaution, avoid ointments and chemical compounds such as Neosporin and hydrogen peroxide — the former is an antibiotic cream that should never be used on a hot spot (a dog that licks Neosporin can experience adverse side effects), whereas the latter unnecessarily prolongs the healing process by wiping off the bacteria sent by the dog's body to contain the inflamed skin lesions. Instead, use coconut oil (natural, antifungal, and antibacterial) or quercetin (a natural antihistamine with anti-inflammatory properties to promote healing).
- Consistency is key, so continue treating your dog for at least two weeks to prevent hot spots from recurring. Unless you notice significant improvements after a few days, seek professional help.
Help Your Dog Heal From the Inside
While most hotspots are highly treatable, preventing them from forming in the first place is usually much easier than eliminating the sores retroactively. Hot spots on dogs typically develop as secondary infections at the site of an existing irritation or infection. Employing solely topical medication for treating hot spots on dogs is only half the battle. The body must also heal from the inside to thoroughly eliminate the root cause.
Providing high-quality nutrition in a dog's regular diet is critical for maintaining a healthy skin barrier to guard against hot spots and other skin conditions. Immune support is needed for dogs who are in poor health, as these dogs may be more susceptible to hot spots.
Incorporating supplements into your dog's daily diet may help give your dog the immune support necessary to effectively fight infection. Supplements such as digestive enzymes, pre-, and probiotics will get your dog's gut microbiome and, consequently, their immune system back into shape. Likewise, ensure that your dog receives enough essential fatty acids and antioxidants from their diet in order to keep the digestive tract healthy and the immune system strong. Dietary supplements that contain fatty acids can help improve and repair your dog's skin barrier and coat health. In addition, the DHA and EPA found in Volhard krill oil for dogs can help support healthy skin.
Natural Soothing Remedies for Hot Spots: Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is one helpful remedy for various skin conditions, as well as wounds and burns. Colloidal silver can actually kill over 650 bacteria, fungi, parasites, and molds that have the potential to sprout diseases, as well as help heal hot spots, burns, cuts, rashes, acne, and much more. Apply freely by spraying topically to desired areas several times a day.
Relieve Your Dog's Hot Spots and Anxiety With the Bach Rescue Remedy
Dealing with traumatized skin is not easy for our dogs. The constant discomfort, coupled with the inability to relieve the skin irritation, will cause your dog's anxiety levels to go through the roof. Bach's Rescue Remedies are known for producing a powerful calming effect on stressed and injured animals. Similar in preparation to homeopathic remedies, Bach flower remedies use diluted extracts of various flowers and plants that have been "potentized." This process of dilution and vigorous shaking increases the potency of the essence from which the remedy is derived.
By adding two drops of the Bach Rescue Remedy per day to your dog's drinking water, you will gradually notice their impatience and fear fade away. This natural anti-anxiety tincture, made of 80% vegetable glycerin and 20% water, will help your dog manage their stress levels during this uncomfortable period.
Soothe Your Dog's Infected Skin With Bentonite Clay
Aside from soothing any allergy or skin disease, bentonite clay helps relieve symptoms of gastric distress (e.g., constipation, gas), as well as vomiting and diarrhea. You can use this natural clay alongside powdered echinacea or plantain leaf to create your own healing powder for hot spots! Mix ¼ cup of powdered bentonite clay with ⅛ cup of powdered echinacea or plantain leaf, sprinkle on the affected area, let it sit for 30-45 minutes, and rinse. Repeat the process up to 2-3 times per day.
Calendula Has Amazing Antiseptic Properties!
Calendula is much appreciated for its antiseptic properties. It aids in healing. Using calendula as a hot spot remedy for dogs is all about timing. We do not recommend applying the calendula tincture when there's drainage from the sores or excessive scabbing, as it can make matters worse. Instead, use it only when the hot spots are on the mend to relieve the discomfort.
You will easily find calendula creams and tinctures at your local health food store. But if you intend to create your own tincture, this calendula recipe for hot spots will definitely do the trick:
- Mix ¼ teaspoon of table salt with 1 cup of filtered water
- Add 20-40 drops of calendula tincture
- Wipe the irritated skin patch with a cotton ball 2-4 times per day
Inhibit the Spread of Bacteria With Black Tea
Hot spots thrive in moist conditions, which is why you need a natural remedy to dry up your dog's skin. Black tea contains tannins, i.e., water-soluble polyphenols that prevent the spread of bacteria and promote healing in the affected skin patch. Steep a black tea bag in 8 ounces of water. Let it cool. Then you can use either the tea bag or a cotton ball to apply the tea to the sore. Hold it to the hot spot for several minutes or longer if your dog doesn't seem to mind. Apply the black tea to the hot spot for several minutes per day, then rinse.
Always Look for the Underlying Cause of Your Dog's Hot Spots!
Treating acute moist dermatitis is not only a matter of identifying the symptoms. A more efficient strategy for preventing hot spots in dogs builds upon three key elements — a healthy skin barrier, a healthy coat, and a healthy immune system. As long as your dog stays healthy and receives all the necessary nutrients, hot spots will have a harder time popping up on your dog's skin. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!