When your dog is biting, licking and scratching its skin until the skin is red, bloody and irritated, this is what is known as a “hot spot” or superficial pyoderma or pyotraumatic dermatitis. The hot spot is warm and tender to the touch and infected with pus that smells bad. Anywhere that your dog’s mouth and paws can reach is susceptible to hot spots.
Treatment can include a peroxide application every two hours and antibiotics to combat the deep skin infection. For persistent, serious wounds, a single, short acting corticosteroid can be administered to fight the inflammation. Both oral and topical antibiotic pills may be continued for up to two weeks per your vet’s instructions.
At times, a neck collar will be put on the dog to hinder its ability to continue biting and scratching the hot spot.
For those interested in a more natural approach, organic antiseptics such as eucalyptus oil can be effective in killing infections. Natural analgesics like menthol, can relieve the irritating sensation of hot spots, soothing the burn and irritation. Some naturalists suggest using apple cider vinegar for itchy skin/hot spots. Part the hair and spray the apple cider vinegar directly onto the area where a skin eruption seems likely. For existing sores and broken skin, dilute the vinegar with an equal amount of water before you apply. The hot spot will dry up in 24 hours.
Changing your dog’s diet can cause a change in your dog’s skin. Try a more natural dog food supplemented with flaxseed oil, omega fatty acid or fish oil pills that can be purchased from any drug store. Dogs can take the same kind of flaxseed oil and fish oil as humans with no issues.
Often, the cause of the hot spots has to do with your dog’s hair. Long-haired dogs with tangled or matted fur and dogs that shed each summer are especially at risk to get hot spots if their hair follicles and skin do not get enough air or essential oils that naturally occur in healthy skin. Keeping your dog well-groomed and bathed in unscented, natural shampoos will prevent hot spots. In times of high shedding, keep your dog combed out to remove the excess hair from the skin as frequently as three times per week.
Dogs, like their owners, are highly susceptible to their environment and can react negatively to the same triggers as humans, such as pollen, dust, lawn chemicals and diet. To fight off allergens, get an air purifier, skin supplements and herbal and medicated shampoos. A dog’s allergies can be managed with antihistamines like Benadryl, if your veterinarian approves. Many dogs are highly allergic to flea bites and as a result can get hot spots. Using flea remedies on your dog such as Frontline or Avantage will put an end to this allergic situation, ending your dog’s obsessive scratching and biting. Again, supplementing your dog’s diet with flaxseed oil and omega-3 fatty acids can lead to better skin health.
Dogs are emotional animals and very sensitive. They get stressed, lonely and bored, which can lead to acting out with constant licking or scratching. Ironically, your dog is trying to self-soothe its emotional distress. These issues are solved by providing more exercise, affection and attention from the family, a dog sitter or puppy day camp in your area.