Have you recently pet your dog and come across a spot on its head or body that felt really hot to the touch? It is not uncommon for dogs to get these hot spots. In fact, hot spots on dogs are even more common with dogs that have medium to long fur coats. There are several causes, and there are some preventive measures and treatments you can try at home before resorting to seeing a veterinarian.
Causes for Hot Spots on Dogs
There are a number of causes for a skin problem related to hot spots on dogs. Some of them should seem fairly obvious to you, while others are not so obvious. Let’s start with the obvious ones and look at the underlying cause.
Fleas and Ticks
Fleas are such an irritant to animals that your dog will bite and scratch to the point that blood pools in an area. This blood, of course, only draws more fleas to that area, encouraging more fleas to flock to the hot spot for a meal thus creating a flea infestation. This causes a skin condition with intense skin inflammation. If your dog has really long fur, you may want to consider clipping your dog’s coat really short to give the fleas less places to hide, thus creating fewer hot spots, less itching, and flea bite irritation.
Ticks are another issue completely. You are more likely to discover a hot spot created by a tick bite when you discover an engorged tick buried in your dog’s skin causing excessive licking to the affected area. Removing the tick and sanitizing the area will almost immediately improve and reduce the inflammation caused by the tick bite. Preventing tick bites requires you to be extremely vigilant in checking your dog’s body for ticks after playing in tall grass or wooded areas.
Bot Fly Larvae
This is one of the grossest causes of hot spots in any animal, but also something that vets look for whenever there appears to be a large open sore that is infected, red, very hot. This causes chronic hot spots and a skin infection. Bot flies are large flies that look for animal (or human!) hosts on which to lay a single egg. If the egg is not brushed or scrubbed off, the egg quickly hatches and the tiny larva burrows into the skin, leaving a breathing hole above so that it can duck in and out for air. Meanwhile, it feeds on the tissues of its host, growing larger and larger until you can see a massive lump with an open hole in the center.
You will know for certain that this is a bot fly larva when you pour either peroxide or rubbing alcohol into the hole and spot a lot of wiggling or movement under the flesh. If you are particularly fortunate, it might even force the larva to push its head out of the air hole in the flesh and look at you. This nasty little grub has to be caught between the ends of two tweezers and very carefully pulled all the way out.
The good news is that there is rarely more than one in any hole, and flushing it thoroughly with peroxide after the grub is removed will sanitize it enough for it to heal on its own. You can also use coconut oil over the area afterward to help heal the area faster. Coconut oil can reduce the inflammation caused by the skin infection.
Embedded Foreign Objects
If you ever got a splinter in your finger and tried to fish it out but didn’t get it all out, you probably noticed a bright red area with pain and heat. This is the human equivalent to a hot spot, although it is slightly different than a dog’s hot spot. If your dog is outside running around and gets something stuck in his/her body, part of it may remain even after you have attempted to remove the foreign object (e.g., thorn, stick, burr, etc.).
If your dog will tolerate it, you may use a stainless steel forceps and tweezers to fish around this area to see if you can get any slivers of the object out. Pressing on both sides of the flesh in the area may help you feel for something that is stuck. If you can’t get it out, either a holistic pet expert or a vet can.
The Less Obvious Causes of Hot Spots
Yeast. Think about how a yeast infection makes humans feel. It is itchy and very uncomfortable, irritated, and sometimes can be scratched to the point of raw. It can cause acute moist dermatitis. When yeast causes something to be that inflamed, a hot spot will develop. That is also true of dogs, except in most cases dogs have yeast infections as a secondary problem to a primary problem. The primary problem is often a reduced immune system, which allows yeast to grow out of control. You will see this type of hot spot on your dog’s head, ears, belly, and anal/genital region.
Resolving the immune system issue treats the whole dog and not just the area where the yeast has created hot spots. You can treat the yeast areas with very natural remedies such as tea tree oil or boric acid in a perfume- and dye-free lotion suspension. A compounding pharmacy that provides holistic and natural remedies for pets can provide you with a few more solutions.
As for your dog’s immune system, there are many things in a dog’s environment, including cleaning chemicals and water runoff, that can affect him/her. Looking for ways to change these products out for safer ones will help your dog in the long run. Cleaning products that are either all-natural or labeled “safe to use around children and pets” is a good place to start.
Dogs can get food allergies just like people. You can have your dog tested for food allergies based on the food you currently feed him/her. A vet can look at the ingredients and test for the most common allergies in dogs. Change your dog’s diet to higher quality food with zero ingredients containing the allergens and your dog should no longer have those hot spots on his/her stomach, belly, chest, muzzle or throat. A raw food diet is potentially a very good diet to build the immune system of any dog.
High-strung breeds, like the Pomeranian or Border Collie, often suffer from anxiety and stress. If they are not constantly moving and doing things with you, they will get stressed and resort to a lot of licking and chewing to alleviate their emotional/psychological discomfort. Constant licking or chewing leads to inflamed hot spots on your dog.
Luckily for you, a holistic pet supplier will have lots of natural calming solutions for your pooch. You can buy a pheromone plug-in to diffuse a calming scent and calming dog pheromones, chew toys that aid in soothing your pet’s need to chew, and scented oils that have shown to calm anxious dogs. Ask a holistic health expert what he/she suggests for your breed of dog and which products you should try first. If the licking, chewing and hot spots do not quit, there are several other products to try until you hit on the right one. Consulting with an animal homeopathic practitioner that can prescribe a true homeopathic remedy can be an absolute solution to a difficult situation.
Omega-3’s for Your Dog
Omega-3 fatty acids are typically found in fish, but most dogs are not likely to eat a lot of fish unless its the only food available. You can buy supplements to give your dog. These Omega-3’s create a stronger skin barrier against infection and disease and reduce any inflammation of developing hot spots your dog may have already.