Hot Spots on Dogs and Cats

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What are hot spots?

Also known as acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are moist and irritated patches on the skin. They often become quite painful. Untreated, hot spots grow quickly, especially in dogs as they tend to lick or scratch the areas more than cats. Licking and chewing on the area creates sores that allow bacteria under the skin. The raw spots then scab and weep. Hot spots are often found on the neck, hips, belly, and limbs. Warm, moist seasons tend to make hot spots worse though they can occur any time of year.

What triggers hot spots?

Hot spots have many triggers. This makes it important to watch your pet for indications of what might be causing the irritation. Insect bites, allergic reactions, poor grooming, and painful, aching joints can all lead your pet to worry and lick an area raw. These raw, infected spots are what’s known as hot spots.

Things to look out for:

  • Has your pet recently been exposed to biting insects?
  • Is your pet’s coat thick or matted in areas, stopping air circulation to the skin?
  • Has your pet eaten anything unusual that could have caused an allergic reaction?
  • Have you changed your pet’s food recently?
  • Is your pet licking or chewing because of an injury or age-related pain?
  • Has your pet been exposed to environmental allergens like pollen, grasses, or molds?
  • Is your pet bored from lack of exercise or mental stimulation?
  • Is your pet suffering from separation anxiety when you leave the house?

Conventional treatment of hot spots

The first step is to trim away excess hair to let the hot spot breathe than to clean the area with an antiseptic. Conventional vets will likely prescribe a topical antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory like cortisone to reduce itching. Depending on the severity of the hot spot, some vets might also prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic to resolve infection deeper in the skin. For less severe hot spots some people use Benadryl. These types of medications and drugs work by suppressing the symptoms, in this case itching and inflammation.

Holistic treatment of hot spots

Holistic treatment of hot spots focuses on determining the root cause of the irritation and eliminating it. That means finding out what foods don’t agree with your pet’s digestion or trimming their fur to allow air flow. If your pet is chronically licking, chewing, or biting a certain spot is it likely a painful spot. Check with your pet to make sure they aren’t quietly suffering from an injury. Elimination of toxins from environment or food can be assisted by blood cleansing herbs. For topical treatment of hot spots, Calendula (or marigold) can be use in a cream, salve, lotion, or wash to reduce inflammation and soothe itching. Calendula also promotes healing in skin tissue.

Other holistic healing options for hot spots:

  • Raw diets eliminate exposure to a lot of the common food allergens that generally irritate pets. Processed foods are high in starch and in low-quality fats and proteins which irritate the body.
  • Give your pet a boost of nutrients with herbs and healthy fats to reduce inflammation. Cod liver oil, phytoplankton, and herbs high in vitamin C help to control inflammation and histamine release.
  • Probiotics are friendly bacteria that work with our bodies to improve digestion and immune function. Prebiotics are fibrous foods that good bacteria feed off. Giving your pet a probiotic and prebiotic mix helps to reduce reaction to irritants and decrease sensitivity to allergens. Probiotics also help to limit populations of bad bacteria in and on the body.

Treatment of skin issues like hot spots really does require a more holistic approach. Continually suppressing the issue with steroids, antihistamines, and antibiotics does nothing to treat the root cause of the hot spots. This is why so many pet owners struggle with chronic skin issues in their pets. Observing your pet for irregular behaviours is a great clue to what’s going on. It is important for responsible pet owners to be proactive about their pet’s health if they want their pet to live a long happy and healthy life.

Dr. Maggie Skin & Coat Formula is a fish oil supplement that can be used to prevent hot spots and promote overall pet health. Our Skin Care Ointment is an anti-bacterial & anti-septic topical treatment for hot spots that can help provide relief from itching. 

Lindsey Eadie, CNP
Lindsey Eadie, CNP
Lindsey is a Holistic Nutritionist who graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver, BC on the Dean’s Honors list where she learned the true healing abilities of whole foods, herbs, and supplemental nutrients. After graduation she worked as a Natural Health Advisor for an integrative pharmacy where she used her nutrition and orthomolecular knowledge to promote the wellbeing of all her clients, including the furry four-legged ones. Her passion for natural health has directly benefited her allergy-riddled female Pyrenes/Bernese Mountain dog named Astro and her anxious Golden Retriever/Bernese Mountain Dog Bella. She is currently applying all her knowledge to her position at NaturPet Inc. as an Educator and Account Manager, spreading awareness of natural health alternatives for optimal pet health.

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