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Pet Allergies and Hot Spots – How to Help Your Pet Naturally

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Hot Spots on pets happen for a variety of reasons, and with allergy season coming in strong, this time of year can be painful for your pet.

What are Hot Spots?

The medical term is “acute moist dermatitis.”  They are hot, red, oozing lesions that can erupt in just a matter of hours from a dog repeatedly licking, chewing, and itching at a spot on their body. The traumatized tissue is known as a “hot spot.” While not life-threatening, the condition is extremely uncomfortable. 

Risk Factors for Hot Spots.

While a dog may facilitate the hot spot, there’s most likely an underlying cause such as: fleas, parasites, ear infections, irritation after grooming, anal sac disease and allergies to food or outdoor factors. In fact, about 30% of the pets who develop them most likely have an underlying skin disease. Don’t underestimate lifestyles filled by boredom, stress, and lack of exercise. A highly stressed or anxious pet can excessively lick parts of their body causing “hot spots” to form. Some breeds are more susceptible to them, but any dog can form one. Dogs with matted/dirty coats or those that spend a lot of time exposed to rain or swimming can have a higher chance of developing them. It only takes a single drop of water trapped next to the skin to trigger a hot spot.   

What Causes Hot Spots?

The list is long and varied. But one of the root causes is poor diet or food allergies which manifest as skin infections. Research shows that dogs who consume a higher ratio of grains to animal proteins in their diets have an increased chance of suffering from skin lesions. Dry commercial or canned foods can dehydrate the skin leading to hot spots. 

It’s been found that a raw diet is good. If that is not possible, feeding as much fresh cooked foods as possible is a course of action too.

Feed a healthy, natural diet high in omega fatty acids. A well-balanced diet will help your pet maintain a healthy skin and coat. A fish-based food chalk full of essential fatty acids that promote skin health. For example, grain-free, sardine and salmon-based food with a fish oil supplement. Now you’re healing your pet’s skin from the inside out.  

 

According to Dr. Leilani Alvarez, DVM at the renowned Animal Medical Center in New York City, believes that hot spots are considered “damp heat” because they are warm to the touch. Foods and conditions that can lead to damp heat are:  

  • Dry kibble (it has a warming energetic due to processing at extremely high temperatures and also dampening due to large carbohydrate load)
  • Diet rich in carbohydrates
  • Warming foods (venison, lamb, chicken, mutton)
  • Dairy & fatty foods
  • Obesity

Foods with cooling properties include:

  • Rabbit
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Fruits (apples, cranberries, pear, mango)
  • Vegetables (spinach, peas, kelp, broccoli, green beans)

 

Treatment

There are tons of remedies on- line from homeopathic to holistic to wonder drugs. But, it’s best to let your vet first determine the cause of the hot spot and then develop an appropriate treatment plan.  That’s because the location of hot spots can determine the underlying cause of the problem. For example, over the hip area suggests flea infestation, hip arthritis, or anal gland infection. One near an ear could indicate an ear problem, allergy, or a dental/nerve irritation.  

 

WHAT’S THE BEST PLAN OF ACTION?

  • Cleaning & drying the area out
  • Killing the bacteria
  • Healing the skin
  • Relieving the itching
  • Wearing a cone in severe cases and depending on where the lesion is

 

DON’TS:

  • Never use hydrogen peroxide – not only will it burn but it can damage tissue and delay healing
  • No over-the-counter anti-itch creams (like hydrocortisone lotions/zinc oxide) – some can be toxic to pets

 

Dr. Tori Counter from The Balanced Pet Vet has some great tips on how to combat them with Eastern and Western Medicine. 

A few NATURAL options for environmental skin allergies. Skin issues need a multimodal approach. Talk to your vet about the options below, and possibly changing to a novel protein if there is some food allergy component.

Apple Cider Vinegar baths or spray - combine 50/50 ACV and water solution. It is a natural antibiotic and antifungal remedy, plus the acidity of ACV removes dead skin cells/dandruff off the skin to help cell turnover.

Colloidal Silver - this is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. The particles are small enough to penetrate and destroy pathogens! Check out Nexdermavet products.

Topical Coconut/Hempseed/Shea Butter/Aloe - these ointments are soothing for the skin. The Natural Dog Company has a whole line of products for paws, skin, noses etc. For quality Aloe products, use Warren Lab/George’s Aloe.

Hemp/CBD Oral and Topical - this is a natural anti-inflammatory that you can give to your pet or apply directly to the area of concern. Blooming Culture has a great topical moisturizer and oral products.

Supplements - Standard Process - I like their Dermal Support before allergy season starts (and during), and I add in Immune Support when they are on meds. Allergy and Itch Relief can be found online at Healthy Paws Herbals.

Bathing weekly and wiping down coat daily - using an oatmeal or aloe-based shampoo and natural wipes can helps get the pollens and irritants off your pets coat to decrease the exposure of pathogens causing the itchiness.

 

"Now let’s talk about the Western Medicine approach. Please consult your Vet or Vet Dermatologist, as they know your pet best! They can rule out any ectoparasites, metabolic issues, or other underlying illnesses contributing to skin problems."


Cytopoint - this injection stops the itch almost immediately! Since it is an injection, there is no daily dosing, and lasts about 4-8 weeks. It specifically targets a protein in the immune system to tell it to stop the itch cycle. I love it because it works and there’s minimal to no side effects.


Allergy Testing - this gets to heart of environmental allergies! Yes, it can be expensive and intense (weekly shots), but extremely helpful for terrible cases that recur season after season.


Steroids - I reach for steroids when the skin is super angry, and when the ears get so inflamed, I can’t even look in the ear canal, let alone apply medication. Angry skin and stenotic/inflamed ears are SO painful for the animals! Once the ears open, we can start to clean and topically medicate appropriately, and wean off the steroid.


Antibiotics/Antifungals - skin infections can get nasty. Your vet can do skin impressions, skin scrapes, and cultures to determine the best course of medications to clear it up. Please finish the supply of meds your vet prescribed to completely get rid of the infection. They may look all better, but the bugs are microscopic, so we want to get rid of them all.

Antihistamines - these are over the counter meds - Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin can help for mild to moderate itching. Do NOT get meds with decongestants in them. Make sure to ask your vet about appropriate dosing.


Medicated Baths, Wipes, and Topicals - there are a whole host of shampoos that can be prescribed by your vet to help with your pets’ specific skin issue. Antibacterial, antifungal, or both. Duoxo or Mal A Ket wipes, among others, are so helpful for daily spot treatment, paws, facial, and body folds. 
The key is CONSISTENCY!

 

Remember that figuring out the source of the allergy or hot spot is the best step into treating them.