These inflamed red lesions on your dog’s skin can cause him a lot of itching and pain. Find out what really causes hot spots, and how to help heal them.
Hot spots are one of the most common reasons people take their dogs to the veterinarian. And no wonder. Hot spots (or acute moist dermatitis) are hot, red, moist, irritated and lesions that are both painful and itchy. They often grow rapidly, and in many dogs are chronic and cause a lot of discomfort and stress. We’ll look at the causes of hot spots, and how they can be treated to bring relief to your dog.
The root cause of hot spots
According to conventional wisdom, hot spots can occur whenever something irritates a dog’s skin and leads to scratching or biting. Most people believe that hot spots are the result of allergies, insect bites, lack of grooming, ear or skin infections, excessive licking and chewing, or exposure to water. However, these explanations do not truly get at the heart of what causes hot spots, and they certainly don’t help us address them effectively (which is why, in so many cases, they become a seemingly chronic condition).
Dogs scratch, and if they are doing so excessively, it means something is out of balance; in the case of hot spots, the imbalance is directly related to the hot spot eruption. It’s not the itching and scratching that caused the hot spot; it’s the imbalance.
So what is actually going on when a dog presents with hot spots? Essentially, when you see hot spots erupt on your dog, it means his body is being overwhelmed by toxins that are coming in at a faster rate than his liver and kidneys can handle. The skin is the largest eliminative organ, so the toxins start to “erupt” out of the skin as part of the body’s frantic effort to rid itself of them. Poor diet, antibiotics, steroids, and chemical flea/tick preventives increase the toxic load while simultaneously decreasing the body’s ability to stay balanced and handle the toxins that are coming in.
Natural ways to address hot spots
So if conventional treatments don’t help, what can be done? It’s actually relatively simple, although not necessarily a quick process, especially if you’ve been following conventional treatments for a long time and your dog’s body been flooded with toxins.
1. Feed a healthy diet
The first step is to put your dog on a balanced, varied, species-appropriate raw food (SARF) diet. When you do so, you’ll be lessening the work his liver and kidneys have to do, because they won’t have to remove waste at a rate that exceeds what they are designed for. You will reduce the workload of the pancreas, bring the stomach pH to an appropriate level, and flood your dog’s body with the nutrients it needs to keep his systems in good working order.
If you don’t wish to feed a raw diet, choose the healthiest, highest quality natural pet food you can. Poor quality foods filled with carbs, by-products and additives will only worsen the imbalance in a dog’s body.
2. Minimize toxin exposure
To address the toxin issue, you need to go beyond diet. Chemical flea and tick preventives contain poison, and when you apply them to your dog, his body must then work to eliminate the poison. If the kidneys and liver are already overloaded because of inappropriate food and so forth, the skin may have to help them remove the toxins, and hot spots may result.
Also consider the effects of herbicides and pesticides, as well as household cleaning products. Your dog is exposed to everything you put in your yard, including fertilizers, weed killers and other products. If your yard or house is sprayed for bugs, your dog will come into contact with the residue. And because he in direct contact with the floors in the house, he is also exposed to whatever you use to clean your house. There are lots of recipes for non-toxic cleaners on the internet; you can also go to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website at ewg.org, and take a look at their ratings for various cleaning products. The goal is to reduce or eliminate as many toxins as possible, so your dog’s kidneys and liver don’t have to deal with them and become overwhelmed.
3. Support him with natural remedies
You may also want to support your dog with natural modalities if he has hot spots. Essential oils such as lavender are soothing to the skin, and good at helping the body and especially the skin to rebalance. Just be sure to use a high quality oil, and dilute it in a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil.
Additionally, colloidal silver may help support your dog’s immune system while providing antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits in a safe and natural way.
You can overcome your dog’s hot spots…naturally
Hot spots can be one of the most frustrating problems affecting your dog. But when you understand the root cause of the issue, you will be able to help support him so he can overcome his hot spots in a natural way. By feeding a healthy diet, removing toxins and helping to rebalance and strengthen your dog’s immune system, you’ll enable his organs and body systems to function properly, so they can begin to flush out toxins in an effective and normal way. Because there will be significantly fewer toxins going in, his skin will not have to “erupt” in an effort to rid his body of the excess. Your dog will return to a state of balance by healing and rebalancing himself, just as nature intended.
Why conventional approaches to hot spots don’t work
There are lots of conventional approaches to treating hot spots: shaving the area, administering antibiotics, painkillers, and OTC parasite controls, prescribing corticosteroids or antihistamines to relieve itching, and/or recommending a commercial hypoallergenic food (which is still processed kibble) to address any potential food allergies.
What most people find, however, is that the hot spots keep coming back because these measures don’t effectively address the issue. They don’t get at the root cause — at best, they suppress the symptoms, and at worst, they exacerbate the problem.
While frequently prescribed for hot spots, both antibiotics and steroids throw the body into a state of imbalance.
Antibiotics wipe out all good bacteria and gut flora, which severely inhibits the ability of the immune system to do its job. These drugs can lead to future problems because the “bad” bacteria tend to grow back more quickly than the “good” bacteria (which often leads to ear infections, yeast infections and other issues).
Steroids suppress the immune system, so the dog’s body is less able to stay healthy, ward off pathogens and viruses, and keep him in tip-top shape. Administering these medications when the system is already completely out of whack just makes it worse.
Parasite control products also cause a flood of toxins to enter into the dog’s body. These products contain poison intended to kill parasites. But your dog’s body is also exposed to the poison at the very same time the skin is trying to shed out toxins! It’s a lose-lose situation for your dog’s immune system.
Have patience – it takes time
Keep in mind that it may take some time for your dog’s body to flush out all the toxins, and you may actually see the hot spots get worse for short while as the body goes through a healing response. Have patience – keep in mind that it took a long time for the imbalance to get to the point where hot spots erupted, so it will take time for everything to rebalance again.