Skin conditions and “Hot Spots”

by Dennis Fisher.

This article is one of a great many articles written by Dennis Fisher about a very wide variety of subjects concerning different  dogs, such as obedience training, breeding, showing, health matters, training problems and other subjects.  All these articles appear on Dennis Fisher's websites.   Visit the site that has been set up specifically for German Shepherd Dog enthusiasts, or  if you interested in a breed   other than German Shepherd Dogs



Most Veterinarians will agree that that they probably have to attend more dogs suffering from skin problems than any other disorder.

 There are a number of different causes for skin problems and sometimes they are very difficult to identify.  The most common cause are fleas, so much so that the immediate reaction of a great many Veterinarians when they are informed by owners of the  dog’s skins problem, is to attach the blame to fleas.   But skin problems can have a number of other causes.

Allergies.  Very often the dog may be allergic to some substance in the food.  A common substance that is often the cause of  skin problems is wheat.  If  you are able to identify that it is wheat that is causing the unpleasant reaction and change to a  dog food that substitute rice instead of wheat,  it may be possible alleviate the condition and the incessant scratching.

Often, however, it is not so easy to identify the problem  as it may well be an airborne substance such as grass pollens.

It is very frustrating indeed for the dog owner to have to see their dog continually scratching and being unable to help the poor animal.  Sometimes the dog scratches so hard it causes bleeding  and damage o the skin. As a result infection sets in

Treatment:   If the condition is caused by an allergic reaction it is possible that the dog may respond to  topical antihistamines that can be applied.   Medication such as Benadryl has been known to help.  Special  medicated dog shampoos containing  providone iodine can also help. Betadine ointment is also a very useful ointment to apply when there are signs of infection.

Very often the general, non-specific  term  “Eczema” is used to describe these different skin problems.  The term also covers a wide range of conditions  such as “hot spots”.

“Hot Pots” are raw lesions that that seem to suddenly spring up on the dog’s body, usually in the tail area, or on the flanks.  But it could be anywhere on the dog’s body.  These “hot spots” are extremely itchy and the dog cannot restrain itself from biting and aggravating the condition.  The danger of the dog doing this is that the lesions can become septic and this can lead to more serious skin problems.

There are a number of “home” first aid remedies that sometimes work.  When the sore is raw and bleeding it is necessary to dry it.  Although calamine lotion is sometimes recommended to alleviate the intense itch, it is generally not advisable, since it “seals” the sore and doe not allow air to circulate. It can cause further problems.

Another option to dry the raw and bleeding wound that the dog has caused by biting the lesion, is to apply Johnson’s baby powder, to dry the wound.  On occasions this has been known to work and allow healing to tack place.  Further   “home” remedies include tea bags that have been soaked for some time in hot water and applying them after they have cooled.  The tannic acid in the tea bag can be effective in alleviating the itch.

“Hot” spots are often referred to as “summer eczema” as they frequently occur in the hot, moist summer months.   Moisture is a breeding ground for the bacteria that probably cause these hot spots.

As an immediate treatment, before you have a chance to visit the Veterinarian, you might try applying topical peroxide every few hours, to relieve the itch.  

Dogs with hot spots are also often treated with the cortisone tablets, prednisone.  Prednisone is certainly no cure for the problem, but there is no doubt that it will definitely relieve the itch.

 Even though there are many Veterinarians who are very reluctant to prescribe cortisone, it is commonly used as an emergency treatment in many Veterinary practices.

When one uses prednisone  tablets one has to be very careful  to  start tailing off the dosage.  It is necessary to start with quite a heavy dose and then, day by day, use fewer and fewer pills.

As mentioned, many Veterinarians - especially holistic Veterinarians – are very much against prednisone treatment, but as an emergency treatment it is sometimes necessary.

A home treatment that is frequently used is healing oil that can be applied to the lesion. 
The ingredients include Urtica urens, symphytum, hypericum, and arnica, mixed with extra virgin olive oil.  There are some dog owners who report having had marked success with this formula; others have not found it as effective. 

The same applies to homeopathic remedies. There is no doubt that homeopathy can bring dramatically successful results.  If one is able to use the correct homeopathic remedy, there can be dramatic success but it is often a hit or  miss situation, very much the same as when applied to human conditions.         Not all animals react in the same way to the identical homeopathic treatment.

Homeopathy should certainly not be overlooked as a method of treatment. As mentioned, in certain instances the results can be quite dramatic.

The problem with hot spots, particularly with show dogs, is that in most cases it is necessary for the Veterinarian to clip away a great deal of the surrounding hair in order to avoid further infection and in order to treat the lesion with the appropriate medication.  For this reason the dog owners with a show dog  are sometimes reluctant to take the dog to the Veterinarian as they are aware that the animal is going look unsightly for quite a while until the hair grows again.

In the end though, clipping of the hair away from the lesion, and applying the correct medication is probably the best method of treatment.