Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot spots and hot spot prevention...

Ahhh, tis the season for all sorts of skin irritations: bug bites, hives, allergies and hot spot season. I'm very lucky - we don't tend to get a lot of hot spots around here (knocking on wood) - but I'm also very proactive in hot spot prevention. I do get a lot of questions online and in classes about hot spot prevention and home remedies for hot spot treatments. In particular how do you handle a hot spot without shaving? I'll share what I do and how I manage my own wet hairy dogs (whom I don't shave for skin irritations).

I find that dogs who swim in very clean water (pristine lakes or in pools) tend to be at a lower risk for hot spots that are a result of skin irritation. The few times that we've had swimming related hot spots they've been a result of not properly rinsing the dogs off after swimming in untreated water. I now (in the last 3 years) carry a spray bottle that contains one part listerine to three parts tap water. If I can't get them home for a bath or rinse within an hour post swim I'll apply the Listerine spray liberally and work it down to the skin - this is a must after field training in questionable lakes and ponds. As an added benefit listerine keeps the mosquitoes down too - a liberal application from the spray bottle around our tents at an agility trial keeps the mosquitoes and noseeums at bay for a little while.

Seasonal allergies are another primary contributor to skin problems - be on the lookout for common threads - some dogs have reactions to freshly cut grass, others seem to have problems after walks in the woods. Choose a mild shampoo (biogroom is a great light shampoo), dillute it 1 part to 4 parts water and settle into a bath routine after hikes and runs in high grass (the bath will help wash ticks off too!).

Watch ear cleaners and topical flea/tick treatments. Teller had two hot spots that were caused by ear cleaners - the first was Epi-Otic and the second time was caused MalAcetic Otic. The irritation started in the ear (ouch) and continued down his cheek where the ear cleaner made contact with his skin. I really hoped I wouldn't see another ear cleaner reaction after switching to the MUCH gentler MalAcetic Otic - alas nope - same painful reaction to the MalAcetic Otic, So at this point I don't use ear cleaners or drying agents on the dogs after swimming. I'm careful to wipe their ears out once a day either with a tissue or with a Q-Tip and I also make sure that both boys are dried completely before bed at night. This is even more important when there's a lot of atmospheric humidity - as wet dogs won't ever really dry out at the skin level.

Monitor your dogs for the beginning of skin irritations. If you can catch an irritation/red spot before the skin is broken you cut your risk of subsequent infection significantly. At first hint of any trouble brewing I start brewing lipton tea. Take two teabags and let them steep in boiling water (about 1 cup of water). When tea bags are cool enough to touch (and handle comfortably) apply them as a wet compress on the irratated skin (or hot spot) - about 10 minutes will do the trick. After the compress I'll load up a syringe with the brewed tea and flush the entire area with the strong tea in the event that I missed a spot. When treating hot spots take care to treat not only the affected area, but along a wide margin as well - once a hot spot gets started they spread like wildfire. After the compress, pat the area dry and repeat the flushing this time with hydrogen peroxide - make sure you have fresh hydrogen peroxide - it's important that it fizzes a little when it comes in contact with skin.

As for the tea...lipton, red rose, etc - plain old non flavored inexpensive tea. I always use lipton - but that's just my preference. Don't use herbal or green teas, the same properties aren't there. So why tea you ask? Brewed tea is full of some pretty cool compounds. Tea is anti-septic, drying and also is also safe to use on dogs, around children and it can be ingested (in small quantities) if your dog licks the residue.

Repeat the tea/hydrogen peroxide flush 2-3 times a day for 3-4 days. If for some reason you can't catch the hot spot in time I'd suggest adding applications of betagen to the routine. Tea, hydrogen peroxide and the topical betagen spray as a finishing dressing.  Betagen is only available from your vet - but it's something I don't ever leave home without...

Last resort is a course of antibiotics if the spot becomes infected - with good skin/coat management you should be able to avoid the anti-biotic route. Too many vets go straight to prednisone (oral or IM) for hot spots and I think that unless the case is dire that's just way too extreme for a simple hot spot.

So dry your dogs well, check them often for ugly bugs and skin irritations - more often if they've been swimming or you've had a run of high humidity and when you discover a bit of skin irritation or notice that your dog is scratching get started on tea bag compresses, flushes and hydrogen peroxide. A matter of hours can make the difference between an itchy spot and a full blown hot spot.

Have a happy summer - let your dogs enjoy the water and the outdoors with a game plan to knock out those  yucky hot spots right from the start!


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Anonymous said...

All things must pass