How to Overcome Your Dog’s Hot Spots Once and for All

According to the website, hot spots are one of the most common reasons people take their dogs to the vet. In fact, hot spots rank fourth in the top 10 reasons dogs go to the vet! And it’s no wonder—hot spots are irritated, infected, hot, red, moist lesions that are both painful and itchy to your dog. They often grow rapidly, and in many dogs are chronic and cause a lot of discomfort to the dog and stress (and money, in terms of vet bills and treatments) to the owner.

According to conventional wisdom, hot spots can occur whenever something irritates a dog’s skin and leads to scratching or biting of the irritated area. Most people believe hot spots are the result of allergies, getting wet, insect bites, lack of grooming, ear or skin infections, or excessive licking and chewing. However, like so many things relating to pet care, this doesn’t truly get at the heart of what causes hot spots, and certainly doesn’t lend to being able to address them effectively (hence why, in so many instances, they become a seemingly chronic condition).

For most people, if their dog starts to lick or chew excessively, or if there is any indication of a hot spot, they take the dog to the vet. Common conventional approaches to dealing with the hot spot usually include shaving the area around the hot spot, prescribing antibiotics and painkillers, applying or administering medication to kill fleas, ticks, and other parasites, adding a dietary supplement to increase essential fatty acids, prescribing steroids or antihistamines to relive itching, and recommending a hypoallergenic food (which is still processed kibble) to address any potential food allergies. Often, people are also advised to get their dog groomed regularly and get them shaved, especially in the summer, and they’re told to maintain a regular flea and tick prevention program using over-the-counter flea and tick medications. They are also advised to make sure their dog gets plenty of exercise and isn’t subjected to lots of stress.

However, what most people find is these measures don’t effectively address the issue. That’s because conventional treatments don’t get at the root cause of the hot spots. At best, they suppress the symptoms, and at worst, they exacerbate the problem—and so the hot spots keep coming back.

So, what’s going on when a dog presents with hot spots? Essentially, when you see hot spots erupting on your dog, it means your dog’s body is being overwhelmed by toxins that are coming in at a faster rate than the liver and kidneys can handle. The skin is the largest eliminative organ, and so the toxins start to “erupt” out of the skin as part of the body’s frantic effort to rid itself of them. And when you add antibiotics and steroids and flea/tick preventives on top of it, the toxic overload increases while at the same time the body’s ability to stay balanced and handle the toxins decreases.

Both antibiotics and steroids throw the body into a state of imbalance. Antibiotics wipe out all the bacteria and gut flora, which severely inhibits the ability of the immune system to do its job, while at the same time leading to future problems because the “bad” bacteria tend to grow back more quickly than the “good” bacteria. This can lead to further imbalance, which often presents as ear infections, yeast infections, and other issues (which, not surprisingly, do lead to dogs itching and scratching excessively…and that excessive, out-of-balance scratching and itching can cause a flare-up of hot spots in a dog with an excess of toxins. And so, the roller coaster continues…). And steroids suppress the immune system, so the dog’s body is less able to stay healthy, ward off pathogens and viruses, and keep the dog in tip-top shape. Administering these when the system is already completely out-of-whack just makes it worse.

Furthermore, applying products topically or administering them internally to control parasites also cause a flood of toxins into the dog’s body. These products contain poison intended to kill the parasites. But what that means is your dog’s body is exposed to poison—often directly on the skin—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, and therefore, a lose-lose situation for your dog.

So, if the conventional treatments don’t help—and any of you with pets that suffer from hot spots know exactly how difficult and frustrating this can be—what can be done? It’s relatively simple, although not necessarily easy or quick, especially if you’ve been following conventional treatments for a long time. The first step is to make sure your dog is on a raw diet so they receive all the nutrients they need in a highly bioavailable form while eliminating all the stuff they don’t need. A raw diet supports their entire body, including their immune system, digestive system, organs, and body processes.

When you feed a species-appropriate raw food diet, you lessen the work the liver and kidneys have to do, because they don’t have to remove waste at a rate that exceeds what they’re designed for. You reduce the workload of the pancreas, bring the stomach pH to an appropriate level, and flood your dog with the nutrients he or she needs to keep their body systems in good working order.

But, to address the toxin issue, you need to go beyond diet. Flea and tick preventives, such as Frontline and K9 Advantix, are poison, and when you apply them to your dog, the poison goes through their skin; their body must then work to eliminate that poison (see Appendix C for more about the dangers of conventional flea and tick preventives, and some safer alternatives). So, another vital step in helping your dog come back to optimal balance and reducing the load on the immune system is to stop flooding your dog’s body, internally and externally, with poisons. These are toxins the body must get rid of, and if the kidneys and liver are already overloaded, the skin may have to help remove the toxins, and hot spots may result.

In addition to the things you put directly and deliberately onto your dog, you also have to consider the effects of things like herbicides and pesticides, as well as toxic cleaning products. Our dogs run around outside on the grass and in our yards with no protection between their feet and the ground. They brush up against foliage and sniff everything. This means they’re exposed to everything you put in your yard, including chemical fertilizers, weed killers, and other herbicides. If your yard or house is sprayed for bugs, they encounter residual pesticides. And because they’re closer to the ground and in direct contact with the floors of the house (if you let them inside), they’re also exposed to whatever is in what you use to clean your house and floors.

So, take a good look at what you are putting down in your house and yard. If you want to use better cleaners, check out our recipes or take a look at our favorite products for some great options. The goal is to reduce or remove toxins in the environment as much as possible, so your dog’s kidneys and liver don’t have to deal with them and get overwhelmed.

You may also want to support your dog with natural modalities when they’re going through a hot spot episode. Various essential oils, such as lavender, feel soothing to the skin and are good at helping the body and especially the skin to rebalance (and remember, hot spots are caused by an imbalance, which the skin is trying to assist in relieving). 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.

Keep in mind it may take some time for the body to flush out all the toxins, and you may see the hot spots get worse for a while as the body detoxes. It’s important to be patient as the body seeks to heal itself. It took a long time for the imbalance to get to the point where hot spots are seen, and it will take time for everything to rebalance. If you go back to conventional treatments, which suppress the issue without really addressing the root cause, you may make it more difficult for the body to come back into balance, and you will probably have to start over, with an even more intense case. It can be very difficult, but the natural modalities may provide some relief.

Hot spots can be a frustrating, distressing issue for you and your dog. However, as with most things, when you get to the root cause of the problem, you’ll find you can help support your dog so they can overcome their chronic hot spots in a natural way. By removing toxins and helping to rebalance and strengthen their immune system, you enable their organs and body systems to function properly, and their bodies will begin to flush out toxins effectively. Because there will be significantly less toxins going in, their skin won’t “erupt” in an effort to rid the body of excess toxic material. Your dog will return to a state of balance by healing and re-balancing him or herself, just as nature intended.




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