Dear Jubilee,

I need HELP. Our dog is scratching, and I think he has hot spots.  One is near his tail and the others are on his front legs.  I do not see any fleas. I would appreciate any suggestions that you could give me.  The spots on his legs are red from him licking them.  My dog is about two years old.  Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

Tired of the Scratching

Dear Tired,

Has your dog had any vaccines or medications in the past three months? If so, which ones? I have found that on the few occasions when my dogs have had hot spots, there has been a correlation to medications or to shots. Last year, it was a female that had been on steroids for something; another girl gets a hot spot every time she has a rabies shot, and it hits about one to two months after the shot and has been diagnosed by her vet as a reaction to the rabies shot.

I do not use antibiotics or steroids to heal hot spots. I found out years ago that these meds just hide the symptoms and the spots may come back when you go off the meds. What I recognize now with hot spots is that they are usually toxins trying to leave the dog's body. So I do what I can to make the dog comfortable and do what I can to help the toxins leave by not adding meds that are just more toxins for the body. My guiding motto for hot spots is: "Keep them clean. Keep them dry. Be patient."

1. A variety of alternative treatments. Here is what we did up until 2005: For the external treatment, I do one of the following (and sometimes do one for a week or so and then try another for a week or so). For all of them, first, clip the hair off of the spots and the immediate vicinity to expose the skin to the air. Then, clean the spots with soap and water (I usually use their regular oatmeal shampoo but sometimes use the human shampoo, Nizoral, which is an anti-fungal shampoo that will cleanse the area of any fungus or yeast that may be complicating the situation) and rinse them well and pat them dry. Then every day, I rinse them several times with hydrogen peroxide (some people use alcohol and some use strong black tea --  you are trying to dry the spots and keep them as dry as possible). Instead of peroxide, I often use Shreiner's Herbal Solution (1-800-223-HEAL), a wonderful solution that contains aloe vera, myrrh, goldenseal, comfrey, cayenne and elder in a very light alcohol base -- it does a great job of drying the spot and soothing it. Finally, spread some soothing calendula ointment on the spot (this is our homeopathic vet's preferred treatment), or you can sprinkle it with Gold Bond Powder.

Keeping them from scratching and licking is difficult. You need lots of patience. If they will wear an Elizabethan collar, then by all means, use one so that the lesion has more time to dry out. But some just will not wear any of the contraptions meant to keep them from scratching themselves (the one that had some spots after steroids last year got around every neck thing that I tried so we just had to wait it out, and it took about three months. In fact, a vet who did her OFA x-rays  a week before they finally disappeared told me that she would never get over it if I did not put her on steroids. I just smiled and thanked him for the advice. The next week, it was totally gone. We were visiting someone who had a large Airedale kennel at the time, and I always said it was from playing so hard in so much dirt that finally cleared it up :)).

If you feed kibble, my homeopathic vet recommended adding some steamed chopped veggies to the kibble. Avoid vegetables like carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and others that are high in sugars and avoid spinach. But zucchini, summer squash, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, etc. are very good. Mainly whatever I was cooking for us, I chopped some and sprinkled over her food. I also sprinkled some hard grated hard boiled egg with the veggies and some canned jack mackerel or canned salmon (all those wonderful fish oils). You might also add fish oil or salmon oil capsules to his food (my dogs get two human capsules every day and if there are any skin issues, I add a third to that dog's meals).

Again, the most important thing is patience, the patience needed to wait out the cure so that you know the toxins are out of the body.

There is a list at www.groups.yahoo.com, called ADTnutrition. There are a lot of people, both breeders and companion owners on that list, who are very helpful with natural ways to treat a lot of day in, day out kinds of things. Many of these people have a lot of really good experience.

2. Here is what we do now Ė 2005 Ė Essential Oil Treatment. Recently one of our dogs had a hot spot that was proving stubborn to heal. None of the remedies and shampoos were helping. These spots started after I groomed the dogís head very close. Although I used my usual spray to clean off the barish skin, Dilys decided to help matters along, and started licking Neisha's cheeks continually. Before I realized the danger, Neisha had sprouted two ugly hot spots, and nothing seemed to work. The vet told me to use Gold Bond Powder, saying it would stop those spots cold. I did. That worked on the smaller spot and it healed quickly with application of Gold Bond about three times a day. But the first and bigger spot steadfastly refused to heal.

I recently got the book by Kristen Leigh Bell, Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: it contains a recipe for healing hot spots. Like my vet, the writer claimed her recipe would stop hot spots in their tracks. Even though it took two days to make the remedy, I decided to give it a try (I knew that the Gold Bond would not have made my effort unnecessary in that short time).

The remedy worked! That ugly weeping spot dried up in less than two days, and all we had to do was grow out the hair. I used the solution three or four times a day after cleansing the wound with Dr. Bronnerís soap (see below). Since then, I have given the solution to several friends who have used it with amazing success. Ms. Bell was right: it does stop hot spots in their tracks. I recommend that everyone buy this book: it is chock full of great recipes for essential oil treatments. Here's the recipe for the hot spot treatment:

1/2 oz. base oil (the author uses hazelnut or sweet almond but I used
jojoba since I had it on hand)
3 drops Sage, salvia officinalis, essential oil
7 drops lavender, lavandula angustifloia, essential oil
15 drops Clove Bud infusion (IMPORTANT TO NOTE: this is not clove bud
essential oil; this is an infusion that will take you two days to make)

Store in a dark glass bottle. Use 2 to 4 drops of this recipe three or four times a day to the affected area after cleansing.

Clove Bud Infusion:
The clove bud infusion is used because clove bud essential oil is dermocaustic and should not be used on dogs. To create an oil infusion, add 1/4 cup clove buds (yes, the kind you use in the kitchen) to 1/2 cup sweet almond oil and simmer the buds and oil together over very low heat for two days (your house will have a warm clove odor). Then strain the oil out and store it in a dark glass bottle. This infusion provides some of the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of the clove buds without
the risk of irritation.

Normally, the writer also does not use sage because of its ketone, but she says that the drying and mucolytic properties of the sage ketones are important to heal a weeping wound. Note that she uses a very small amount, just enough to provide a beneficial effect.

Once the spot had stopped weeping, Ms Bell recommended another essential oil blend to help the healing along. She had several other recipes for soothing skin treatments and for healing wounds. I recommend keeping her book on hand.

Dr. Bronnerís Soap: Now, in addition to using the essential oil remedies from Ms Bellís book, I also use a different soap to cleanse the open hot spot wound. That soap is Dr. Bronnerís Liquid Castile Soap with Lavender. It cleanses and disinfects, and you use very little of it in a dilution of 40 parts water to one part soap. It rinses off easily, leaving no soap residue. It is available in health food stores and on the Internet at http://www.drbronner.com/

3. Here is another approach to hot spots, this one intended to prevent the dog from licking the hot spot:

1. Shave the affected area and about 1-2 inches around it as close as possible.
2. Moisten a wash cloth with warm water and gently clean the "spot" and surroundings. Try to loosen up the scab and clean it away. Sometimes you have to bribe the "victim", and let the washcloth just rest on the area to soften the scab.
3. Very gently dry the area off using a clean dry cloth - gently blotting it dry, because it's very tender and sore.
4. Sprinkle some Gold Bond Powder on the area and let it sink/absorb into the area.
5. Spread some Vick's VapoRub mentolated ointment.  Rub around (BUT NOT ON!) the area to prevent tongues from licking off the Gold Bond Powder!

Repeat steps 2 to 5 twice a day. The Gold Bond has a great drying ability and is quite inexpensive. The Vick's VapoRub can be used around other places on your dogs that I don't want any tongues to get to. It also prevents a "housemate" (read another Airedale) from licking off the medicine from the victim! It even stopped one dog from removing any more (she removed 4 in the middle of the night) staples from an amputation site. Make sure the Vick's doesn't get in an open wound or it will sting, sting, sting and hurt, hurt, hurt!

Good luck,