Dear Old Trainer: Your column where you said you found a way to cure red spots on your dog’s skin really caught my interest. My Shih Tzu, Bella, has them all the time and they just get deeper red when she chews on them. My vet calls them “hot spots” and it costs $80 every time he treats one. How did you deal with them?
– Eileen, Sacramento
Dear Eileen: I made changes in the way I take care of my dogs, none of them major and none of them expensive. All my dogs ate the same thing, but only two had red spots on a regular basis.
Those two suffered from dry skin and dandruff, so I researched ways to solve the problem and find what changes I needed to make. First I improved the diet of all my dogs, replacing the cheap kibble from the supermarket with a 4-star brand that contains more nutrition and eliminates ingredients that cause allergies. (I just emailed you the websites that analyze and rate dry dog food).
I took extra steps for the two with dry skin. I add 1,000 mg of fish oil – you’ll find fish oil capsules in the vitamin department at any store – to their food each day.
I puncture the capsule with a needle and put it directly onto the food. I also add a tablespoon of safflower oil daily (for a small dog like Bella, make it a teaspoon daily).
Dry dog food contains fatty acids, but they evaporate when exposed to air, so make sure to seal the bag each time you use it.
In addition I brush each dog daily, even if only for a few minutes, and wash them with an oatmeal-based shampoo every 10 days. Even a little brushing stimulates natural oil in the coat and oatmeal shampoo soothes the skin.
Those are long-term steps. In the short term, I apply hydrocortisone cream on the skin the instant I see either dog start to chew. My vet told me it is the only medication he uses to treat hot spots and it works like magic. Within minutes of application, the dogs relax and the red disappears.
It’s been three months since I made those changes and they worked. Neither dog has had a red spot for the last six weeks.
The sores occur more often in hot weather, so keep an eye on Bella.
Scratching and chewing are how she lets you know something is bothering her. If you see her chewing, apply hydrocortisone cream to the spot even if the skin is not red. Bella feels the itching before the sore appears and the cream stops it in its tracks.
The flea season is here, so anyone whose dog has skin problems should be aware that applying flea medications directly to the skin exacerbates the problem.
Warm weather makes all skin problems worse, and toxic chemicals in flea medication and tick collars can make your dog miserable all summer.
Switch to a pill form of medication. I use Comfortis, which contains no toxic chemicals and is not applied to the skin. That helps keep skin problems at a manageable level and saves you all those trips to the vet.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.