Old Trainer

Two tricks to help cool off ‘hot spots’ on your dog

DEAR OLD TRAINER: You said not long ago you found a way to cure red spots on your dogs. I need the details because Max, my mixed breed (might be Maltese and Shih Tzu), has them all the time. They are blood red, about the size of a pea, and they drive him crazy. My vet calls them “hot spots” and it costs $70 every time he treats one. What was your solution?

James, Turlock

A: I did two things, one short term, one long term.

The short term is easy. Only two of my eight dogs have hot spots. The minute I see one of them licking or chewing the same spot, I clip the hair in the area and apply hydrocortisone cream (my vet told me that’s all he uses when he treats hot spots) directly onto the sore.

It works like magic. Within minutes the red disappears and the dogs relax.

The sores occur more in hot weather so keep an eye on Max. Chewing and licking are how he lets you know he has a problem. If you see him licking, apply hydrocortisone cream to the spot even if the skin is not red. Max feels the itching before the sore appears and the cream stops it in its tracks.

Applying flea medications directly to the skin exacerbates hot spots and all other skin problems. Toxic chemicals in flea medication and tick collars make your dog miserable all summer.

Switch to a pill form of flea medication. I use Comfortis, which contains no toxic chemicals. (I accept no free samples and buy all products I use.) Keep Max’s fur clipped short during the summer and throw away the tick collars.

The long-term step I took was to spend months researching the role nutrition plays in causing skin problems with dogs. I found it is usually the primary cause and was shocked at how misleading labels on kibble can be.

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 allergy-causing ingredients.

I took extra steps for the two with skin problems. I add 1,000 milligrams 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. For a small dog like Max, make it a teaspoon.

Good dog food contains fatty acids that evaporate when exposed to air, so seal the bag each time you use it.

In addition, I brush each dog daily for a few minutes, and give them a bath once a week. I use oatmeal-based shampoo on the two. Even a little brushing stimulates natural oil in the coat and oatmeal shampoo soothes the skin.

The above will seem like work to some, but I love my dogs and enjoy the time I spend making them feel better.

You and Max will enjoy it too, plus you’ll save those trips to the vet.

A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to theoldtrainer@gmail.com.