Here at Banixx, we often hear our customers ask “Why is my dog scratching, licking, or chewing on a hot spot?” and of course “What causes hot spots on dogs?”. There are several reasons your pup may be focusing on one area of skin and creating a hot spot. Here are the most common causes of hot spots in dogs.
Top 8 Causes of Hot Spots on Dogs
- Food allergies
- Skin infections
- Age-related weak Immune system
- Fleas, ticks or parasite Infestation (such as scabies and mites)
- Contact irritants/seasonal (such as grass and pesticides)
- Genetic predisposition to compulsive behavior
- A thick coat can easily become matted, it’s a perfect recipe for a hot spot
How Can I Keep A Dog From Licking A Hot Spot?
You don’t immediately have to resort to “The Cone of Shame” (aka Elizabethan collar) to keep your dog from licking (though that does work!). While there’s nothing wrong with The Cone and it’s not cruel or inhumane to make your pup wear it, there are other ingenious alternatives that may keep your dog happier.
If Itchiness Is A Result of Food Allergies, Try Changing Your Dog’s Diet
Around 50% or more of dog hot spots are attributable to food allergies, though you may need to ask a vet, or do your research, to determine precisely what foods bother your dog. As we highlight on our Treating and Preventing Hot Spots on Dogs page, many pooches are allergic to ingredients like soy, wheat, and corn – ingredients that are present in many commercial dog foods. Try a higher protein food diet that avoids grains; if you need help with this, your favorite dog food store will be able to help. When researching on the internet, make sure to get your information from a reliable, independent source. Not everything that you read on the internet is accurate, reliable, or well researched!
If The Hot Spot Is The Result Of An Itchy Skin Infection
The origin of the problem may be a fungal (yeast) condition that leads to the irritation and itchiness and subsequent inflammation. Sometimes the itchy infection also has a foul smell to it. Sometimes, again, changing your dog’s diet may be the answer. You may need to consult with a vet, or do your own research, to determine exactly what foods bother your dog since a topic of discussion, lately, has been that dog foods that are higher in sugar may be the culprit. And, don’t expect to find “sugar” on the label, sugar goes under many names such as corn syrup, molasses, caramel, dextrose, barley malt, to name a few, and, the product may contain more than one of these ingredients! (These can sound pretty healthy, huh? I mean, they list the – barley!) Moreover, as already mentioned, many dogs are allergic to ingredients like soy, wheat, and corn – ingredients that are present in many commercial dog foods. Try feeding a higher protein diet that avoids grains and sugars – your pet food store should be able to help you with this if you are not sure.
Check Your Dog’s Flea or Mite Protection Program
If you don’t currently have one, your vet can make recommendations and perform a simple test to see if fleas/mites are the issues, and, if this is the case, he/she can recommend a product to eliminate them. Even if your dog is on a good flea/tick prevention program, one late treatment or one missed treatment can leave your pooch susceptible to an “attack” by either one of the pesky wily critters! It’s easy to get back on track with treatments if this is the case and while the treatment is taking effect, the use of Banixx Pet Care spray is proven to provide relief from any associated infection but note: Banixx is not an insecticide, so whereas it may give relief, it will NOT kill the mites or fleas.
Is Your Dog Stressed Out or Anxious?
If your dog is stressed or anxious, it can lead to obsessive behaviors such as licking or biting, that creates a hot spot. Some people recommend calming herbs, such as chamomile, St. John’s Wort, skullcap or oat – make it into a cup of tea, let it cool down, and add some of it to your dog’s food.
Another help for stress is regular exercise. This is particularly useful for high-energy dogs that need to stretch their muscles and run in order to remain healthy. Of course, exercise for your dog brings about a bonus for the owner as he or she gets extra exercise! And just as with humans, exercise stimulates the brain, releases endorphins and generates feelings of happiness. Let that energy out to avoid your dog feeling frustrated and turning to self-mutilation for relief. For some dogs, adding a toy to his exercise regimes such as a ball or a Frisbee can get him moving and burning off some excess energy.
Is Your Dog Bored?
If your dog is bored, he may start licking to entertain himself. Your dog needs stimulation to keep him from destructive behaviors. You can play a significant role in relieving your dog’s boredom. Here are some ideas:
- Give her regular exercise (see above for stressed-out dogs). Note: This is good for YOU, too! The companionship of a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure in the dog’s owner!
- Distract her with a small amount of peanut butter (but make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol, which is lethal for your pet – see this blog for more information on how to do this safely). It’s fun to watch her eat it and takes a while for her to finish, particularly if you are able to paste a little to the roof of your canine friend’s mouth!
- If you must leave your dog most of the day (which many people with full-time jobs have to do), leave some toys or bones that he can chew on while you’re gone. You can leave a Kong® stuffed with peanut butter or cheese, for instance. A twist on this is to put a lump of peanut butter into a Kong the night before and put it into the freezer. Next day, it takes your dog quite a while to clear the peanut butter out that Kong. For me, because I work, my two dogs get a frozen peanut butter Kong just before I leave the house, so they know…” Ok, Mom is leaving….settle down and eat the treats and snooze until she returns”. (Frozen Peanut Butter Kong…merely put the usual amount of peanut butter in the Kong, but, put it in the freezer the night before. This will keep your dog busy for quite a bit longer with no downsides)
- Be creative about distraction techniques to keep your dog from feeling the need to lick and chew.
- Hide or scatter dog biscuits for your dog to find while you’re gone.
- Teach him to do tricks.
- Brush her coat.
- Go for a walk.
- Take him outside and throw a ball or Frisbee.
- Shower her with love and affection.
- Treat him to a massage.
Your dog is an important member of your family, and you naturally want him to be healthy, happy, and free of obsessions. Do everything you can to eliminate the causes of hot spots, both physical and psychological.
And remember that, whatever the reason your dog has a hot spot, Banixx Pet Care can help relieve the itch, and help eliminate the infection from the hot spot in a couple of days as part of an integrated program to combat this pesky condition. Find out more here.