Canine Hot Spots and the Wonders of Neem

A couple of months back we noticed that our Abroozi was scratching, itching and biting himself a lot more than usual. All dogs scratch and itch but one should always be on the look out for when it gets excessive. While brushing him we noticed very red almost volcanic bumps under this hair, in the hair follicle. Soon, the hair on his hind legs and his sides started thinning as the red bumps took over. The problem is that they are puss filled and as they swell, they become itchy and the dog starts to scratch and burst it, causing it never to heal. If you’ve read this blog before, you can imagine my absolute distress because we ensure that Abroozi is well exercised, bathed and brushed and looking his best at all times. So the invasion of the hot spots came as a shock.

We rushed him to the vet and he was given an antibiotic injection and a week of antibiotic tablets. This was along with his Nutricoat Omega 3 and Omega 6 syrup and a twice weekly bath with a Miconazole Nitrate and Chlorhexidine Gluconate based shampoo which is an anti-fungal treatment.

We were also given a Clotrimazole powder (also an anti-fungal treatment) to apply twice daily while “back brushing”: you run the brush against the grain of the hair growth and sprinkle the powder so that it gets to the skin and the hair follicle rather than it staying on the hair surface. The brushing really helps stimulate the natural oils in the skin. The scabs tend to fall off easily with a tiny clump of matted hair. While he was on the antibiotics, he healed completely within a couple of days, and all the red pustules dried up, turned to scabs and fell off.  He was fine for two weeks and we were convinced we had won the war against the red “hot spots”.

Sadly , after two weeks they returned, not as severely, but they were very much there. He was again rushed to the vet who was reluctant to keep pumping him with antibiotics. So he recommended we continue with the twice weekly bath and gave him a very mild dose of an antibiotic injection. The good effects of the drugs lasted just a week this time. The hot spots were back and for the third time we went to the vet. This time he took a scraping of the skin, one of the fresh pustules and a flaky scab. He wanted to make sure it was a bacterial infection and not a parasitic infection, of which the latter is far worse like a tick or mite infestation. We were delighted to find that it was a staph (staphylococcal) bacterial infection, which they call Pyoderma in canines. It was a considerably mild form judging by the write ups on the web and images on Google.

Hot spot – mild form

Basically these bacteria are present in every dog’s skin. Even human skin grows bacteria as quickly as 3 hours after we bathe. These bacteria hide away in the hair follicle and infect the dog’s outer skin. This can be caused by humidity, allergy to a plant, certain grasses, a food allergy and if the dog has a low skin integrity or immunity. The constant scratching breaks the dog’s skin and the omnipresent bacteria infect the wound. It can be very difficult to treat and can affect dogs of all breeds and ages. Because a dog’s fur is so thick, especially in breeds like Labradors, Retrievers, German Shepherds, there is a lack of air flow which makes the wound moist and this is a more potent combination for bacteria propagation. And in humid areas like where we live by the sea, this is further intensified.

His third and final round of antibiotics came in the form of a suspended oral solution of Amoxicillin and Potassium Cavulanate, (brand name Temobax) which we had to tip in to his mouth, 5ml per day. Eventually he knew he had to swallow it if he wanted to get his rotis/naans in the morning. This combined with the twice weekly bath has helped immensely.

But the one thing that has really kept the pustules at bay is the very simple, very effective, very humble Neem leaf. Based on my mother-in-law’s experience with her dog, we crushed Neem leaves in a blender with a couple of teaspoons of turmeric, added a bit of water and blended to a paste. I say, paste but I make mine much more watery than that at first and after a day or two it dries up. You can also strain what’s in the blender to get just the liquid. This we apply liberally on the most affected areas, the legs and his sides and undercarriage using a sponge, a cloth or a spray bottle.

I’m happy to say that the Neem has worked tremendously well. The twice daily brushing, bathing and then daily application of the Neem paste is now the routine. It has worked for three weeks. This week I noticed one red pustule but no less than 24hrs after vigourously rubbing  Neem paste in to it, the pustule had been healed in to submission. At first your dog will look pretty green but the Neem gets absorbed in to the skin so fast, he won’t be a green dog for too long. Try giving him a massage while you apply it, this will make him associate relaxation with “neem time”.

Neem Tree

Neem paste

Neem is well known for not just its antibiotic properties but as a cure to a variety of ailments. In India we’ve been chewing on Neem branches instead of using toothpaste, for centuries. In South India, the white flowers of the Neem plant is made in to a vegetable dish. If you can introduced Neem in to your dog’s diet it really improves their immunity. Some dogs may not eat it as it can be bitter but our Abroozi loves to eat it, so we are lucky.

A word of caution though, you can buy Neem oil and apply that to your dog’s skin but they should not lick it as it can be very harmful when ingested. And since you cannot control when and where your dog licks himself I would be wary of using Neem oil for dogs. When the oil is pressed, there is a chemical released that is not good for them. So I’d stick with good old Neem leaf paste.

Green dog – applying neem paste on Abroozi

enjoying his neem massage

But once your dog has hot spots, it is a constant exercise in close inspection of your dog’s skin. It cannot be transmitted from one dog to another but you have to ensure that he doesn’t scratch and pick at it. The neem not only sterilises the pustule but is also very cooling on the body which prevents the dog scratching and causing more breaks in the skin. For this reason neem paste is also applied on the body when humans have chicken pox, to prevent picking at the pustules and causing scars. There has been much controversy over the humble neem plant. In 1995 the European Patent Office granted a patent to US Department of Agriculture and W.R Grace and Company for an anti-fungal product derived from neem . The Indian government challenged the patent claiming that the process had existed in India for over 2000 years. Despite a ruling in India’s favour, W.R Grace appealed claiming that the process had never been published in a scientific journal. In 2005 they lost the appeal and Neem is free again.

May 2012: Since writing this post in October of 2011, I thought I’d update you on Abroozi’s condition. The regular neem bath has worked very well but in December 2011 he needed another round of Cephalexin antibiotics, this time for 3 weeks and this intense dose worked well. We stopped the neem and in April of this year (2012), the pyoderma came back. We attacked it with the neem and one week of Cephalexin and it has kept them at bay. I know this sounds like a lot of antibiotics but canines, unlike humans, can tolerate it for longer durations. In the end, I think rigourous checking for spots, at least once weekly application of neem (after the hotspots have totally gone) and don’t rule out antibiotics.

August 2012: We now think that these skin problems could be the result of food allergies (gluten/wheat/beef/milk/eggs etc)  Please see my post: http://nonsensegirl.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/food-allergies-in-dogs/

Update Jan 2013: Hotspots returned briefly for a week – not intense.

Update March end/April 2013: Hotspots returned, tried 2 weeks of only neem treatment but started antibiotics in the third week as hotspots were severe. Neem sorted out the itching, and soothed the skin but did not combat any new pustules that formed.

Update June 2013 to August 2013: I think we may have cracked the mystery. Abroozi is allergic to yeast. After much scouring on the internet and piecing bits of information together we have put him on an yeast free diet and he has been pyoderma/hotspot free for 3 months (the longest he’s been free of it for 2 years)

This means he eats the following only: beef (or chicken or fish), lentils/dals, gourds (bottle gourd/louki, ash gourd, but not pumpkin), yogurt, egg.

So he does not eat any carbohydrate that can break down in to yeast: no bread, rice, no idli, no wheat, oats, soy or plain milk. VEges such as carrots and pumpkin are also off as well as all fruits and anythign sweet including honey.

I also looked at the doggie treats he was eating and the multivitamin TOP 10 which all contain yeast.

All commercially available dog treats have carbs. So for his treats I now make beef jerky. I freeze a slab of beef. Take it out of the freezer to thaw for an hour and when it’s in a slightly frozen, slightly thawed state it makes it easier to slice finely. Cut very thin slices of beef, wash well, arrange on an oven tray. Set the oven to 100 degrees Centigrade and allow the beef to cook for at least 2 hrs. All the moisture will be sucked out and you’ll be left with chewy beef jerky. If you increase the temperature then the strips will become too brittle and burn too quickly.

So please check your multivitamins and doggie treats for yeast.

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11 thoughts on “Canine Hot Spots and the Wonders of Neem

  1. Cooper's Mom says:

    The skin is the biggest filter in the body. Skin problems are very common these days since dogs get far too many vaccines and “pet food” is very poor nutrition. We had a rescue dog who came to us with 2 huge hot spots…the size of my hand in each area. We feed our dogs organic raw diet. It’s meat, a vegetable and some plain yogurt that has no sugar. We used organic apple cider vinegar on his hot spots and also gave him 1 capsule of Seagate brand olive leaf supplement. The hot spots were completely gone in 2 weeks and have never returned. No one can be healthy unless they eat the correct diet with foods that are high in nutrients. For dogs, that’s a raw meat diet. We spend a little more money on food, but our dogs are never ill and don’t see the vet except for a yearly wellness exam and blood work. Chewing on the raw meat bones cleans their teeth and no veterinary dental procedure is needed. We save more money since we have almost no vet expense.

    • Thanks for this. Wondering what veges you feed your dogs as veges break down in to sugars as well (carrots, pumpkin especially). DO feed them raw or cooked veges and are they mashed, pureed, whole? I would love to give my dog a raw meat diet but i don’t trust the meat that we get here in India. YOu just have to see the cows on the streets eating paper and garbage and it doesn’t fill one with confidence! BOnes are a must I agree – they do wonders for tartar build up. Hope you and your doggie are doing well – thank you for contributing.

  2. Charlene Bosch says:

    It is somehow comforting to know that other people seem to have the same problem that I do with my dogs. I have 2 beautiful Boerboels, a male and female. My male boerboel “Zar” has what appears to be small red bumps all over his back, face and legs. The bumps have flared up over the last week and today have erupted into bloody sores. We feed them a Raw food diet with Beef, goat or chicken and pureed vegetables like spinach, broccoli and neem leaves. We also have been giving them Virgin Coconut oil in their diet. I am totally at my whit’s end as I believe we have tried everything. He is now on medication called “Prednoral” and this helps but as soon as we stop the medication…the bumps return immediately. This has been on going for a few months now and I hate to keep putting him back on medication as this does not solve the problem. My female Boerboel “Lea” has the same problem except that she scratches her skin all the time. I also spray them with a neem tea and his help to relive the itching. I also give them probiotic tablets to boost the immune system and a series of doggie vitamins. I also happen to live on a small Island in the Caribbean where it is very humid this time of the year and my dogs love to go in and out of the pool to cool down. This of coarse is a great formula for bacteria to grow! If anyone has any more ideas…please let me know, I really need to solve this mystery.

    • Dear Charlene, First off – i feel for you. I know exactly what you are going through and it does seem like a big mystery. The diet and the neem tea spray sound great. Try adding plain yogurt as that has probiotics as well. The other thing U can try is to spray them with a mixture of 1/4 cup vinegar mixed in 5 cups water. This can make the skin less acidic and more alkaline, balancing out the PH of the skin. Rather than the pool, swimming in the sea can be much better – the salt water heals the sores and again balances out the PH of the skin. OR do the vinegar spray at the end of the day once the pool swimming is done. I have been tardy in updating this post but I think I may have cracked the mystery with my Labrador – he’s allergic to yeast. So all carbs, most veg and fruits are out. He’s now eating lots of beef, dals/lentils, gourds only, yogurt and egg. He’s been pustule free for 3 months now which is the longest he’s been in 2 years and this is our most humid season. Looking at your doggies’ diet there seems to be no yeast as it’s a raw food diet. Check the vitamins you are giving for yeast. I thought i had eliminated all yeast until I saw that the multivitamin and dog treats i was giving him both had yeast in it. Now I make beef jerky for him as the dog treat because all commerical dog treats have carbs in it. Also try a homoeopathic medicine – there are plenty of Indians in the Caribbean, maybe there are some homoeopath among them! – it is much better than allopathic/western medicine but takes a long time for the effects to be seen. PET WEB MD has a slideshow of dog skin problems http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/ss/slideshow-skin-problems-in-dogs
      THis may help you better identify the exact condition your dogs have. Keep me posted on how you are getting on. All the best and i really hope their situation improves…

  3. K says:

    Turned out my dog was allergic to peanut butter. :(

  4. gkorula says:

    Funnily enough our dog only started getting these skin problems when we switched him from Pedigree (which he hated) to home cooked food. But it could also be the highly humid and foresty area where we live. It looks like he has an allergy to wheat/gluten and beef. We have switched him over to a high lentil, vegetables, rice, millet and fish diet (with supplements like calcium, omega 3 and 6 etc). He could also be allergic to eggs and milk but we are slowly eliminating things. He’s just been on a long course of anti-biotics but I think the diet changes have done him good. Please see my other post on food allergies in dogs and please do weigh in with any advice: Cheers, and thanks for reading, http://nonsensegirl.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/food-allergies-in-dogs/

  5. Chris says:

    I used to work in the pet food industry and customer’s dogs that had severe skin problems were almost always feeding their dog a corn-based dog food like Purina Dog Chow/Iams/Eukanuba/KibblesNBits/ etc.

    After a month of gradual transition to a natural meat/rice/vegetable/vitamin blend dog food they’d come back and tell me their dogs were doing better and their hair grew back/rashes went away.

    I found your blog when I was looking for an article for the benefits of neem, so I’m not sure if your dog is already on a high quality grain free food. It sounds like it though!

  6. [...] of neem paste gives him great relief from the itching and causes pustules to heal in 24 hrs and my post on it gets the most number of hits. But the neem does not prevent the pustules from coming [...]

  7. gkorula says:

    Soon after this post went to press a friend told me that she gave her Labrador sulphur tablets bought from a trusted homeopathic dispensary. She said it worked wonders on her dog’s undefinable “rash”. I swam in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, with good natural sulphur in it and it did wonders for my acne scars….but i’ve not yet tried the sulphur treatment on my dog. Worth considering though…

  8. A very well researched and informative article on a malady that has sent me panicking many a times till I discovered the efficacy of the neem and haldi combination………………………I remember I was in Brunei at the time and got the distressing news about Simba ( our big big fawn Lab , born in a Muscat farm – & who we suspect has a bit of leonine blood in him and is also susceptible to many skin infections which passed by Danny – the black ‘desi’ lab, on account of his foreign blood bereft of Indian immunity.). Simb had once again got that horrible skin infection leaving him with patchy hair loss and angry weepy skin giving him a leprous look. My friend, who’s father in law has lots of dogs , had this simple remedy to suggest. I didnt think it would work , but being far away from home , I knew it wouldnt be easy for Simba to be taken to the vet as often as the condition required. I gave the message over the phone to my domestic help and forgot all about it for the next 15 days. When next I called home, Simba had got cured. ‘His coat gleams now’ – the words were music to my ears and since then I have sworn by the neem and haldi treatment.My daughter in law has endorsed my views on the green and yellow paste and has gone several steps further with blogging it for all dogs similarly afflicted.

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