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.
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 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.
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.