Tips and Tricks: Dogs with Hot Spots/Skin Allergies

In the 20 years my husband and I have been together we have had two dogs, Jude and Murphy.

Jude was a Border Collie/ Great Pyrenees mix who was black and white and weighed about 80 lbs. When we got her they told us she was Border Collie/ St. Bernard, but I’m certain she wasn’t that. We loved her dearly, but when she passed away at 12 years old I literally had a mild panic attack at the thought of ever having to deal with a puppy again. The chewing. The training. The POTTY training. Oh lord. But she was such a good dog. On top of being our buddy though, she served a purpose. I always felt safe with a big dog with a loud bark in the house. She’d also walk perimeter at night, especially when it was just me and her in the house- she knew her job was to protect me, and I knew she could, if it ever came to it.

Picture of a picture- here is Jude- from the picture we used on the ofrenda for her at Dia de los Muertos. That’s a good dog, Jude.

When Jude passed away I started looking for another dog right away, not because I wasn’t still hurting from Jude’s passing, but because of that purpose a big dog held in our household. Again, being horrified at the thought of another puppy, we adopted Murphy at 2 years old from a rescue group. He was originally named, of all things, Bart- rescue people are an interesting lot. I mean come on- look at that dog and tell me he looks like a “Bart” to you?

Jude was such a good dog, and everything that I wanted in a dog- so I knew I wanted another Great Pyrenees mix. Murph is a Lab/Great Pyrenees mix who is pure white and weighs about 90 lbs.

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There was no way to crop out the spray bottle in the background without cutting off his tail. Lord knows I tried. And those eyes- straight to the soul! That’s a good boy, Murph.

And yes- oh my god the white hair outta both of them- it is a thing. But they both got/get shaved about twice a year, and being mixes they don’t have the HUGE amount a pure Great Pyrenees has. And the Roomba helps a lot too. Honestly the hair isn’t the main thing in my view. The main thing was that both dogs have had issues with hot spots. White dogs are more prone to skin issues, and we faced them with both Jude and Murphy.

Hot spots are a weird thing- they’re allergies, but they’re more like inflamed patches of skin- it isn’t an allover thing. For both Jude and Murph it’s at the base of their tail and sometimes on the tail itself. Can also be inside the legs.

We tried EVERYTHING with Jude- with limited success, until we hit on these things- she had a comfortable last 7 or 8 years and Murph has benefitted from the techniques we perfected with Jude.

  • Dog with hot spots? You now have an indoor dog! Heat, grass, mosquitoes, fleas, their own musk they produce when left outside for too long- all of those things exacerbate hot spots. Keeping them inside and cool is key.
  • Fleas- STAY on top of the fleas. Maybe tighten up on the application of flea medicine to every 3.5 weeks instead of 4 weeks because even a couple of fleas can send a dog with hot spots on a downward spiral.
  • Steroids. The pill form of steroids never much worked for Jude, but the shots helped immensely. Yes there is a risk to their kidneys, but they were able to keep her comfortable and she lived to 12 years old with 2-3 shots a year. (And one year with 4) Murphy has not needed these, but they were a lifesaver with Jude.
  • Bathing. Not too much- that can irritate skin, but not too little, because that can irritate skin- it’s like Goldilocks and about once a month to every 6 weeks seems to be the sweet spot. Also be SURE you’re using the right shampoo.

This next tip was a GAME CHANGER in handling hot spots- use Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo on your dog. It looks like this:

Sold in the human dandruff shampoo aisle.
Arty shot of shampoo in case anyone needed that.

I read the tip to use this shampoo for dogs with hotspots one time, somewhere, in the depths of the early internet, and have never seen it mentioned anywhere else or since. All the dog shampoos are so heavy in fragrance and dye that they only ever seemed to make hot spots worse. The T-gel has a weird medicinal smell, but it fades soon enough and provides really fast relief to the hot spots. It’s amazing how well it works!

As for food- we tried EVERYTHING with Jude. Expensive food, no corn or wheat. We tried a vegetarian food, then one with no byproducts, then a lamb only food. Duck dog food, for god’s sake. I drew the line at the turtle dog food that would have been next- none of it ever made a difference for us and doesn’t seem to be a factor with Murphy, who eats Iams.

So, in order of importance for alleviating hot spots I put keeping the dog inside first. No fleas being second. And Neutrogena T-Gel shampoo third.

I hope this helps someone out there, because it was a real struggle for us. But I’ve imprinted on the Great Pyrenees mixes like a baby chick- this is my dog, forever, if you get me. And they really are the best- so I’m glad we have to have found a way to keep them comfortable.

2 thoughts on “Tips and Tricks: Dogs with Hot Spots/Skin Allergies

  1. We’ve only had that problem once with our dog and found that putting her on a lower protein diet helped, but as you said, it isn’t the answer for everyone. Thanks for your tips.

    1. It’s just a matter of trial and error, and working your way through the options till you hit on the right solution for your dog- for sure!

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