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Remedies for Insect Stings and Bites, Hot Spots and other Skin Conditions

By Robin Tierney

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Insect Stings and Bites
Remedies for Various Skin Ailments
Dietary Approaches for Healthy Skin
Related Webpages

Insect Stings and Bites:

  • Scrape out the stinger, moving parallel to the skin surface, to reduce the chance of pumping more venom into the dog's skin. You can use anything such as a finger nail, twig, credit card, or any stiff-edged object to remove the stinger. That approach generally pulls out the stinger without squeezing the venom sack. Do not grab the stinger with tweezers or fingers.
  • Bathe the stung area with a solution of baking soda and water.
  • Immediately apply ice packs to reduce swelling (lining the pack with cloth or a thin towel). Do this frequently for 5 minutes at a time.
  • One way to treat bee stings is to give the dog Benadryl (diphenhydramine) by mouth. Typical dosages: for cats and dogs under 30 pounds, give 10 mg...dogs 30 to 50 pounds, give 25 mg...dogs over 50 pounds, give 50 mg. Use only the plain Benadryl formula.
  • A swollen muzzle often indicates a bee sting.
  • Stings and bites can cause severe reactions. If there is major swelling, or the animal seems disoriented, sick or has trouble moving or breathing, go to the vet immediately. Even if your pet seems fine, watch him carefully for 24 hours. A bee expert advises that while Benadryl will buy some time, it will not stop the anaphylactic shock being represented by the breathing problems. Emergency symptoms require veterinary care.
  • Dogs with short and thin fur are more prone to spider bites and scorpion stings. The venom can be very dangerous.
Remedies for Various Skin Ailments:
  • Some ways to soothe insect bites, hot spots, and other skin conditions:
    • Dab with milk of magnesia to calm irritated skin.
    • Aloe vera from plants and creams. Apply gel directly on the spot. Or dilute with water, put it in a spray bottle and spray it on the spot.
    • Dab with organic apple cider vinegar.
    • Saturate a cotton ball with witch hazel and apply on hot spots for several days.
    • Apply a mixture of baking soda and water to the affected areas. This also helps soothe itchy human skin in case you, too, have a sting, rash or poison ivy.
    • Epsom salt: mix 1 teaspoon in 2 cups of warm water for drawing out infection and bathing itchy paws and skin.
    • Combine 3 capsules of sage, 1/4 teaspoon of Epsom salts and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cool to room temperature, then strain out the sage. Store in a spray bottle or jar in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Apply to the affected area several times a day.
    • Emu oil is a natural, soothing substance that helps treat canine skin ailments such as ringworm, flea bites, bee stings, rashes, hot spots and lacerations. Apply on the affected area.
    • Aveeno. Mix a package of Aveeno oatmeal bath powder with 2 cups of water, wet the dog down with cool water, then apply the Aveeno mix. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Then rinse off with cool water and towel dry.
    • Petkin Reliefstick, which comes packaged like a stick deodorant. It contains natural ingredients to cool the skin as well as reduce redness and swelling and promote healing -- plus a safe licking deterrent.
    • Petroleum jelly or Bag Balm - use either to seal in moisture. Also excellent for chaffed paw pads.
    • Brewers yeast: one pill for every 10 pounds of the dog's weight; just add the pills into the dog's food.
    • For immediate first aid for insect stings and bites, see the Insect Stings and Bites section.
  • Sunburn or minor burn. If your pet gets a burn or sunburn, see your veterinarian. You can bathe the pet in an oatmeal-type bath or with Aveeno. Apply towel soaked with cold water soaks or an ice packs for 20 minutes. Wash gently with mild soap, clipping back hair if necessary. Blot dry, then apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin. You can protect the area by gently taping gauze dressing around it or wrapping in a dry towel.
  • Chemical and acid burns. Flush chemical burns with a lot of fresh water. Apply an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not place an ice pack directly on the skin. Instead, wrap the pack in a light towel or cloth. Neutralize acid on the skin by rinsing with a solution of baking soda and water. Neutralize alkali with a weak vinegar-water solution. Blot dry, apply antibiotic ointment and tape gauze dressing loosely around the affected area. Olive oil can also be applied. See your vet.
  • For more serious burns, wrap the burn in a soft, clean cloth or towel, treat for shock, and go immediately to the vet or emergency animal hospital.
  • Bleeding. Apply pressure right away. If this does not stop the bleeding, fasten a tourniquet close to the wound and between the wound and the heart. Go to the vet immediately.
  • Ringworm. Ringworm is an infection of skin, hair and nails by several types of fungi (not worms). It is transmitted by contact with infected individuals and can spread between dogs, cats and humans. Ringworm lesions in dogs often appear as scaly patches with hair loss or broken hairs. Cleanliness is key to prevention and treatment. First, wash bedding in hot water and bleach. Use bleach to clean wherever you can, and discard brushes, combs, beds and toys that could lead to re-infestation. Treat the affected animal with an iodine-based shampoo, followed by an anti-fungal cream on the infected parts. Sometimes lime sulphur dips are used. Sometimes oral medication is also prescribed for severe cases. Since ringworm can continue to live in the spore stage for many months, an animal who does not have active spots could still have a flare-up. Most ringworm infections in dogs are self-limiting unless the animal has immune system problems or metabolic diseases such as diabetes, or are on steroids. See your vet for treatment guidance.
  • Mange. There are two main types: sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange. Sarcoptic mange, caused by mites that burrow into the skin, is contagious and typically contracted after contact with an infected animal. Demodectic mange is a noncontagious skin disease caused by tiny mites, which are parasites that live in the hair follicles and skin glands of dogs. There is a hereditary predisposition to this disease and there is a connection between a dog's suppressed immune system and infection with mange. Small localized demodex shows up as bald patches and is usually easy to treat; generalized mange can affect much of the body and is difficult to treatment. See your vet, who will probably treat with a combination of special dips and oral medication. Some dog owners have successfully treated mild cases themselves through diet and natural home remedies to build up immunity. Home remedies include astralgalus and echinacea herbs, antioxidants including vitamins C and E, Reishi mushroom supplements (available at pet supply and health food stores; pets between 20 and 50 pounds take one half of the human dose), and homemade food (some use the BARF bones and raw foods diet, but there are other home diets).
  • Seasonal dermatitis or "summer eczema": For this condition involving itchy skin and red eruptions with secondary bacterial infections as a result of allergies to flowers, grass and tree pollen, Dr. Michael Fox recommends antihistamine medication (and steroids, in severe cases). Anti-flea medicines can worsen pollen-allergy problems by disrupting a dog's immune system. Writes Dr. Fox: "Pollen-allergy eczema can be misdiagnosed as mange, which is caused by skin-burrowing mites, which a routine skin-scraping might or might not reveal. A careful diagnosis is important -- not more flea-killing poisons! Many dogs respond well when their diets are supplemented with honey, preferably locally made, and bee pollen, which is available in health food stores and farmers markets. Use a dosage of 1 teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight daily in the dog's food."
  • To prevent and to treat these and other skin conditions, it is important to build up the affected dog's immune system through healthful high-quality food and supplements such as flaxseed oil. Oatmeal baths help soothe the skin and relieve itching.
Immunity and Dietary Approaches for Healthy Skin:
  • A key principle to remember: healthy animals are far less vulnerable or attractive to disease and parasites. And, as with healthy humans, healthy animals recover from illness faster and in the case of contracting parasites, are not likely to get sick. It's a matter of immunity.
  • Also worth noting: stressful conditions weaken immunity in humans and animals. A harmonious home is a healthier one.
  • Some daily immunity-boosters for dogs: a half teaspoon of nutritional brewer's yeast to provide the B complex vitamins a dog needs...one crushed clove of garlic (not a whole bulb; a clove is just one chamber) per every 30 pounds...a teaspoon each of safflower oil and powdered kelp or seaweed...supplements with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid.
  • Essential vitamins, nutrients and fatty acid supplements with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid help the skin retain moisture. They help reduce shedding, which in turn leads to this positive side effect: fatty acid supplements also help dogs and pet owners with allergies. These fatty acids come in supplement form. In addition, they are found in flaxseed oil and linseed oil, which support human health too.
  • Dr. Michael Fox suggests this remedy for dry coat: add to food a tablespoon of vegetable oil, like safflower or flaxseed oil, and a teaspoon of brewer's or nutritional yeast. For dull coats, it can pay to have your vet check your dog's stools for worms, since these parasites can rob their hosts of nutrients.
  • Other effective dietary supplements that improve skin: vitamin E (sample daily dose 400 to 800 ibu for a 50-pound dog), vitamin B complex (sample dose one 50 mg once a day for small dogs and twice daily for larger dogs), and nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt,.
  • Filtered or bottled water: some people report that their pets' skin conditions improved when they stopped giving the pets tap water and switched to filtered or bottled water.
  • Use high-quality foods. Poor skin health can result from feeding a lower quality food or food that contains something the dog may be allergic to. Switch to a high quality food found in health food stores or on the internet. Furthermore, you can find valuable information on the web about dog foods. To improve health and immune systems, many pet owners switch to homemade diets (including the BARF, or Bones and Raw Foods, diet, but there are others).
  • If skin problems persist, have your pet examined by the vet to rule out hormonal or thyroid problems.
Related Webpages:

Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitoes - Prevention and Treatment:

Flower Essences and Essential Oils That Can Help Your Companion Animals (see Part II: Using essential oils to repel bugs)

Bathing and Grooming

Summer Health and Safety Guide:

Natural Remedies:

First Aid Kit:
Keep a pet First Aid Kit in your home and car. This webpage lists items to include:

First Aid Guidance:
http://www.veterinaryplace.com/dog-medicine/benadryl/ (Treatment of allergies)

Poison Emergency 24-Hour Hotlines:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1-888-4-ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435
National Animal Poison Control Center

Medical Info:
ASPCA Ani-Med 1-888-721-9100


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P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

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Last Updated: May 02, 2018 (LET) PawSupport