Please use the links below for help and advice and do visit a skin specialist. There are plenty about.
You have noticed that your Saint been licking and chewing on that spot on their flank for the better part of a day, and it's now a raw, open sore, oozing fluid.
Its possible that he/she has a superficial pyoderma, a skin infection known to veterinarians as pyotraumatic dermatitis and to dog owners as hot spots. Hot spots are surface skin infections caused when populations of normal skin bacteria grow and overwhelm normal resistance. They are generally circular patches that lose hair, can be swollen, may exude a smelly pus, and can be painfully itchy, causing the dog to scratch, lick, or bite to the point of self-mutilation. Untreated hot spots can spread and provoke a normally even-tempered dog to growl or nip when touched.
These troublesome sores can seem to arise in a matter of hours with no warning, but they do tend to follow a pattern that helps in predicting their occurrence.
Dogs most susceptible to hot spots are those with heavy coats and histories of allergies, ear infections, flea infestations, irritated anal sacs, and grooming problems such as hair tangles and mats, but any dog can develop this infection. Dogs in warm, humid climates may develop hot spots when they shed their undercoats if the dead hair is trapped next to the skin, and dogs with behavior problems may mutilate themselves by licking and thus encourage an infection to become established.
The most common locations for hot spots are the legs and feet, flanks, and rump — areas that can be reached by licking or biting — but these localised infections can also appear on ears, neck, and chest if the dog is continually scratching.
Two approaches are neccessary for dealing with hot spots: treat the sore and remove the underlying cause to prevent recurrences. It is extremely advisable to seek veterinary help BEFORE trying any of the actions below.
Veterinary dermatologist Lowell Ackerman recommends the following treatment in his book Skin and Haircoat Problems in Dogs:
Ackerman recommends against the use of ointments or creams because they can seal in the infection and hinder recovery. In severe cases, a veterinarian may suggest the use of an Elizabethan collar to prevent mutilation and give the spot a chance to heal.
If the underlying cause is tangled or matted hair or trapped dead hair, put the dog on a regular grooming schedule either at home or at a grooming salon. Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, Shih-Tzus, and other breeds with long hair that tangles easily should be groomed at least twice a week so that snarls and mats do not form. Never bathe a dog with matted or tangled hair — comb the snarls out first. Clip mats if you cannot easily comb them out, and make an appointment for professional grooming every four-to-six weeks if you cannot keep the dog mat-free on your own.
If the underlying cause is allergies, begin an aggressive campaign to rid your home and yard of fleas and work with your veterinarian on a plan to reduce allergy triggers for your pet. Household dust, plant pollen, lawn chemicals, and diet can all cause allergies or can build to a crescendo of allergies if the dog's sensitivities cross a threshhold. Frequent vacuuming, supplements to keep the skin and coat healthy, air purifiers, and baths in skin-soothing herbal or medicated shampoos with aloe, oatmeal, jojoba, or eucalyptus can help. Next step is over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl or Atarax — with a veterinarian's approval. If these don't work, then steroids to reduce the inflammation and the immune system reaction to the allergen and perhaps antibiotics to cure the infected hot spot are the next course of treatment.
If the underlying cause seems to be behavioral — if your pet doesn't have allergies or fleas or a more serious skin condition, but is so bored, stressed, or lonely that he maims himself with constant licking or scratching, he may need more exercise, playtime, and attention. This can be the easiest or the hardest treatment to implement because there's no pill or ointment for long-term success; the requirements are time, consistency, and perhaps an investment in training books, an obedience school, a dog sitter, or an animal behaviorist.
As with all topics, hints, tips and cures greatfully received to pass on to others.
In any climate, grooming your Saint Bernard not only makes him look nicer by controlling mats and shedding, but also cleans his coat and skin, and reduces odor.
Use a long-toothed steel comb and a wire slicker brush with bristles bent at the end. Work against the grain back to front, then reverse. Be sure the hair is brushed down to the skin, being careful not to scratch the skin.
Mats of dead hair accumulate behind the ears and inside the hind legs. After the permanent coat develops, shedding occurs but twice a year - spring and autumn.
Saints need extra care and observation to combat parasites and skin problems. Grooming is essential. Brushing often means less bathing.
When you do give your dog a bath, be sure to remove ALL the soap to avoid skin irritation. Rinse and rinse again. If toenails are not kept at a moderate length through exercise, they should be clipped, but learn how to do it properly before you try it.
Consult a local groomer, or your veterinarian for assistance.
It should be remembered that a dog with clean healthy skin & hair will obviously suffer a lot less skin problems.
Regular grooming is an essential to this – regular bathing is unnecessary (unless you are exhibiting your dog), but regular grooming is part of owning a St Bernard.
The following tips should be helpful;
Always start from the bottom and work upwards – holding the coat away from you and combing down inch by inch. This is essential when a dog is moulting and a comb is really the only way to get rid of the dead hair. ( Remember St Bernards don’t shed dead hair easily – it remains in the coat and if not removed, causes tangles and ‘tats’.)
Tangles can be removed by using a comb like a pen, holding the base of the tangle so that it doesn’t pull, and teasing it out.
The more you groom a St Bernard the easier it is & the more the dog loves it & you.
Ears & feet should be kept trimmed, so that air circulates freely around the ear and neat feet will avoid picking up debris that can get stuck between the pads.