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Hot Spots from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

In Chinese Medicine, the skin is an extension of the lungs. When the Lungs are healthy, the skin is healthy.

This doesn’t happen all on it’s own, your dog also has Wei Qi (defensive Qi) which is a defensive network to protect it.

The presence of hot spots is when the Wei Qi isn’t strong enough to protect the outside of the body. The defensive Qi pertains to yang energy.

Hot Spots are when the pathogenic heat (typically brought on by the rising Yang of spring and hot summer) exists between the exterior and interior of the body. There is level of disharmony where the body doesn’t have enough yang to get rid of this external pathogen.

Hot Spots in dogs are Damp Heat patterns.

The Role Of The Kidneys in Hot Spots

In the Winter months, or if you live in the tropics, the wet months, the body stores water in the Kidneys. When the Kidneys are healthy, Kidney Yang and Kidney Jing are stored, and cold and wet cannot invade the body.

But if the Kidneys are weak, then cold and damp enter the body and incubate.

As the season changes in the spring, this cold and damp pattern starts to heat up. As spring and summer progress (rising Yang), this internal Heat emerges to the surface and manifests itself. And this can present as hot spots.

In the five-phase element theory, there is an order and balance between the different phases and organs.

Disease and illness is when disharmony happens. In this case, the hot spots present in the skin and the skin is related to the Lung and Large Intestine.

Patterns of disharmony don’t often exist only in one organ, sometimes, they affect others. And oftentimes, the root cause started somewhere else.

In this case, the Kidney starts to overpower the Liver/Gallbladder and overwhelm the Lung/Large Intestine.

From your perspective, you might see your dog:

  • Start to itch at their hot spots
  • Tongue turns darker red in color
  • They may or may not start licking their paws
  • The whites of their eyes may seem redder to you
  • They may be restless at night and not sleep peacefully

Biomedically the cells respond to this hot weather by releasing polymorphonuclear leukocytes (white blood cells), histamines, prostaglandins, thromboxanes, cytokines, leukotrienes, and several more. This acute response is intended to rid the body of the foreign agents that induced the inflammatory response. 

The First Line of Defense Is To Keep The Kidneys Strong

If your dog is prone to hot spots, you want to start now. Don’t wait for the dry months after the rains. Don’t wait for spring, and certainly don’t wait until the summer to start attending to your dog’s Kidneys.

Ensure your recipes pull from the list of foods to keep your dog’s kidney’s happy.

For example, it could be a beef, beef heart, egg (and bone or calcium) with organ meat but topped off with asparagus and yams.

Personally, I prefer to keep recipes simple and only feed one above ground and one below-ground vegetable in equal proportions (yin and yang).

The portion is very small – no more than the size of your dog’s paw print or:

[take your dogs weight] x [0.75] = the amount to feed in grams.

EG a 20lb dog x .75 = 15 and so you would add:

+ 15 grams of asparagus

+ 15 grams of yams

To each meal

The second line of defense in protecting the body is barrier immunity

Again just as before, you need to start attending to your dog in the wet or cold months.

Don’t let your dog stay out too long in the cold/wet months and immediately dry them off after coming in from the outside.

Once the temperature changes, ensure that you start to move (hike, or walk) to get the circulation going. You want to move that Qi so that any dampness trapped inside can be moved around and out.

The third line of defense (or in this case treatment) will be to Clear the Heat and Drain The Damp.

If hot spots arise, then you should work to “drain the damp” first and then “clear the heat”

Food to drain the damp:

  • Corn silk
  • Alfalfa
  • Barley
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Kidney beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Turnips
  • Dandelion greens

Foods to clear the heat

Different foods will clear heat from the kidneys, liver, and spleen. I can help you through this process when you book a call with me, or you can peruse the list below and add them as toppers to your dog’s food.

  • Asparagus
  • Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Barley
  • Peas
  • Apple
  • Mango
  • Goat’s Milk
  • Pork
  • Black and kidney beans
  • Rabbit
  • Duck

The right combination of food will act like a lock and key to return your dog’s body back to a state of wholeness.

Herbal Tonic With Fresh Watermelon for Hot Spots

The flavor and nature of these ingredients can help clear your dog’s heat while simultaneously helping the Liver/Gallbladder, which in turn helps the Kidneys.


  • 2 to 3 Cups of Watermelon (both the red flesh and the bitter white flesh)
  • Mushroom (Reishi or cordyceps if you can find it and if you cannot find it fresh look to your herbal stores to find tinctures and add a few drops)
  • Goji Berries
  • 1 slice of Ginger
  • Optional) 2 tablespoons of papaya or mango


  • Cook your mushrooms in water, ginger with the Goji Berries, and simmer for 30 minutes with 1 to 2 cups of water.
  • Puree or blend your fruit.
  • Add the contents of what you cooked (mushrooms, Goji Berries, and ginger)
  • Puree and blend it all together

If it is too bitter, you can add a little honey.

Let it cool in the fridge, and let your dog drink a small amount every day from the start of when you see the hot spots until it is gone.

You can also apply Manuka Honey to the hot spot to help speed up healing.

Corn Silk Tea

Corn Silk Tea is found all around the world. In the US you can find it in your Korean or Chinese grocery stores.

You can brew some tea and store it in the fridge and let your dog take a cold drink of cornsilk tea to clear the heat.

Chinese Herbs For Hot Spots

There are Chinese Herbs that can help release the heat but I normally do not recommend them until food options are exhausted.

That said if you want to have a TCVM vet guide you on herbs contact:

Dr. Dennis Thomas

Holistic Health Care for Pets
1707 E. 11th Ave, Spokane WA 99202
Call: 509-214-2676

If you would like to contact him via email: DrThomasHolisticvet@yahoo.com

I use him for my own dogs, and refer clients to him when a TCVM vet isn’t available in your city.

Three Things To Remember With Hot Spots from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

  1. Feed foods to keep the Kidneys strong so that it can defend itself from the heat of the Spring and Summer
  2. If a hot spot appears, feed the herbal tonic or foods that are cooling and bitter in flavor.
  3. Remember to address the hot spot topically with Manuka Honey

The body wants to return to a state of wholeness and food can support you in that journey. There may be other reasons that your dog has a hot spot and if you can stuck you can always book a one-on-one call with me.

Author Biography

Hannah Zulueta obtained her Certificate in Canine Nutrition from CASI Institute. She is also studying for her Doctorate in Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Herbalism from the esteemed Pacific College of Health and Medicine.

She resides in San Diego with her three dogs, Maggie, Orbit, and Mr. Higgins.

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  1. Michele

    What are your thoughts on re-hydrated foods. I buy this wonderful organic mix from Dr. Harvey’s that you add hot water too to rehydrate it. It is mix of oats, barley, spelt, carrots, green beans, peas, minerals and even peppermint. And you add your protein of choice and some oil which I use flaxseed. My dog loves it. Right now she is going through a bout of phlegm build-up throughout the day that hangs out in her esophagus due to mega-esophagus and it is thick and slimy and she ends up regurgitating it and her food. I have her on some chinese herbs and I still want to use this food. Adding in shitake mushrooms and celery into her food as well. You think it is okay?

    1. Hannah Zulueta

      Hello Michele,

      Dr. Harvey’s makes great base mixes. I used to feed them before I went to full DIY.

      If your dog is on Chinese Herbs I am going to assume that someone who has examined your dog, has guided you on that. There are so many different herbs I can’t really give my opinion w/out a full consult.

      But that aside – regurgitating is what we call “Rebellious Qi” because Qi (movement) of food is supposed to go down so if it’s coming back up it’s going counterflow.
      The question is what might be causing that.

      In western medicine the name for this is Mega-esophagus.

      In eastern medicine we look to see what we can to do help the Liver (who is in charge of Qi) rebalance so that you don’t have the regurg.

      Outside of a consult, I’d look to help the liver through
      – Milk thistle for 3 weeks
      – Broccoli sprouts
      – trading out the celery for dark leafy greens like collard greens or even cabbage which the stomach loves

      Mushrooms are great in most cases.

      Good luck with her – sounds like you are a very caring dog mom and she’s in good hands.

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