Witch hazel is an herbaceous shrub native to North America. Native Americans used it for medicinal purposes, often treating bruises, sores and ulcers on the skin. Used topically as an astringent, witch hazel is safe to use on humans and most animals, including dogs.
The Partnership for Animal Welfare advises dog owners to treat hot spots, or skin allergies, with witch hazel. Use a pair of scissors to trim fur around the hot spot. Moisten a cotton ball with witch hazel and apply it directly to the dog's skin.
Dr. Andrew Jones of the Veterinary Pet Care website, advises pet owners to apply witch hazel to hot spots two to three times daily. The witch hazel alleviates itching and stinging almost instantly. The solution evaporates quickly and cools down the inflamed skin.
Examine the dog's face, head and neck, as these are the areas often affected by hot spots. The dog may have an itchy, smelly, oozy or crusty area on its skin. A hot spot can be very itchy or very painful for a dog. Dogs often develop hot spots in warm weather; a small scratch, bite or wound can promote infected hair follicles. Witch hazel will provide relief and clean the infected area.
Go to the vet immediately if you observe major swelling in the affected area, or the dog seems disoriented, sick or has trouble moving; do not treat the animal with witch hazel.