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*What is the Petkin Itch Stick?* This first aid product for cats and dogs is produced by the American company Petkin who make and produce a wide variety of pet first aid items including eye and ear care products, dental care items and also an extensive collection of pet grooming wipes. *The product itself* Although I love the summer for the long evenings it brings, perfect for leisurely sunset dog walks and the bright mornings, meaning before-work dog walks needn't commence in pitch darkness, I am really quite glad to see the back of it, and welcomed the cooler winter weather with open arms. The reason being? Hotspots! Now, if don't own a dog, or do own a dog but have been lucky enough never to experience them then the chances are you probably would never had heard of them, so let me enlighten you. Hotspots, are quite simply what they sound like- little sores that can often appear on dogs that are incredibly hot and itchy, and all round very unpleasant for the dog. They can weep, bleed, get infected and generally cause the dog a lot of misery, along with a some pain if left untreated. They most commonly occur during the warmer months, but some poor dogs do suffer with them all year round. My Rottweiler is a hotspot sufferer, although thankfully just a seasonal summer one and not a poor soul who has to endure them all year round. They'll start to appear on her during the end of May and normally last until the end of August. They are small spots, only around the size of five pence piece and she only gets them on the tops of her front paws, so in the wide scheme of things, she is relatively lucky compared to some dogs that get absolutely covered in them. Anyway, there is nothing that can be done to prevent them, so I can only make her more comfortable when they do appear and this is where the Petkin Itch Stick comes in extremely handy. The product has been designed to primarily deal with hotspots, but can also be used on other minor skin irritations such as rashes, sores and very small wounds and it works in a number of ways. Firstly it contains witch hazel and aloe vera gel, both known for their soothing skin care properties, next a mixture of various vitamins and minerals to help cool and hydrate itchy damaged skin and lastly, benzocaine, a mild and safe medical grade ingredient to relieve pain and stop itching. The special ingredient in this product however, which sets the Petkin Itch Stick away from other products of its kind, is the addition of a bittering agent, which will deter pets from licking, biting or chewing at the affected area, which helps prevent infections and in turn, allows the skin to heal quickly and effectively. The anti-sting product comes in a supposedly easy to apply container (more on that later!) which is designed in a way similar to some deodorants- the product is in a solid block form contained within a plastic casing, you then turn the dial at the bottom of the container to push it up, then apply to your pet and wind down again once finished. A great idea in theory! The Petkin Itch Stick can be used on all dogs, cats, puppies and kittens from 6 weeks of age and can safely be applied up to 4 times a day, although it should not be used continuously for more than 2 weeks without seeking veterinary advice and it shouldn't be used on pregnant animals either. *Packaging* The Petkin Itch Stick comes in an easy to spot white container with a bright red lid, and although the turning dial in the one pictured is white, it has been red on all the different ones we've had, so obviously the packaging varies slightly. Anyway, all the usual relevant information such as directions for use, ingredients, a few safety warnings and of course contact details for Petkin can also be found on the container. *Price & Availability* Petkin products are pretty popular and can be found stocked by many popular pet product retailers, both on and offline. We purchased our numerous containers of Itch Stick throughout the summer from Pets At Home, although it is only available in store, not on their website. One container, which is typically 15-20 applications to a small area, costs £6.49. *My opinion* I'm positive no parent likes to see their child suffer and that's exactly how I feel about my dogs, they're everything to me and if one of them is in pain or suffering slightly, then I'd cross hell and high water to make them feel better again! Canine hotspots are likened to human prickly heat rash and I can imagine most of us have experienced just how uncomfortable that is at least once in our lives, so during the first summer that I had Grace and noticed she was developing hotspots, I felt terrible for her and went straight on the look out for something to help her and ease her discomfort- heading down to Pets At Home, the Petkin Itch Stick was the product that stood out on the shelves for me, so after parting with the best part of £7 for a container of it, I headed home and have been using it almost daily every summers day since. The product itself is a semi-solid green substance, which has the consistency somewhere between firm jelly and a glue stick (!), and although it doesn't smell terrible, it is hardly an appealing smell- it's very clinical, but clean and fresh enough and the product is designed to be applied by rubbing the stick directly onto the affected area. Personally, this doesn't strike me as too hygienic, so if I was using it on more than one animal, I'd most certainly rub it on some cotton wool before applying to the animal to avoid cross contamination and spreading germs and infection from one animal to the other, but anyway, I only use it on Grace so apply in the directed way. The packaging claims that the product is in an 'easy to apply' format although I have to say, I really disagree with this! It's messy, sticky and a damn right pain to apply! Grace is a short haired dog and even when I trim the hair around the affected area before applying the Itch Stick, the product still sticks to her fur, and her fur sticks to the product and it really does make quite a mess! I'd hate to imagine how much it'd ruin a long haired dogs coat. But anyway, the product is so effective that I do persevere with the messy application. During the summer months, I tend to apply the product to Grace twice a day- once in the morning, and once in the evening. I wash her paws down with damp cotton wool, dry thoroughly and then apply the Itch Stick- using my fingers to massage it properly around the hotspots and then leave it. I honestly have to say that it provides her with INSTANT relief- when her next application time is drawing near, and the previous application is starting to wear off, she'll chew her paws like crazy, lick them, scratch them and just be made thoroughly miserable by them, but the moment I apply the Itch Stick, she completely leaves them alone. They do not bother her, she doesn't try to lick them and she just forgets about them. For such a cheap product, it's unbelievable how effective it is and the relief it provides her with is fantastic- much more than I had expected it to. Petkin advises that you shouldn't use the product for more than one week at a time but I'm sure if you check with your vet that it would be fine to use it for longer periods of time. Like I mentioned, I use it all summer long with Grace, after checking with my fiancé (a vet), and she has not suffered any adverse reactions as a result. Even when the hotspots are particularly sore and open, the application of the Itch Stick still doesn't appear to sting or irritate Grace in the slightest, which is fantastic. Of course, this product is no substitute for proper veterinary care and shouldn't be used on major skin irritations but for small, minor irritations such as small seasonal hotspots, then I cannot fault it (apart from messiness of application!). One container provides around 7 days worth of twice daily applications for Grace and I apply a generous amount each time, so it is fantastic value for money too. All in all, thoroughly recommended and I cannot thank Petkin enough for the relief and comfort it provides Grace with during what would otherwise be a very miserable summer!