Saturday, April 14, 2007

Labrador Retriever - Skin problems - Hair Color Change

Readers E-mail - Jane Writes:

Do you have any idea why our black lab puppy (7months old) would go to bed last night completely black and wake up this morning with what appears to be some white hairs under the base of his tail. He has lost his puppy coat and seriously had no other colour other than black until this morning. His skin appears dry and flaky and he has been itching and chewing at the base of his tail. If he is a mix (which he wasn't supposed to be) wouldn't his fur have come in in different tones right away?Other than this bizzare situation he looks like a perfect specimen - not that we will stop loving him etc but wonder if something is wrong - vitamins needed or something or has he hurt himself with his chewing and it's like a scar situation.

Any information or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks for your help.... Jane


Sorry to hear about your Labrador Retrievers problem. I have a couple of questions to ask in regards to his problem.

How long has he been itching and chewing at the tail?

Any sores, redness to the area?

Any hair loss in the area?

Any injury to the area (besides the biting)?

Is your Lab an English bred Lab (shorter legs, heavier body, wider head, shorter muzzle, thick tail) or an American bred (tall long legs, lighter body, thinner tail, longer muzzle).

What kind of food is he fed?

Any medical problems with him?

What is his name :)

Readers Response:

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Our puppy's name is Gus - short for Angus - He is American bred - long, lean and gorgeous (and a brat!!)

He has trouble with his ears and runny eyes as well as dry skin and our vet believes he has allergies. We are now trying him on a new puppy food for large breeds called 1st Choice - chicken based. His treats for training are vegetable based. He has had problems with itching on and off since we got him but worse as the winter progressed (the furnace heat ?)

We rescued him at 8 weeks (through a rescue society who got him and a brother and sister 3 out of a litter of 8) so it is possible that he has some other breed somewhere in him although breeders who have seen him have been envious and wondering where we got him and have just come up to us and thoroughly checked him out!!

We love him regardless but just want to make sure it isn't some allergy or deficiency in his diet.
He is very intelligent, learned sit, shake etc and house trained in a very short time - only 5 accidents in the house total!!

Any suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Continue Reading...


Hi Jane, thanks for the quick response and the photo. I have a couple more questions I need you to answer.

What kind of vegetable based treats do you feed Gus. (brand name)? Have you been feeding these treats since you got Gus?

What kind of food did he eat (brand name)?

Ear problems - itchy ears, smelly ears?

Runny Eyes - clear and watery or colored discharge?

Readers Response:

Gus has been eating Medical Canine Development from the time we got him until the last couple of days. Due to his apparent allergies we are trying a sample of 1st Choice - puppy large breed - growth - chicken formula (and rice). The name of the vegetable treats is Medi-cal medi treats from Veterinary Medical Diets. Gus's ears appear to be a yeast type infection so we clean them with a cleaning solution - epi-otic and apply otomax when he has problems. His eyes occasionally have a white discharge, otherwise clear - just like his occasional runny nose - Poor guy!

He really is a sweet fellow - just wish he'd stop thinking he can use our arms as a teething ring - I've never had a puppy that's taken so long to understand that concept. He's learned everything else so quickly. We're hopeful that Puppy Classes starting this week will help - although it just seems to be with us

I appreciate your interest. We really want to make sure this isn't a nutritional problem.... Jane


One of the most common conditions affecting dogs is an allergy. Dogs can be allergic to all kinds of things, and it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the problem.

There are several different types of allergies that can affect your Labrador Retriever:

Contact allergy - just as the name states, a reaction to an irritant (such as flea collars, materials on his bedding, etc) that will cause itching and skin irritation at the location of contact.

A flea allergy - serve itching due to the flea’s saliva getting into your Labrador Retriever's skin. Your Lab will scratch and chew himself so severely it could lead to open sores, scabs and loss of large amounts of his hair. This itching is usually found in the rear area of your Labrador, mainly around the rear end (near the base of the tail).

Inhalant Allergy - just like you and I, your Labradors can develop allergies to something it inhales, tree pollens, weeds, grass pollens, with many of these being seasonal. There is also a possibility to allergens such as house dust, molds, mildew, which can be around all the time. Serve itching, sneezing and coughing may be present.

Food allergies - allergies to something eaten (ex: beef, pork, turkey, chicken, vegetable products). Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, scratching and itching can be present. His dull, dry coat can also be attributed to a food allergy. Food allergies can be complicated to recognize and to treat, with testing being done with a special hypoallergenic diet.

In regards to Gus's eyes, allergic reactions usually will result in a clear discharge. Scratching can also cause bloodshot eyes.

Allergies are also one of the main reasons that a dog will paw their ears and will shake their heads. The ear itchiness is usually caused by allergies to foods or airborne particles.

Weather changes also play a major part with your dog’s skin. With Gus being exposed to the different weather conditions, and the hot/dry heat (the furnace heat), his skin can be vulnerable to all type of infections, being from bacteria, viruses or fungus. The skin will get irritated, causing him to itch, scratch and bite himself.

Gus's symptoms can also be caused by combination of these disorders.

I'm surprised that your veterinarian has advised giving Gus treats (Medi-Cal in Canada, Select-Care is the brand name under which Medi-Cal® products are sold in the USA), as I thought that only the new food (strict feeding) was to be given, with no treats, table scrapes and vitamins to be given during the trial period (still waiting on the answer to that from a friend of mine). Maybe because they are supplemented with antioxidants and omega 6:3 fatty acids which can help nourish the dry, itching coat. You might want to inquire more about this. Remember though he is the veterinarian, not me.

I couldn't find any info on the Medical Canine Development food (Canadian or U.S.), wanted to see what kind of ingredients were in it. Did you happen to notice if there was any corn, wheat or soy in the Medical Canine Development food.

In regards to your new food, 1st Choice - puppy large breed - growth - chicken formula; is it the large breed chicken formula, or the chicken formula, no corn, no wheat, no soy. The reason I ask is that Gus may have a problem with one or all of them.

Corn may cause his itching, or his ear infections. Some dogs have problems with corn, while others may not. Wheat and soy in his food can also be an allergen to Gus.

Some other things you can do for Gus:

For the dry, itching skin: A occasional cool bath can be very soothing, especially if you use an oatmeal shampoo (helps relieve dry irritated skin) or add a little colloidal oatmeal (like Aveeno) to the water, To relieve the discomfort of sores caused by scratching, apply some Aloe Vera several times a day (100 % pure kind). A Hydrocortisone Shampoo can also be used for the itching (they have Hydrocortisone Shampoo with Aloe Vera Gel in them). After shampooing my sure you rinse very, very well.

Other treatments depend on the type and severity of the allergies. Labs with mild cases can benefit from antihistamines and essential fatty acid supplements, which can help to relieve the discomfort in Gus. Labs with more severe allergies need a more aggressive treatment, such as steroids.

The best preventive measure against ear infections is performing regular ear inspections. Both your eyes and your nose can help detect a problem. Your Labrador retriever ears should have a clean, light pinkish color and should have no foul smell to them. Puss like substance discharges, waxy discharges and foul smell to ears are signs of a problem in your Labs ears. Your veterinarian will be able to show you what to look for in potential problems.

As far as a successful regimen of treatment, cleaning of your Labrador ears regularly is your best bet. Frequency of cleaning will vary, especially in the warmer months and always after swimming or bathing. What you’re using for Gus's ears is fine. White vinegar mixed 1:3 with water can be used to rinse the ears.

Here is another very helpful website when it comes to food allergies: Food Allergies

As far as Gus's tail it could be something to do with his allergies. I read about a condition called "bolo marks" but they seem to be on the back of the leg above the pad, not the tail. Here is something you might want to take a look at: White "Ring around the Tail" and Two-Toned Appearance in Black Labs. I'm curious as what the veterinarian has to say about this.

As for as Gus's nipping/mouthing problem, I have an article I wrote, Labrador Retriever - Training your puppy to stop biting and nipping that appears on the All About Labradors blog.

Remember to be consistent (you and everyone in your home) with the training if you decide to use some of the methods. Consistency is the key.

Jane, I hope I have been of some help to your problem. If you don't understand anything, or have more questions on this subject or anything else, don't hesitate to e-mail me. If you get a chance, let me know what was in the original dog food. Please keep me advised on Gus's condition and the further steps the veterinarian takes with his condition, and I will keep you up to date with any other info I find. It is off great help to me and to the readers of this blog.

Take care of yourself and Gus.

I want to thank Jane for the e-mail and the handsome photo of Gus. If you would like to see the photo of him, you can visit him at the Labrador Retrievers Picture blog by clicking on his name: Angus

The information given here is to help you learn more about your Labrador Retriever and not to replace your veterinarian's advice. Disclaimer

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