Friday, October 03, 2008

Black Labrador Retriever - Losing hair and Dry Skin - part II

Subject: Black Labrador Retriever - Losing hair and Dry Skin - part II

From: Dana (USA)

Labrador Retriever name: Sampson

Reader's E-mail - Dana's Answers to our questions:

My answers are below in Red. (I have posted my questions again with Dana's answers next to them to make it easier for all of the readers of this blog to read)

What is your Labrador Retrievers name? Sampson

How old is he? 4

Any problem with fleas? Fleas can be difficult to find, especially in black labs. I haven’t seen any, and since he doesn’t have much hair on his belly they would be easy to see.

Where does your Labrador scratch? Mostly on his underneath side.

What do you feed your Lab? I need you to be specific - table scrapes, dog food brand and flavor, treat brand and flavor, bones, etc. I give him cheese and feed him “Nature’s Recipe” Lamp & Rice for sensitive skin.

Does he get skin infections? Yes

Any problems with his ears? (dirty, discharges, smell, etc) Yes

Any problems with discharges from his nose? No

Does he has severe dandruff or dry skin? Yes

Does he have greasy, smelly fur? Yes

Any change in skin color? Yes, it looks like elephant skin where he has lost his hair

Any scales or rash? Yes

Any hot spots (open sores)? Some

Any pimples or boils? No

Is the hair loss in a single patch or on various areas? All of his underneath side such as his belly, and a patch on his upper back to one side and a little on his face

Is hair loss on his face, his limbs or his body? Under his tail area too, not so much on his legs.

Are the hair loss areas itchy? Extremely

Is the hair falling out, broken off or chewed out? I believe it has fell out

Are the hairless areas inflamed and raw? In a few spots like his elbows

Any shape to the hair loss areas? No

Does your Labrador Retriever scoot? No

Any problem with his paws? No

Is he a nervous Labrador? No

Have you taken him to the veterinarian while he has had this problem? Yes

Are you writing from the USA or another country? USA

All About Labradors Answer:

Hello Dana,

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

Lets start with Sampson's ear problems.

Ear infections can be caused by a number of different things, especially in dogs like our Labrador Retrievers with their long, pendulous ears. Because the ear folds over, it covers our Labrador's ear canal and prevents air from entering and drying. This results in a warm/moist ear canal that's just the perfect for organisms to grow in.

A build up of ear wax, ear mites, growths in the ear canal, ears that are not dried after Sampson has been swimming or bathing, and allergies can all lead to ear infections.

Your best preventive measure against ear infections is to performing regular ear inspections. Both your eyes and your nose can help detect a problem. Sampson's 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.

As far as a successful regimen of treatment, cleaning of Sampson's ears regularly is your best bet. Frequency of cleaning will vary, especially in the warmer months and always after swimming or bathing.

As far as a commercial cleaner goes, I've had many people use and recommend DermaPet Malacetic Otic Ear Cleanser and Malacetic Otic Ear/Skin Cleanser.

One of the very best products I've used with success for gunk in my Labrador ears is called a blue power wash (actually I have seen it called many other things, as it has been on the Internet for ages).

"Blue Power Ear Treatment"


16 Oz. Isopropyl Alcohol (Witch Hazel)
4 Tablespoons Boric Acid Powder
16 Drops Gentian Violet Solution 1%

Mix together in alcohol bottle and shake well. You will also need to shake solution every time you use it to disperse the Boric Acid Powder. An eye dropper can be used to fill the ear.

TREATMENT: Evaluate condition of ears before treating and if very inflamed and sore do not attempt to pull hair or clean out ear at all. Wait until inflammation has subsided which will be about 2 days.

Shake the bottle each time before using. Flood the ear with solution (gently squirt bottle), massage gently for approximately a minute, then wipe with a cloth or tissue. Flood again a second time, and wipe again without massaging in. The dog will shake out the excess. Be advised, the Gentian Violet does stain.

The SCHEDULE of treatment is as follows:

Treat 2x per day for the first week to two weeks depending upon severity of ears
Treat 1x per day for the next 1-2 weeks
Treat 1x per month (or even less frequently, depending on the dog)

All of these ingredients should be available at your local pharmacy. I like to use witch hazel instead of alcohol, as if any scratches are in the ear, the alcohol can cause burning. The Boric Acid Powder soothes the ear and the Gentian Violet Solution is an ant-infection agent. The solution appears to work well on many ear problems. I also like to warm my solution slightly, under warm water, but you can use it either way.

There is also a commercial version of this solution available:

K9 Ear Solution

If Sampson does get middle ear infections, I was also told about a vitamin E based ear infection tonic used by one of the readers of this blog, who stated this tonic worked wonders for their Labrador Retriever's ears. I had never heard about it before, but they swear by it. To learn more visit:

Ear Infection Tonic

If Sampson displays discomfort or resist having the ears cleaned, stop immediately and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have the ears flushed.

Remember, keeping the ears clean is a great preventive measure against infections, but what has to be done is finding out what the cause is.

If allergies are the cause, the wax-producing glands of the ear overproduce, causing ear infections. If the ear infections are seasonal the possibility of an inhalant allergy could be the cause. Problems with ear infections year round can also be caused by a food allergy. Allergy testing is available by your veterinarian to determine if and what the pet is allergic to.

There are many different reasons for hair loss with our Labrador Retrievers. Some reasons of hair loss include: fleas, allergies, mange, skin infections, Hypothyroidism, Cushings Disease, flank alopecia, poor nutrition, and pattern baldness. These are just a few of the many reasons associated with hair loss.

You didn't state what your veterinarian has done or told you, so based on what you told me, I will list some possibilities I believe might be causing Sampson's problems.

Yeast infections:

When Sampson's immune system is healthy, his body is able to destroy the yeast. But if his immune system is weak, yeast may produce in large amounts causing toxins. These toxins prevent the immune system from working properly, which causes the immune system to have problems destroying the yeast, leading to may health problems.

Yeast infections can be itchy, crusty, and smelly. A rash or mild itching occurs, and the skin can thicken to an "elephant" skin appearance. The itch and odor can also become extreme. Affected areas can be limited to certain regions or the entire body.

Malassezia pachydermatitis - a common yeast organism that is found on normal and abnormal canine skin and ears, which can cause severe inflammation of the skin or ears. Usually Labradors that are suffering from malasezzia have skin lesions. These lesions are usually red and are accompanied by areas of hair loss, increased pigmentation, and scaliness or greasiness (yellowish tint). Some of the most common sites are the feet, between toes, underside of the neck, and the belly.

Some factors that can lead to Malassezia dermatitis:

Moisture (floppy ears with narrow ear canals, skin folds)

Excessive scale formation and greasiness of the skin and hair coat (Seborrhea) Here is some further help with Seborrhea:

Seborrhea: Introduction

An underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism.

Allergic (food allergy, flea allergy, and allergies to pollen, grasses, etc.) and bacterial skin disease.

This condition is treated with anti-fungal drugs and/or topical therapies consist of shampoos, rinses, and sprays. Topical therapies will usually will have one or more of the following ingredients: ketaconazole, miconazole, or chlorhexidine. Acetic acid wipes can be used to cleanse the affected area, and mixtures of vinegar and water can be used.

Oral therapy (very expensive) will be with Ketoconazole (Nizoral®).

What is important to remember is if the underlying problem is not controlled, yeast infection is likely to periodically recur.

Labrador Retrievers with allergies may show some of the following symptoms:

Chewing on paws, itching of body, rubbing head/ face on the carpet/couch, recurrent ear infections, infected skin, and hair loss.

Atopy (inhalant allergies) are most common in Labrador Retrievers. Just like you and I, your Labrador can develop allergies to something it inhales, such as 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.

Some things you might want to do around your home:

Wash Sampson's bedding in very hot water.

Keep Sampson out of rooms several hours when you vacuum.

Keep Sampson out of carpeted rooms.

Try to avoid stuffed toys and letting him sleep on stuffed furniture

Use dehumidifiers

Keep Sampson out of basement (if you have one)

Other allergy testing can be done by your veterinarian, such as blood tests or intradermal skin testing. The better allergy test is intradermal skin testing, which is usually done by a veterinary dermatologist. You may want to visit a veterinary dermatologist (you can ask for a referral from your vet) if he/she is not one themselves. Veterinary dermatologist are specialists that tend to see chronic and odd cases, and often recognize unusual syndromes a general practitioner may miss.

Food allergies to something eaten (beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat, chicken eggs, corn, and soy), can occur at any age (majority of cases between 2 and 6 years of age) and may mimic the signs of an inhalant allergy. These Labrador Retrievers tend to have recurrent ear and skin infections unless the allergy is identified and the allergy is addressed. Food allergies can be complicated to recognize and to treat.

The problem is figuring out what the allergen is. As I stated previously, skin and blood test can be done by your veterinarian, as well as setting up a special diet "hypoallergenic diet", for a possible food allergy.

A "hypoallergenic diet" - a changing of his food to something he hasn't eaten before, which is fed for a set period of time (usually it takes at least 12 weeks on the new food) can be done to help to determine if this is the cause.

If you do decide to try changing Sampson's food, remember:

Give the trial at least twelve weeks on the new food

No other treats should be given during the food trial. Only exception is if they are based on the same food sources as the test diet.

You have to be strict with the new food test, offering no other foods (cheese!) and NO table scrapes.

No unnecessary medications are to be given.

No edible chew toys (such as rawhides or bones) should be given.

Recommendations of foods for Sampson:


Eagle Pack (Holistic Select)

These companies also offer treats based on the same food sources as their foods.

Many people believe (and recommend) Lamb and Rice for dog food allergies. Our Labrador Retrievers had never eaten lamb and rice before, thus they never had time to develop an allergy to it. There was nothing special about the lamb and rice except as I said, our Labs had never eaten it before.

The problem is that many of the lamb and rice-based foods also contain many other ingredients, and if your Labrador Retriever has a food allergy to any of those ingredients, the lamb and rice food will do nothing to treat the food allergy.

Additional help for allergies:

Supplementation with omega fatty acids are critical to total body health. These fatty acids play a vital role in the structure of cell membranes, help to maintain healthy skin and coat, support the immune system, and promote proper growth and development of the nervous system.

Colloidal Oatmeal Shampoos and cream rinses - these products pull inflammatory toxins out of the skin, along with colloidal oatmeal sprays and lotions, which can be purchased at your local pet stores.

Benadryl has been known to help allergy conditions in many Labrador Retrievers. Be advised that it can also have potential adverse side effect.


One thing that I make sure I use with my Labradors is probiotics and digestive enzymes, which I feel should be given to all Labrador Retrievers. Probiotics are live cultures found in yogurt which will help out in maintaining and increasing the good flora (bacteria) of the gut.

You could also supplement Sampson's diet with regular, non-flavored yogurt with live cultures daily. Make sure there are no sugars or sweeteners in it. You could add it to his food, or your can use it in the Kong toys if you use them. One reader of this blog stuffs it into the Kong toys and freezes it.

Some places to get probiotics and digestive enzymes:

Health and pet food stores: Acidophilus for dogs

1-800-PetMeds - NaturVet Enzymes & Probiotics

Only Natural Pet Store

Pet Enzymes

Here's a helpful article on probiotics:

The Benefits of Probiotics for Your Pet

Sarcoptic Mange:

Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies is caused by the parasite mite Sarcoptes scabiei. These mites (microscopic) can invade the skin of healthy Labrador Retrievers and create a whole host of skin problems, with the most common being hair loss and severe itching.

Symptoms can include hair loss and severe itching on the ears, elbows, chest, armpits, hocks, and belly. The mites prefer to live on areas of the skin that have less hair. The infection can spread over the entire body. Red pustules will develop along with yellow crust on the skin.

To help better explain Sarcoptic Mange to you and for treatments, please read:

Sarcoptic mange in dogs

I hope that this will be of help to you and Sampson. If you don't understand something Dana, or have other questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Please keep me informed on Sampson's condition and if you return to your veterinarian, anything they may tell you.

Take care of yourself and Sampson,



Ackerman. Skin and Haircoat problems in dogs. Published by Alpine Publications; 1994.

The Merck Veterinary Manuel


To read part one of this e-mail visit: Black Labrador Retriever - Losing hair and Dry Skin - part I

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Jen DeBosier June 15, 2010 1:37 PM  

I am so thankful that I found this blog! I, too, have a labrador with ALL of these symptoms and have been battling it for years! She is on thyroid medication, has had her ears packed twice, pinned back once, and countless prescriptions of topical and oral antibiotics, shampoos, you name it! We have dubbed her the "Million Dollar Dog". Your blog did teach me about probiotics for dogs and and I am going out today and buy some for both of my labs. Wish me luck! I plan on starting a new, healthy regimen for my Katie girl that will hopefully, make her a little less smelly and a lot more confortable. Thank you!

Fay June 15, 2010 11:03 PM  

Hi Jen, thank you for your comment and kind words about our blog. PLEASE keep me updated with anything that has help your Labrador Retriever and if you ever have a question, don't hesitate to send me an e-mail. Thanks again!!

Anonymous,  August 18, 2010 3:42 AM  

I just moved to Florida and since we got here my dog got some ticks. He is getting these hairless spots with dry skin, specially in his head. What can it be. I will take him to the vet but I was wondering if anyones knows.

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James September 24, 2010 3:44 AM  

My labrador also loosing hair. What should I do?


buy phentermine December 08, 2010 11:39 AM  

James,I think your labrador needs to eat more vitamins.

Societatea agricola March 23, 2011 3:55 PM  

Hello from Romania ( Eastern Europe),

my 2 1/2 years old female labrador has also the problem with loss of hair and extremly scratching..over an year now i am fighting and spending money with no results!! i will do exactly how the answers for dana were i hope my lab will heal...thank you

Anonymous,  August 23, 2012 7:53 PM  

Don't forget to check for mites! I had our dog to the vet several times and they tried everything else. Finally, I went to a vet skin specialist and he addressed the problem correctly. I spent hundreds of dollars and my dog suffered many months waiting on a correct diagnosis.

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