You love your Labrador and have a deep connection with him. That’s why it can be disturbing to see your dog rubbing himself vigorously or even biting parts of his body to satisfy an itch. When you see your dog scratching, one thing that comes to mind is whether it’s due to a worrying health problem. So, why does your Labrador itch so much?
Labradors are prone to itching because of a genetic predisposition to a skin disease called atopic dermatitis. More than 10% of Labs have atopy, which leads to itching and scratching, and their skin worsening. They can also develop itching because of fleas, bacteria, food allergy, and even direct contact with an allergen on the skin.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to check whether your Labrador has atopy or is itching for a different reason.
- How you can minimize the itching by figuring out what your dog may be allergic to.
- How to get your dog to stop itching.
This can all get pretty confusing, so if you’re feeling less than crystal clear right now, continue reading to learn why your Labrador is itching so much and, ultimately, how to get him to stop all that scratching. Let’s get started!
Does Your Labrador Have Atopy?
Your Labrador might be itching due to one or more reasons. The most likely explanation is that he has atopic dermatitis if there are no signs of pesky fleas. This is a common allergic skin disease known to affect around 10% of all dog breeds. It causes mild to severe itching, leading to more skin damage, infection, and irritation.
Unfortunately, Labrador Retrievers are one of the breeds prone to itching due to atopic dermatitis. Dogs with this condition should not be bred as there is a higher chance that the puppies will inherit it.
But instead of trying to apply a remedy for your Labrador’s itching, you should first make sure that he indeed has atopy! To do this, you can check that most of the symptoms listed in this section apply to your dog. Your veterinarian will also follow a set of recommended practical guidelines to help diagnose canine AD.
Your Labrador Bites His Paws
If you see your Labrador biting his front paws, chances are he has atopy. Fleas go for more fur-covered skin making it more likely that your dog’s feet are itchy because of atopy. There’s still a tiny possibility that oversensitivity to bacteria is the cause. That’s why you have to use this symptom as an item on the checklist and not as a diagnosis confirmation.
Your Lab is Rubbing His Face
If your Labrador is trying to satisfy an itch around his eyes and ears, then he could have a skin disease. But with other symptoms on this list present, it is more likely that this allergy is atopic dermatitis. Since dogs are often petted around this region, a contact allergy might also be the culprit.
Your Lab Bites His Inner Thigh or Rubs His Groin
It is easy to mistake your Labrador’s groin-rubbing tendency due to him reaching sexual maturity, but mating behavior varies significantly from scratching an itchy groin. If you have raised a dog before or have seen one trying to mate, you can tell this behavior apart!
Your Lab’s Saliva Has a Staining Effect
This will be more prominent over lighter hair as the staining will be more obvious. If the fur around your Labrador’s mouth seems to be turning orange, the likelihood of atopy is higher. Mites and even contact-allergens aren’t as likely to cause this. However, this doesn’t always happen, so even with the absence of this symptom, your dog might still have atopy.
Your Labrador’s Itching is Seasonal
Atopic dermatitis’s actual identifier is that your dog only itches during a specific season (usually between the spring and fall). That’s because the allergens that trigger an atopic dog to scratch are usually inhaled and environment-based. The problem with relying on this symptom as confirmation is that you have to wait for the season to pass. And in the meantime, your Labrador’s condition could worsen. So please read the rest of this article to learn what else you should do.
What are Labradors Allergic To?
Before we get into my step-by-step method of reducing itching and scratching among your Labrador, we have to consider other reasons he might be itching. Only once you know all possibilities can you actively eliminate them till your beloved doggo is itch-free.
Labradors can be allergic to environmental inhalants like pollen, dust, mold, skin contact allergens, and certain foods. They may also have fleas or bacterial hypersensitivity that is causing the itch. You can determine the cause of a dog’s irritation by identifying what recently changed and reversing it to observe the effects.
Let’s suppose you recently changed your dog’s food. If the itching started within a week, you can eliminate this food item and bring back the old brand to see if the itching stops or slows down. If it doesn’t, then the food change may have been more of a coincidence than a cause.
Contact With Chemicals or Plants
Your Labrador might have contact allergies that are either seasonal or material-specific. Seasonal contact allergies make your pet itchy all over, while material-specific allergies will cause patches of their skin to get itchy, inflamed, or bumpy.
You may spot dry, thickened skin if you run your hand through his fur. If your dog has been scratching himself too vigorously, there might be prominent discharge from the affected area or scarring from said scratching.
A material-specific allergic reaction can happen from the presence of a normally harmless substance, chemical, or plant. Make sure you audit all the new items that your Labrador is introduced to, whether it is a new detergent with which you cleaned your dog’s pillow or a new stuffed toy.
Inhaling Pollen or Other Airborne Particles
The section above on canine atopic dermatitis best explains what happens when your dog’s body reacts to such allergies. For the most part, things that cause breathing-related issues in humans can cause itching in Labradors. Therefore, pollen, smoke, and similar stimuli that lead to sneezing or a blocked nose in humans can cause itching in dogs.
This itch isn’t dangerous in itself. However, dogs don’t understand that they must not scratch themselves too vigorously! By opening up wounds in their skin, dogs become more vulnerable to secondary itching.
Meat and Animal-Based Food Items
If you have recently changed your dog’s food, he is possibly itching because he is allergic to the new dog food. It might seem easy to buy a pack of your old dog food and see if the change makes a difference, but I know not all dog moms and dads can do this…
I could switch my dog’s food in a week. But if I had three dogs and bought all their food in bulk, I might need to consider my budget before making that call. So if you buy your dogs’ food in mass, you may need to be 100% sure that he’s itching because of a food allergy before throwing out the food.
Also, one thing to consider is that a food allergy is not as common as dog food manufacturers would have you believe! Recent data from Banfield Pet Hospital evidenced that food allergies affect just 0.2 % of dogs. Having said that, causes of allergies in dogs often overlap, making a diagnosis difficult, even for your veterinarian.
What Foods Are Labradors Allergic To?
Proteins such as beef and chicken would be likely culprits if your Labrador were to suffer from a food allergy. You can also check your dog food packaging to see if one or more of the following ingredients are included:
If you notice any of these in your dog food’s ingredients, try holding that food while introducing a variety free of the said ingredient. In case the scratching persists, you can return to old food as that was not the allergen causing the itch in the first place.
Please note that while Labradors can develop allergies related to each of the above, that doesn’t mean that the items listed above are inherently harmful to all Labradors. You don’t need to keep your dog from having meat just because some dogs can become allergic to beef! Remember, the numbers of food allergies in dogs are extremely low!
Learn More About The Different Causes of Itching in Your Dog and How Vets Reach a Diagnosis…
How Do I Get My Lab to Stop Itching?
Now that you know the most common causes of itching in Labradors, you’re ready to find a solution and try some ideas out before taking your dog to the vet. You should start with the lowest-effort solution first and slowly work your way up to the highest-investment solution. The rationale is simple: you should do as much as necessary to relieve your dog of his discomfort.
Determine Whether the Itch is Contact-Based or Environment-Based
The first step in getting your Labrador to stop itching is to find out what’s causing the irritation. The earlier part of this article will help you determine whether the itch is contact-based or due to an inhaled allergen. Making this determination early will allow you to skip some of the steps listed below so you can go directly to ones relevant to your Lab’s itch.
Replace Your Labrador’s Food
The lowest-effort step in this process is to swap your Labrador’s food. If you haven’t changed your dog’s diet in a while, he might be itchy because of his food, or the manufacturer might have altered the ingredients. Simply holding your current stash while getting a different brand is a decent step in the right direction. Of course, this step is skippable if you’ve already ruled out food allergies.
For some ideas and greater insight into what to feed your dog, check out my comprehensive guide, Best Diet for Labradors: Nutrition, Types, and More!
Remove Items your Lab has Recently Come in Contact With
Whether your Labrador has a new pillow or the wallpaper near his bed has been recently changed, you need to subtract from his environment the things introduced just before he started itching. An easy way to do this is to note down the rough date when your dog started scratching himself. Then note the date a week or two before that and start auditing your living space to observe which new things have been added.
Change Your Dog’s Environment
This solution applies only if your Labrador has an allergy related to inhaling pollen or other airborne particles. Once you’re sure of this, you can try leaving your dog with a family member for a day or so – if they live in a less pollen-affected area. If this controls the itching, then you may deduce the problem is seasonal. Of course, it would not be feasible to swap apartments for your dog’s spring allergy! Fortunately, you don’t have to change the environment.
Here’s the deal…
How to Minimize Your Lab’s Inhalant Allergies
You have to use anti-allergy products alongside protective measures to get your Labrador through the difficult period. Here are some steps you can take to minimize his environmental allergies:
- Keep Your Doors and Windows Shut at All Times – This will keep excessive dust and pollen from coming into your living space.
- Use an Air Purifier – Through collecting tiny particles like dust, pollen, and mold spores, air purifiers help create a cleaner, healthier atmosphere.
- Groom Regularly to Get Rid of Pollen and Dust – Labradors have two coats and require a lot of grooming throughout the year. To prevent allergies, I use the FURminator de-shedding tool from Amazon, which works well because it penetrates the undercoat and safely removes loose hair, along with any nasty allergens! I’ve tried cheaper grooming tools and brushes before, but none are as good as the FURminator range.
- Move All Indoor Plants Outside Your Dog’s Room – Whether you keep your dog in a studio apartment or have a three-bedroom house dedicated to him, you can’t have plants in the area he mainly occupies! This can be tricky because some indoor plants might die when moved outside, but you can find an indoor solution away from your dog’s favorite room.
- Shower and Change When You Return Home – The urge to hug your best friend as soon as you get back from work or even a grocery trip is always quite strong. But for your dog’s sake, you must first shower and change so he doesn’t get exposed to pollen and other particles.
- Vacuum Your Carpets and Wipe the Dust off Surfaces Regularly – Use a wet rag to wipe the dust off areas close to your dog’s nose. This includes bedposts, tables, and chairs. You should also vacuum your carpet or rug so the trapped particles are removed from your dog’s environment.
- Use a Dehumidifier – Dehumidifiers remove moisture from your home. By drying the air, allergy triggers are minimized, and symptoms are alleviated. Dust mites, for example, need a high humidity level of 65% to live. You can also prevent mold with the use of dehumidifiers.
Best Anti-Allergy Products for Your Lab
Now that you have learned about what you can do to identify your Labrador’s itching source and how you can minimize it through protective measures let’s explore the best anti-allergy products. You can use my recommended products, depending on compatibility, alongside the protective measures. That way, you may not need to implement drastic changes if they help to eliminate the problem. Remember to check with your vet first before using any of them.
Allergy Itch Relief Dog Shampoo
Whether your Labrador loves baths or is reluctant to get one, an itch relief shampoo is his best friend. As we’ve learned, dogs can develop itching due to pollen, seasonal irritants, and even flea bites. Vet’s Best Allergy Itch Dog Relief Shampoo from Amazon helps relieve itchy skin caused by all those factors.
This shampoo won’t make your Labrador immune to scratching, but it will help him soothe the itch he already has and relieve his discomfort. So expect to give your Labrador frequent baths with this shampoo.
Often, when you go out walking your dog, the airborne allergens can stick in his coat. This product helps clean those out while simultaneously moisturizing your Labrador’s skin and coat. It’s backed by the trusted Vet’s Best brand and is formalized by vets.
I particularly like this one, as it has over 4,500 top-star reviews and features anti-allergy ingredients, including Lavender, Vitamin E, Oatmeal, Aloe, Tea Tree Oil, and Neem Oil. Some shampoos will dry out your dog’s skin, but this product is friendly to sensitive skin.
Itch Relief Spray
If you realize that your dog’s itching is due to direct contact with an irritant, or you need to help soothe hot spots or seasonal skin irritation, then you need to use a spray-specific relief solution. Vet’s Best Hotspot Itch Relief Spray (from Amazon) is a trusted brand that works with qualified veterinarians to formulate its products safely and effectively.
This spray is excellent for itching caused in a specific spot. Due to fleas, dryness, or contact, simply spraying it at the irritated area will bring immediate relief to your dog. The spray supports your Labrador’s healing process but, ultimately, the skin self-heals. By moisturizing and getting rid of dryness (and other irritants) in the process, it prevents your Lab from scratching or biting and causing further damage to the itchy area.
With over 6,400 top reviews and ratings on Amazon, the product is tried and tested. But, a word of caution: while the spray is safe for your dog’s skin, it is not meant to be consumed orally! If your Labrador licks himself to relieve the itch, you may need to use the shampoo instead. But if the itchy spot is out of your dog’s reach, then this product is excellent. I recommend it for your dog’s back, closer to his neck, his head, and around the ears.
Allergy Supplements – Chews
Speaking of products that are safe for oral consumption, I recommend allergy immunity supplements. There are many supplements available on the market, but their effectiveness varies drastically. However, I am pleased to recommend Zesty Paws Aller-Immune Bites as they have enough proof of their concept in their 32,000+ reviews on Amazon!
Each container has 90 bites that boost your dog’s immune system, promote skin health, and improves gut health. They contain all-natural proven ingredients and even have salmon fish oil that provides Omega 3 fatty acids to support your dog’s itchy skin and hot spots.
Your Labrador may be itching and scratching because of canine atopic dermatitis or due to an allergic reaction to airborne, food, or contact-based allergens. Either way, the best solution is to eliminate the cause by reducing his exposure to the allergen.
You can also try washing him with anti-allergy shampoo and give him allergy immunity supplements. If nothing seems to be working and his itching is not improving, it’s time to pay a visit to your vet. Don’t worry, though, as there are some advanced treatment options for atopic dermatitis, such as allergy shots that can help around 75% of dogs.
Related Posts You May Like:
- Universities Federation for Animal Welfare: Labrador Retriever Canine Atopic Dermatitis
- AVMA Journals: Estimation of heritability of atopic dermatitis in Labrador and Golden Retrievers
- AKC Canine Health Foundation: Hyposensitizing Dogs to Atopic Dermatitis
- AVMA: Banfield: Few pets allergic to food; flea, environmental allergies rise
- NCBI: Canine atopic dermatitis: detailed guidelines for diagnosis and allergen identification
- University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: Dogs’ Itchiness May Indicate Atopic Dermatitis
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