In this article you’ll learn the signs of allergies in Labs, and some simple ways to help your dog to feel more comfortable in allergy season. There are a number of common Labrador allergies. So we’ll look at the types of allergy your Lab might get, including reactions to food, fleas, dust and pollen.
We’ll show you the symptoms to look out for, explain why they happen, and give you the tools to understand the available treatments, and give your dog real relief this allergy season.
Products included in this article were carefully and independently selected by the Labrador Site team. If you decide to make a purchase from one of the links marked by an asterisk, we may earn a small commission on that sale. This is at no extra cost to you.
What Are The Most Common Allergies In Labrador Retrievers?
Dogs’ immune systems sometimes overreact to allergens, or substances in the environment such as house dust, pollen, food, chemicals, or bacteria. In response to these allergens, the immune system produces a protein called IgE (immunoglobulin E). IgE triggers the release of histamines, chemicals that cause irritation and inflammation.
Labradors tend to be more allergic than other dog breeds because their immune systems produce more IgE. Common allergies in Labs include food allergies, flea allergies, contact allergies, bacterial allergies, and inhalant allergies.
What Are Food Allergies And Food Allergy Symptoms?
Food allergies in Labrador Retrievers are caused by allergic reactions to common ingredients in dog food such as beef, corn, soy, fish, wheat, chicken, and chicken eggs. Veterinarians report that food allergies account for approximately 10% of allergy problems in dogs. Common symptoms include:
- itchy skin (often around the muzzle or face)
- hair loss
- ear infections
- frequent bowel movements
- and skin infections.
How Do I Treat My Lab’s Food Allergies?
The symptoms mentioned above are easily treated with courses of antibiotics. But if your Lab has a food allergy, the symptoms will return when the treatment is stopped. Because they’re still being exposed to the allergen causing the symptoms.
The easiest way to treat food allergies is to feed your Lab a diet that doesn’t contain the ingredient they’re allergic to. Your vet can perform allergy tests that will determine which allergens your dog reacts to.
What Should I Feed My Allergic Lab?
Most common dog food brands on the market offer hypoallergenic formulas. These recipes are free of some of the most common allergens we talked about earlier: corn, soy, beef, chicken, chicken eggs, fish, and wheat. They might also contain “novel ingredients” like pheasant or buffalo. Which dogs won’t typically have been exposed to before and might be less allergic to.
You can also consider feeding a raw diet consisting of unprocessed meats and veggies. Whichever method you choose, change your Lab’s diet gradually to avoid stomach upset.
What Are Flea Allergies and Flea Allergy Symptoms?
Flea allergies, or FAD (flea allergy dermatitis) are the most common allergies in Labrador Retrievers. FAD occurs when a flea bites an animal, injecting its saliva into the skin. Your dog will most likely be susceptible to FAD during the summer months. Because fleas thrive best in warm temperatures with humidity.
Early warning signs of FAD include itchy, irritated skin. You’ll probably notice your Lab scratching quite a lot and possibly biting the affected area. This in turn causes red, inflamed patches of skin called hot spots. Flea bites occur most often on the back and at the base of the tail. In severe cases, you might notice hair loss, oozing, or dark, crusty skin.
How Do I Treat My Labrador’s Flea Allergy?
The easiest way to prevent flea allergies in Labrador Retrievers is to groom your dog regularly, and apply a flea preventative (such as Frontline) during flea season. If your Lab does develop an allergic reaction to a flea bite, there are several methods of killing fleas instantly. Make sure to remove all traces of fleas both from him and from your home. Sweep floors and furniture thoroughly, spray your carpets with flea spray*, and consider fogging your house.
Sometimes your Lab can develop a yeast infection as a result of a flea bite. In which case you might notice an unpleasant odor. Vets will often prescribe antibiotics and a short course of prednisone to relieve his itchy skin. Taking preventative measures, however, and regularly observing your dog for early warning signs during flea season, can help to mitigate the problem.
What Are Contact Allergies and Contact Allergy Symptoms?
Contact allergies occur when your Lab develops an allergic reaction to noxious or irritating substances in the environment. These can include dyes, carpet deodorizers, or antibiotics applied to the skin. Rubber, wool, certain metals (like nickel), poison ivy sap, and salt on the road can also cause allergic reactions.
The allergic reaction usually develops on areas of the skin with little or no hair. Such as the backs of the paws, the muzzle, and the lower abdomen. These areas of the skin are most likely to come into direct contact with the irritant. You’ll likely notice that the affected area is very red, with small bumps or blisters.
How Do I Treat My Lab’s Contact Allergy?
In order to treat a contact allergy, your vet needs to use tests to determine what allergen your Lab is reacting to. In an exclusion trial, you’ll need to keep him in a non-carpeted area and keep him or her off the grass. If the condition improves, potential allergens will slowly be reintroduced one by one into the dog’s environment.
Your vet can also perform a patch test, which is administered in one of several ways. A small amount of the allergen is either rubbed on his skin, or onto a bandage that is then placed on the skin. You’ll then observe the area closely for two to five days for signs of reaction.
The easiest way to manage your Labrador’s allergies is to remove the allergen from the environment if possible once it’s determined. If that’s not possible, you can take certain steps to keep him comfortable and itch-free: use hypoallergenic detergents for the dog’s bedding and stainless steel or glass bowls. You can also bathe him regularly with a hypoallergenic shampoo. When he does develop allergic reactions, your vet might prescribe a course of antihistamines to relieve symptoms like itching and inflammation.
What Are Inhalant Allergies and Inhalant Allergy Symptoms?
Inhalant allergies (also called atopic allergies or atopy) are the second most common allergy in Labs after FAD. They are caused by an allergic reaction to airborne or inhaled allergens like mold, dust, or pollen. Simply put, think of atopy as the canine equivalent of hay fever in people.
Like FAD, inhalant allergies usually affect dogs during the spring and summer months. Atopic Labradors will develop very itchy skin and will usually bite and scratch themselves, often on the legs, face, ears, groin, and armpit areas. Red, irritated skin and hair loss are the most common warning signs as well as yeast infections in the skin and ears.
Your vet will likely perform one of two allergy tests on your dog to determine what is causing the allergic reaction. An intra-dermal or skin allergy test involves injecting a small amount of an allergen into his skin and watching for a reaction. The second test, the IgE allergy test, involves taking a blood sample from your Lab to test for IgE antibodies against specific airborne allergens. If a high number of IgE antibodies exist, this is usually a sign of an inhalant allergy.
How Do I Treat My Lab’s Inhalant Allergy?
There are several ways to treat inhalant allergies. Allergy shots involve a serum containing the allergen to which your dog reacts. Over time, the injections can desensitize them to the allergen, reducing the symptoms.
Your vet might also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs (such as corticosteroids or antihistamines) to relieve symptoms like itching and skin irritation. But it’s important to note that these drugs treat only the symptoms and not the allergy itself. You can also bathe your dog with hypoallergenic shampoo* to help relieve symptoms.
Bacterial allergies (also called pyoderma of the skin) usually occur as a secondary infection as a result of the above allergic reactions we’ve discussed. Since allergies often cause skin irritation and hair loss, your Lab can often develop lesions or inflamed pustules. For these, your vet will likely proscribe topical medications like ointments and sprays as well as a round of antibiotics.
If the infection is severe or doesn’t respond to these treatments, a skin biopsy or scraping might be performed. The vet will look for evidence that the infection is symptomatic of a more serious medical condition.
Common Allergies in Labrador Retrievers – Summary
Like people, dogs often develop allergic reactions to substances in the environment like house dust, pollen, food ingredients, or insect bites. Labs are extremely prone to allergies because their immune systems produce high quantities of IgE, the protein that develops as a response to allergens.
The five most common types of allergies are food allergies, flea allergies, contact allergies, inhalant allergies, and bacterial allergies. Most allergies are easily treated with antibiotics and antihistamines and by removing the allergen from your Lab’s environment if possible.
More information on puppies
For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook*.
The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy. The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience. The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
Does your Labrador have allergies? Share your experiences in the comments!
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website