A green Labrador might sound like something you’d fine in fiction, but they are real. A green Labrador is a yellow Lab puppy whose fur is stained by the pigment biliverdin either during pregnancy or the birthing process. They’re pretty rare, and their unusual green color fades back to yellow within a week or two. Today we’ll look at why some Lab puppies are born green, when to worry about a green Labrador puppy and what it means for your dog.
- Is there such a thing as a green Labrador?
- What turns a Labrador puppy green?
- What happens when a dog gives birth to a green Labrador puppy?
- Examples of real green Labradors and other dogs
- Other unusual Labrador puppy colors
Have you heard the rumors about dams giving birth to green Labrador puppies? In this article we take a look at whether there really is such a thing as a green Lab dog, or a naturally green dog from any breed.
Is there such a thing as a green Labrador?
Green Labrador refers to the unusual occurrence of Labrador puppies with green fur. Green puppies are a rare occurrence, but any breed of puppy can be affected, including Labradors. The events which cause a puppy to be born green can also happen to any color of puppy, but the results are only visible on puppies with pale colored fur. So only yellow Labs sometimes start out green.
What turns a Labrador puppy green – lochia
Firstly, some puppies are born covered in a green goo. This goo is a normal discharge from their mom’s womb, called lochia. Lochia is a mix of blood, mucus, and tissue fragments from where the placenta has separated from the wall of the womb. It is usually green at first due to the presence of biliverdin in the placenta. Biliverdin is a by-product of the process by which the unborn puppies extracted iron from their mom’s blood in order to support their own development.
A mom dog who has a large litter of puppies produces more lochia than a mom who has a small litter. Sometimes a puppy from a large litter will come out coated in green lochia. This could be more likely for the last puppy of a large litter, and if the mom had a rest before they were born, because they are more likely to get coated in lochia in the birth canal. When this happens, the color will disappear as soon as the mom finishes licking them clean.
By 24 hours after the birth, the color of the lochia should change to dark reddish brown, and the quantity will gradually diminish over several weeks. Green discharge lasting more than 24 hours, or any color of discharge with a foul smell, requires immediate veterinary attention.
What turns a Labrador puppy green – biliverdin in the amniotic fluid
An even more impressive way that Labrador puppies can be born green is if biliverdin escapes the placenta and makes its way into the amniotic fluid surrounding a puppy. If the puppy is exposed to the biliverdin for a while, it stains their fur green, so that even once mom has licked them clean they still appear green for a week or two after birth. How biliverdin ends up in the amniotic fluid isn’t understood, but it is unusual.
What happens when a dog gives birth to a green puppy?
When a green puppy is born, it might not be immediately obvious whether they’re green because they’re coated in lochia, or stained green from biliverdin in the amniotic fluid. You’ll need to wait until mom has cleaned them up, and their fur has dried off. Depending on how exposed to biliverdin their fur was, a green puppy might stay green for a day or two all the way up to a week or two. The phenomenon hasn’t been observed enough to confidently say whether being green has repercussions for a puppy’s health or chances of survival. But anecdotally it doesn’t seem to be a concern.
Examples of real green dogs
Here are some examples of real naturally green puppies, including a green Labrador or two, whose color lasted after they had been cleaned off and dried up:
- In 2017 a brown Labrador dog named Milly in Lancashire England gave birth to a green girl puppy that her owners nicknamed Fifi, after Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise.
- Also in 2017, Rio the Golden Retriever video at the top of this page gave birth to a litter of 9 puppies, including a green boy puppy nicknamed Forrest. His breeder reported that in the end it took just over a week for him to fully de-green.
- In Sardinia on October 9th 2020, a mixed breed sheepdog called Spelacchia gave birth to a litter of five puppies including a green boy puppy her owner named Pistachio. His owner Cristian chose Pistachio as the puppy to keep from the litter, because green is one of the colors of the tricolore national flag and represents hope and good luck to Italians!
- Two weeks later and nearly 6,000 miles away, a white German Shepherd Dog in North Carolina named Gypsy also gave birth to a green puppy. His breeder nicknamed him Hulk at first, and later Pikachu as their color started to fade.
- And earlier this year, a Bulldog called Freya living in Nova Scotia gave birth to a green puppy with brown spots.
Puppies aren’t the only thing turned green by biliverdin!
Green puppies aren’t the only place biliverdin occurs in nature. Other things that owe their color to the presence of biliverdin are:
- human bruises
- some birds’ eggs (such as duck eggs and emu eggs)
- the blood of some marine fish, include types of wrasse and eel
- garfishes’ bones
- and the wings of some moths and butterflies.
How often are green puppies born?
Green puppies are certainly rare – rare enough to make a popular news item when they happen – but we don’t know for sure exactly how uncommon they are. This is partly because there is no rule about or system for documenting cases. In the past, green puppies would have been little more than a fluke occurrence and an anecdote for the breeder to tell in years to come. We hear about instances of green dogs more often now thanks to social media and online news reporting. But we still don’t know how many cases go unreported. Furthermore, we don’t know how many black and brown puppies also had biliverdin staining, but it just wasn’t visible.
Other unusual Labrador puppy colors
Green Labrador puppies are a fascinating and short lived occurrence. Their color is caused by biliverdin pigment from the placenta staining their coat whilst they’re in the womb, and it fades away within a couple of weeks of being born. But here are some other unusual Labrador colors, which persist throughout the dog’s whole life time!
- Silver Lab – The Facts About Silver Labrador Retrievers
- Charcoal Lab: The Dilute Black Labrador Retriever
- Champagne Labrador – A Guide To This Controversial Coat Color
- Black and Tan Lab
- Brindle Lab – Everything You Need To Know About This Unique Pattern
- Black Lab With White Chest – A Guide To Unusual Labrador Markings
- White English Lab Puppies and Care
If you’re ever met a mint green Labrador puppy, we’d love to hear about them in the comments box down below! If you have a photograph that you’re happy for us to share in this article with credit to you, please send it to [email protected] – we’d love to hear more about your unusual pup!
Barr. Dog gives birth to ‘lime green’ puppy. Independent. 2020.
Bender. Nova Scotia Bulldog Stuns Owners by Giving Birth to a Bright Green Puppy. People. 2022.
Enders & Carter. The evolving placenta: Convergent evolution of variations in the endotheliochorial relationship. Placenta. 2012.
Halepas et al. Isolation of Biliverdin IXα, as its Dimethyl Ester, from Emu Eggshells. Journal of Chemical Education. 2017.
Hartley-Parkinson. Dog gives birth to mint chocolate Labrador puppy. Metro. 2017.
Mesli et al. Determination of the age of bruises using a bilirubinometer. Forensic Science International. 2019.
Reuters. Unfur-gettable: Meet Pistachio, the puppy born with green fur. Today. 2020.
Willingham. Why in the world is this puppy green? CNN. 2017.
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