Labradors are at particular risk of certain skin conditions. Severe itching is often the first sign that your dog is suffering. The key to helping your Lab through this unpleasant period is to find out what is causing the itching. You can do this by examining the accompanying symptoms.
Atopic dermatitis is an inherited sensitivity to airborne pollens, such as grass and weed pollens. Labradors are prone to this condition, which causes inflammation and itchy skin. Your dog is most at risk during May, June and early July, when pollens are at their most abundant. Alongside localized itching of the ear and belly, your Labrador may have a runny nose and will sneeze a lot. As the condition gets worse, the itching will spread across to the body to cause severe generalized itching. The most effective way of treating this condition is to ensure the dog has minimal contact with the allergens. This may mean keeping him indoors during peak pollen times.
Labradors are in the high-risk category for lipomas, benign fatty tumors that hang from the skin. Although the tumor itself doesn’t cause itchiness, it can cause skin folds, and these are often the culprit. The condition is called pyoderma and it is typically wrinkly breeds, like the shar-pei and the bulldogs, that are prone to it. But if a tumor is causing your lovable Lab to have folds in his skin, these areas can trap bacteria and become infected and itchy. If your dog is being treated for a lipoma, you can avoided the added worry of pyoderma by keeping the affected areas clean and dry.
Obesity in and of itself will not cause itchy skin, but it can also cause skin folds, especially in older dogs. Labradors are prone to obesity, which means that they are more prone than most breeds to developing obesity-related skin problems.
Demodectic mange is characterized by redness, flakiness and severe itching. The mite that causes this condition lives in the hair follicles. Most of the time your Labrador’s immune system will keep this mite in check and skin reactions won’t be a problem, but if she has a weakened immune system, demodectic mange may occur. Labradors are at particular risk of developing demodectic mange.
Flea infestations can cause severe itching, as well as hair loss, dull coat and general lethargy. Although Labradors are typically no more at risk than other breeds, it’s always smart to check for fleas as a cause for his itching. Inspect the skin with a fine-tooth comb, looking out for little brown specks. These are the fleas' droppings. If you suspect a flea infestation is causing your dog's itching, take him to the vet for treatment.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.