Lab allergies are a problem we occasionally have to deal with. Your Labrador puppy will be most prone to allergies during April, May, and into early fall in California. Unfortunately, allergic reactions may not limit themselves to the seasons and could be a chronic condition causing your Labrador some discomfort all year long.
If you notice your Labrador puppy is licking and scratching more than usual, you should suspect an allergic reaction of some kind. Here are a few things you can do to ease their suffering.
Check for Fleas
Fleas have been making dogs' lives miserable all over the world. Dogs over one year old are most susceptible to flea infestation, but in warm environments like California, starting preventative treatment with your Labrador puppy as soon as possible and continuing with it their entire life is highly recommended. Often lab allergies can be caused by flea bites.
Flea bites cause a skin allergy known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), and just one can create an intense reaction that will cause you Labrador to scratch, lick, and bite themselves constantly.
Symptoms for FAD include itchy irritated skin and red, inflamed areas called hotspots. Depending on the severity, your Labrador may also exhibit dark, crusty, or oozing skin and hair loss.
Once fleas establish themselves on your Labrador, FAD can take up to three months of preventative treatment to eradicate. Fleas can be tricky to spot, so you may need to visit your vet to determine whether your Labrador's discomfort is a flea problem or an allergic reaction to something else.
If you have eliminated fleas as the source of your dog's scratching and biting, you will need to consider other sources.
Common Allergies for a Labrador Puppy
Allergies are symptoms created by an overactive immune system responding to a foreign substance. A compound that triggers an allergic reaction is called an allergen, and you can find many examples of them in the average California home, including:
Food, skin, and environmental allergic reactions can range from minor to severe. And, to make matters worse, symptoms can often overlap and make it more challenging to determine what is causing lab allergies..
Seasonal Allergies dog allergies
A seasonal allergy is an allergic reaction to an allergen found in the environment only at certain times of the year, with many of the usual culprits arriving from the plant life around California during allergy season.
Here are a few plants we know can cause issues for a sensitive Labrador puppy:
California is famous for its nut trees. Unfortunately, they are also the source of irritation for an allergy-prone Labrador. Walnut trees flower during late spring (April through June) and flood the surrounding air with pollen that is much smaller and stickier than other types of pollen.
Mulberry shrubs flower during winter and spring, causing allergy problems earlier than many other sources. You will find mulberry shrubs all over California, especially in heavily wooded areas.
Sweet Vernal Grass
Sweet vernal grass is one of the most significant contributors to allergies. The plant puts off pollen from March through November. The grass is found all over the state but is more prevalent along the coast.
Oak trees grow all over the US, including every county in California. The trees can grow to 150 feet tall, so even a single specimen can produce a great deal of pollen. The oak tree is a common sight in parks and residential areas around California, making it a problem for Labradors prone to allergies.
Because you will be exposed to the above seasonal allergens just about anywhere you go with your Labrador in California, it can be challenging to nail down the source. Your vet will use skin allergy testing to help you determine where the allergens are in your environment.
The vet will inject a small sample of allergen under the skin and measure the response. When you discover the source of the aggravation, your vet can create a tailored allergy shot to reduce the severity of the symptoms. You will also know to avoid the areas during times when the allergens are present.
Food Allergies in dogs and How to Treat Them
Food allergies can also cause allergic reactions in your dog's skin. A food allergy will most commonly affect the ears and paws, but you may also notice your Labrador puppy has an upset tummy.
Symptoms caused by a food allergy can include:
- Facial swelling
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Skin inflammation
In severe cases, the dog may go through anaphylaxis, which is very similar to what happens with peanut allergies in humans.
An anaphylactic response is a scary reaction to an allergen that will need fast treatment to prevent your pet's death. When giving your Labrador a new food, vaccine, or drug, keep a very close eye on them for a while afterward. Fortunately, anaphylactic responses in dogs are infrequent.
Facial swelling and hives can be alarming, but their appearance is hardly ever fatal. Most will clear up with a treatment of antihistamine from your vet.
It's important to realize that food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. A food intolerance arises from the Labrador's gut reacting to an offending ingredient, while allergies are an immune response. Dogs can be allergic to any food, including chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, milk, or soy.
Treating Food Allergies in Your Labrador Puppy
If you suspect your Labrador puppy has a food allergy, you can use a process of elimination by feeding your Labrador a specific course of protein and carbohydrates for approximately 12-weeks.
Contact Allergies from Chemicals
A contact allergy is a reaction in your dog caused by exposing them to chemicals in their environment, which could be:
- Carpet deodorizers
- Metals like nickel
- Poison ivy sap
The most common areas for a contact allergy to develop is where there is little or no hair on the dog, such as the muzzle, bottom of the feet, and lower abdomen. Symptoms will include red and irritated skin, blisters, or small bumps.
Your vet will perform what is known as an exclusion trial where you keep your Labrador off carpet and grass for a time. If the symptoms pass, your vet will gradually expose your Labrador to potential allergens and monitor their reaction.
Labradors can develop allergies to many different substances in the environment, just like their owners. Unfortunately, Labradors are more prone to allergies because they produce large quantities of immunoglobin (antibodies produced by the immune system). Your vet can help you easily treat most allergies with antibiotics, antihistamines and by removing allergens from your Labrador puppy's environment.