Diagnosis of Red Patches on a Labrador Retriever's Skin

Written by anne rose
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Diagnosis of Red Patches on a Labrador Retriever's Skin
Labrador retrievers are prone to various skin conditions. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of julie)

Red patches, or "hot spots," on a Labrador retriever's skin are easy to recognise but often require a veterinary diagnosis. Labradors, like many other heavy-coated breeds, are susceptible to skin irritation caused by reactions to both external and internal allergens.

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Red patches on a Labrador retriever are diagnosed by visual examination of the skin. Red patches, which can be inflamed and accompanied by a discharge, often occur with flaky skin, hair loss, itching and brown discolouration. Red patches are usually the result of the dog's body releasing an overabundance of histamines to combat an allergen.

External Causes

Red spots can be caused by allergies to environmental allergens. Parasites, particularly fleas, are a common cause of allergies and red spots on the skin. Dogs are often allergic to flea saliva, not the flea itself. Some Labradors are allergic to grass and plants or cosmetic ingredients such as shampoos. Eliminating external allergens one at a time helps with diagnosis.

Internal Causes

Food allergies are often the cause of Labrador allergies and red patches on the skin. Grains and beef are usually eliminated in the effort to identify food allergens. Labradors with food allergies can be prescribed a hypoallergenic diet. Removing the cause of itching will eliminate a dog's scratching that creates hot spots.


Correct diagnosis of the allergen causing red patches allows parasites that cause external allergies must be consistently controlled with topical insecticides. Serious allergic reactions to flea bites are often resolved with oral anti-parasite medication. Bedding and outdoor areas should be treated to kill parasites. In addition to determining and eliminating the cause of allergies, hot spots can be treated by trimming the fur around the red patch, keeping it clean and dry, and applying antibacterial ointment. Serious cases may be relieved with steroid injections and oral antihistamines.


It is important to limit a Labrador's scratching, chewing or licking of red patches. In serious cases, an Elizabethan collar that fits around a dog's neck makes it difficult for a dog to reach irritated skin.


Red patches on a Labrador's skin can be caused by factors other than allergies. Mange causes red skin irritation, flaking and itching. Wounds can also cause red patches, especially irritation caused by close clipping with grooming tools. Thyroid imbalances cause skin irritation and must be diagnosed with blood tests.

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