Avoiding Ear and Skin Problems in Your Labrador Retriever

The best way to avoid ear and skin problems is to adopt your Lab from a responsible, reputable breeder - preferably one that feeds fresh food to its dogs.

The skin and ear problems sometimes suffered by Labs are usually due to allergies - which can also result in excess yeast. Most allergies are to processed food, grains and insect bites. So, should your Lab - or any breed for that matter - suffer with skin or ear problems, consider trying the following:Food allergies:

Prepare your Labs dog food yourself. That way, if there is a problem, it is easy to determine the cause. Start with two or three ingredients using a combination of eggs, boiled chicken, turkey, etc. Continue to try new ingredients such as celery, yams (but NOT sweet potatoes or other vegetables with a high glycemic index), organically grown berries and apples, etc. until you find those that are safe and which your Lab clearly has an allergy to. Completely avoid processed foods and any grains. Use the most natural products you can find and organic for foods known to contain high pesticide levels. And of course no onions grapes raisins. A SMALL amount of garlic can help reduce yeast production because it serves as an anti-fungal. During this testing period, you should also restrict your dog's water to purified water.

Dog food companies provide a list of ingredients but they do not always provide additives in those ingredients or whether or not the ingredients are human grade.

I know -- your vet told you that you must feed your dog commercial dog food to make sure your dog is getting the nutrition it needs. I wonder what folks would think if their own medical doctor told them they should eat only fortified, processed foods and avoid fresh foods at all costs. Sounds pretty silly to me. We know what foods are best for us and we know that fresh is best. We do not worry that every single meal we eat has all the nutrients we need - rather we rely on a variety of foods over the course of days, maybe even weeks, to be sure we get the nutrition we need. Feeding your dog should be no different. Here at Ailis, we will never feed anything to our dogs that does not meet the quality required for humans.

Carnivores can consume large meals after a hunt and then rest until the next opportunity for a meal. Dogs need animal protein for a complete amino acid profile. They can live without any vegetation (carbohydrates) but can also do fine with eating small amounts. They do not have the ability to break down cellulose so plant materials are not digested well, if at all.

Large amounts of vegetation, grains and fiber are difficult for dogs to digest. With their short and simple digestive tracts, they cannot ferment and digest these foods like herbivores, and to a smaller degree also omnivores. The result for dogs is a much larger stool volume from high grain, high fiber diets.

We believe, however, that feeding a raw diet [including raw bones, which are completely digested by dogs] is the most effective way to eliminate skin or ear problems. Insect allergies:

We are not comfortable applying any chemical to our dogs that will stay in their system for any period of time. We have used neem oil successfully for many years - spraying it in our hands then rubbing it through their hair/fur once a week or so. The odor repels insects and the oil will kill them - but not instantly. So, it is important to use the spray regularly as a preventative measure. And an added bonus - it's good for their skin!!

Neem oil is approved for use in organic fruit and vegetable gardens as a pesticide.Other allergies:

If changing food or eliminating insects does not clear up the problem, start eliminating things such as flea control products, shampoos, conditioners, etc. But I have found that switching to a homemade food - especially a raw diet - almost always clears up any problem.

Excess Yeast:

Often times excess yeast causes itching in areas that promote its growth - such as between the pads of the paws, the ears, the rear end and under the arms and legs.

You can alleviate the excess in their feet by soaking (simply spraying them will not work) them in a bath consisting of one gallon of water, a cup of hydrogen peroxide and 2 or 3 cups of white vinegar for 5 or 10 minutes. Afterward, dry them off but it is not necessary to rinse them. Do this as often as necessary.

For the rest of the body, use an all natural, anti-fungal shampoo made from tea tree oil or an herbal blend, for example, and bathe the dog as often as needed but at least once a week, preferably twice. DO NOT USE shampoo with OATMEAL as grains can feed yeast.

You can also use an anti-fungal rinse during the summer months, from one to three times per week after shampooing. Use a gallon of water with a cup of vinegar or a cup of lemon juice. You can also use 20 drops of peppermint oil. All three will make your pooch smell nice. You should never pour these rinses over your dog's head or into her eyes. Pour from the collar, back. Pour the gallon of solution over her and rub it into her coat and skin, focusing on body parts that tend to grow yeast -- armpits, feet, groin area and around the tail. Then towel dry without rinsing. Your dog will not only feel better, the yeast won't replicate as quickly.

A change in diet is a must for the long term. Avoid ALL GRAINS and all foods with a high glycemic index. Also be sure your dog is getting sufficient quantities of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Try adding a few sprinkles (2 tablespoons a day is recommended for a human so DO NOT use too much) of GROUND flax seeds. Too much can be harmful! Cooked Sardines and cooked salmon will add another type of Omega-3's. Be sure to look at least one of the books we recommend on our dog food page for information and recipes. You should not feed your Lab the same foods everyday and the recipes will help you be sure you are feeding a balanced diet.

NOTE: Flaxseed is not a grain and is very low in carbohydrates.