When humans age, our hair tends to turn grey over time. Like humans, Labradors also go through a natural aging process that results in going grey!
On average, Labradors begin getting grey hair around the age of five. This is a result of aging, as the cells responsible for adding your Lab’s color stop producing. While more noticeable in black and chocolate Labs, all shades of Labradors will experience greying, starting around the snout.
Keep in mind that Labradors are a breed that is susceptible to going grey prematurely. If yours does, there is no need to panic! However, it could indicate a more serious health problem. Below I’ll cover why some Labradors go grey early, and the precautions you should take to prevent premature greying.
Why Do Labradors Go Grey Early?
Sometimes, early greying just happens. But, there are additional reasons that Labradors get grey hair at a young age:
Stress & Anxiety
This may come as a surprise, but Labradors experience stress and anxiety just like their owners do! It hasn’t officially been proven that stress and anxiety in dogs causes premature greying. However, there have been a few studies done that make this claim. We know it is true for us humans!
If your Labrador’s temperament is generally anxious, there’s a chance that this is contributing to premature greying. Work with your veterinarian to stabilize his mood. This could not only slow down the greying process, but his overall quality of life.
Did you know that just like humans, Labradors are susceptible to thyroid problems? If your Lab is under the age of five and starting to get some salt and pepper on his snout, there’s a chance he has hypothyroidism.
When your Labrador’s thyroid gland is underperforming, their hair can become dull and grey, they’ll likely gain weight, and you may notice some skin issues or hair loss. The good news is that if your dog is diagnosed with a thyroid condition, this is something that is treatable. Also, the greying of their fur should reverse itself upon treatment.
Liver & Kidney Disease
On a more serious note, premature greying in your Labrador can be an early indicator of liver or kidney disease. If a dog’s liver or kidneys aren’t processing out toxins from their system quick enough, he might begin sporting silver earlier than normal. It’s important to have your vet look at your Labrador if early greying is happening to rule out larger health concerns. Once treated, the greying may reverse or halt.
It always comes down to genetics, doesn’t it? Sometimes Labradors go grey prematurely because it’s what is in their DNA. There are no health issues present, they just started sporting silver a little early! You shouldn’t be concerned about your Lab’s health if he is genetically predisposed to looking a little wiser early in life!
One way that you can gain some insight into your Lab’s genetics is to buy purchasing a dog DNA test kit. I’ve personally used and recommend Embark Vet’s Breed + Health Kit. For a small investment, you can be provided with a ton of clues about your Lab’s history and health.
Signs of Aging in a Labrador
Even though no two dogs age exactly the same, it’s important you’re able to recognize the warning signs as your Labrador gets up there in age. As your Lab gets older, your routine might need to be adjusted to better care for her. Along with sporting a salt and pepper muzzle, these signs of aging might indicate it’s time to make some changes to your care routine:
- Mobility issues – As Labs age their joints become more troublesome. They might have a difficult time making their way up the stairs or hopping up on the couch to cuddle.
- Grey hair – When Labradors get grey hair, typically it first happens around their snout. Then you might notice it on their cheeks or ears. In some cases, most of a Lab’s hair will turn grey! There’s no rhyme or reason to the amount of hair that begins to grey.
- Incontinence – Later in life, there’s a chance your Lab will lose the ability to control her bladder. If she seems to have forgotten all the house training you’ve done with her, you’ll want to get her checked out by your vet.
- Loss of Senses – As a dog ages, their smell, sight, and hearing all tend to degrade. Eventually your dog might even become blind or deaf. Stay aware for any indications that your Lab can no longer hear or see you well.
- Behavioral Changes – It’s natural for behavior to change slightly over time. Don’t be alarmed if he doesn’t have as much energy as he used to—it’s a natural change you might notice as they age!
If you’ve noticed any of these signs of aging, do what you can to adjust your lifestyle to ensure your Labrador is living a comfortable life during their senior years.
How to Prevent Your Lab from Early Greying
While it might not always be possible to stop your dog from greying altogether (you can’t fight nature!), there are some steps you can take to help prevent early greying.
Schedule Regular Checkups with Your Vet
As we’ve noted, most health conditions that cause Labradors to go grey prematurely can be treated—often reversing the greying! Make sure you are scheduling annual vet visits to look for and new health conditionings that might become apparent as your dog ages. If you’ve noticed some salt and pepper making an appearance on your Lab’s muzzle, have your veterinarian take a look to see any other signs point to health problems like hypothyroidism or liver and kidney disease.
Provide Positive Reinforcement in Stressful Situations
Stress and anxiety is thought to be one of the biggest factors in premature greying. If your Labrador is extremely sensitive to loud noises or doesn’t like meeting strangers, find ways to provide positive reinforcement to make these scenarios less stressful. If your Labrador has major separation anxiety, try to establish a regular routine that you stick to every day of the week.
This routine will provide your Lab with peace of mind because they’ll have a better idea of your schedule. A skilled trainer will help you narrow down triggers that are making your Labrador anxious, and provide solutions and tips for how to make the situation less stressful.
Caring For Your Labrador
Even if your pup is greying a little before you expected, that may be okay. Labradors get grey hair a bit early relative to other breeds. As long as we rule out any serious health conditions, we can learn to appreciate their new look. Just think of it as them getting a little bit wiser faster than the rest of their canine companions!