Labrador Life Span – How Long do Labs Live?

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Find out what controls how long your Labrador will live. And how can you influence your dog’s lifespan so that you can spend the best and happiest years together

It isn’t surprising that you want to find out about Labrador Retriever life span. After all, when you have found the perfect friend, you want to know that you are going to have him for the longest time!

And if you are thinking of buying a Labrador, you want to know he is going to be around to share your life for at least the next decade.

So “how long do Labradors live” is a popular question, and one that we are going to look at in today’s article.

Many people will tell you that the average life expectancy of a Labrador is ten to twelve years.

But some Labradors live a good deal longer than twelve, and some unfortunately don’t make it to ten.

So what controls how long your Labrador will live?  And how can you influence your dog’s lifespan so that you can spend the best and happiest years together?

What Controls Labrador Life Span?

There are two key factors that have power or influence over your Labrador’s lifespan, and over the lifespan of any dog.

One is the genetic information that each dog has inherited from his parents.

The other is the events that happen to your dog during the course of his life, through puppy hood to old age. Things like accidents, injury, and disease.

Let’s look first at the genes that control how your dog looks and behaves, and which set broad limits to the lifespan of your Labrador.

Labrador Genes & Lifespan

Every purebred Labrador inherits a number of Labrador characteristics that he will share with all other pedigree Labradors.

Choose your puppy wisely
Choose your puppy wisely

These genes don’t just control his coat colour, the shape of his ears, and the length of his tail, they also control his behaviour and his ability to carry out certain tasks, like running and hunting, or fetching things.

Labrador Body Shape

To some extent Labradors are lucky – they inherit a basically sound conformation or body shape.  They don’t have very long spines or short legs that can cause back problems, their bodies are nicely proportioned and designed for athletic ability – running and jumping.

Labradors have not been bred with shortened faces that can cause breathing problems or small skulls that can damage their brains.

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Nor are  they encumbered with excessive skin or a massive amount of fur.  This is excellent because a good body structure  makes a dog naturally healthier than a dog with poor conformation.

Factors Affecting Labrador Life Span

On the other hand, like all pedigree dog breeds, there are certain genetic diseases that have become established within the breed due to breeding between dogs that are closely related.

Added to which the simple fact of being both pedigree and a fairly large dog, as well as being ‘a Labrador’ all helps to limit the potential lifespan of your Lab.

How Size Affects Labrador Longevity

Little dogs live longer than big dogs.  This is one of the quirks of nature that we don’t entirely understand.

marvin the mooseOf course, there are many exceptions to the rule, but in general the longevity of dogs is quite strongly linked to body size.

As a medium to large dog, this is therefore a limiting factor in the lifespan of your Labrador –  in short, the average Labrador is probably never going to live as long as the average toy poodle.

You can find out more about your Labrador’s growth and size in this article.

If you are interested in different longevity of different breeds there is quite a bit of data on the Kennel Club website

Do Pedigree Labs Life Longer?

The outer limits of your dog’s potential life are also limited to a certain extent simply by the fact he is a pedigree dog.  A study published in the Veterinary journal in 2013 showed that mongrels live on average 1.2 years longer than purebred dogs.

If you are unsure whether your Labrador is purebred or a pedigree dog, check out this article.

Labradors are natural athletes
Labradors are natural athletes

When we consider pedigree dogs as a whole, there are differences in longevity between the breeds, not just in terms of size, though this is important. There are also differences between different breeds of a similar size.

Sometime shorter lifespans are linked to poor conformation, though we have seen that Labrador conformation is pretty healthy.   And sometimes shorter lifespans in a breed are linked to inherited diseases.

How Inherited Diseases Affect Your Labrador’s Lifespan

While Labradors are relatively healthy, there are diseases in the breed that can influence how long a Labrador will live and how well or healthy each dog will be during that lifetime

For some of these diseases, hip dysplasia for example, and CNM, we have tests that can (and should) be carried out on adult dogs before they are used for breeding.

To find out which tests your puppies parents should have undergone, check out our health screening article here.

For other diseases, some cancers for example, we don’t have tests, we just know that in some cases, Labradors may be more susceptible than some other breeds of dog. feeding2

Black Lab Life Expectancy

So what is black lab life expectancy? Or chocolate Lab life expectancy, or yellow Lab life expectancy?

Or even English Lab life expectancy for that matter?

These are common questions and the answer to each is the same.

The life span of your yellow Labrador is unlikely to be any different from a black Lab lifespan, or a chocolate one.

As far as we know, with the exception of color dilution alopecia in silver labradors, inherited diseases are not linked to any particular color or type of Labrador. And Lab lifespan is not influenced by the color of your dog.

Your English or bench bred Labrador is likely to live just as long as your American or field bred Labrador.  Provided you exercise him well and don’t let him get fat.

Lifestyle & Life Expectancy

Apart from your ability to be selective over the parents of your puppy, genetic factors are largely outside your control.

But as your Labrador grows and matures, there will be life events that happen to him which may influence his life expectancy, and some of these are events that you can control.

Accidents & Roaming

Many dogs die each year in accidents.  And many of those accidents could have been avoided.

Fencing your property (or a small part of it) securely will help to prevent your dog from roaming and training him to come quickly when you call will help you to bring him to you in an emergency.

These two principles – training and control – will help to ensure your dog lives out his allotted years to the full.

Recall is fundamental for most Labradors safety, so make sure that you take the time to teach him to come when he is called whatever distractions may be surrounding him.

Vaccination

In some parts of the world there are still many serious diseases that kill unvaccinated dogs and puppies on a regular basis.

Therefore, depending on where you live, whether or not you vaccinate your dog may also affect his longevity.

Probably the biggest single influence though, that you can control with regard to both your dog’s longevity, and his enjoyment of life, is his bodyweight.

Do Thin Dogs Live Longer?

Obesity is increasingly common in dogs generally and in Labradors in particular.

These are greedy and friendly dogs that are very good at persuading people to hand over the treats, and to refill that food bowl.

Studies have shown that reducing calorie intake in dogs, can increase life expectancy by a significant amount.  This isn’t really surprising when we consider the health impact of obesity.

Keeping your dog slim can help him live a long and comfortable life and can defer the onset and reduce the impact of conditions like arthritis in older dogs.

Is Longevity In Dogs Inherited?

To a certain extent, it is clear that longevity is inherited.  But it isn’t the whole story.

Being a Labrador, being purebred, being a largish dog, all go against your dog when it comes to life expectancy.

On the other hand, being athletic and well structured go in his favour and for these reasons, the Labrador falls into the medium range of life expectancy when compared with other dogs.

You can help your Labrador

There are some dog breeds that are longer lived than our beloved Labs, and quite a few that are much shorter lived. However, you can help to influence your dog’s longevity to a certain extent.

If you are choosing a puppy, choose his parents wisely.  Make sure that they are health tested and bred by a responsible breeder.

And when you look into those pleading eyes, make sure you don’t give in to your dog’s request for second helpings.

How Long Do Labs Live?

Train and supervise your dog and make sure he is properly fed and well exercised throughout his natural life which should span a good ten years or more.

With loving care and a little luck, your wonderful friend will live into his teens and be with you for many years to come.

More Information

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.

 

Do you have, or did you have, a Labrador that lived a very long time?  Tell us about him in the comments box below

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

280 COMMENTS

  1. My best friend died on 26 December from a sudden onset of a severe breathing issue while at the vet’s (thank goodness) office. We could not bear to have to trach our boy so we had to let him go Marvin was ten years and eleven months old at his death. He was a tall, yellow fellow, and weighed 118 pounds. Marvin was a big lab which I attribute to good nutrition as a puppy and all his life. He got heavy from clients feeding him treats, he went to my accounting office everyday, and had his own office. A special food got 31 pounds off of him and he kept it off.

    Marvin touched hundreds of lives at the accounting office, and people stopped by the office just to visit the dog. I pray and prayed that Marvin would live to at least twelve years, but he started slowing down after a cancer scare in May 2016, perhaps the testing was detrimental, but the day he died he was still mobile and active and a real dog’s dog.

    I am grieving heavily for my friend but I look forward to a black lab bitch once I have reached the fond memories stage. God bless each and everyone of you who love the magnificent labrador retriever.

  2. My yellow Lab Tilly is 16.5 next week, she has Cushings disease which the vet discovered when I was investigating from her hair loss on her tail, the treatment with Trylostane for almost 2 years has been successful, her coat is now so thick we need to hose her daily to keep her cool. (Australia) Tilly has never had hip dysplasia, with old age her back legs started to go under her as she walked, I bought an Orthodog hip brace from th US which helps, doesn’t wear it all the time only when hips joints are very loose it seems to straighten her gait.
    Had to have another of my Labs euthanised last week, so I put Tilly on what remained of his Cartrophen tabs, she can now get herself up (unless she is stuck under a chair) and she can squat to pee and get up again, rather than sitting in the pee. I’ve used Metacam previously on old labs with much success, but I
    mistakenly thought Tilly was past it, seems I was wrong!

    Tilly has never eaten commercial dog food in her life.

    A trick I’ve learned to get old Labs to drink more water to help their kidneys and liver is out is to put a splash of milk in a bowl of water, she has this every night before sleep she goes to sleep, some dogs are lactose intolerant in which case a sprinkle of powered milk is best.

  3. My family recently lost our amazing and beloved black lab, Misty, after being blessed by her presence for 16.5 years. I miss her dearly and not a day goes by when I don’t think about her. I have thought about why she lived such a long life and besides the apparent good genetics and lots of love, I attribute her lengthy life to a quality diet (no junk food at all) and lots of exercise which always kept her very trim and in good shape. I see a lot of overweight labs(and dogs in general) and I really believe, just as in people, this leads to all kinds of health issues. We gave Misty many treats, but all were healthy such as apple slices, carrots, etc. and no sugary or high calorie treats or table scraps. She had the usual “elderly dog” problems, but was beautiful, active, and alert until just before her death.

  4. Hye! I am over in Philadelphia and just joined the Lab site yesterday. I am so in love with my lab, Teddy. It is heartening to read of such longevity in all of your Labs’ lives. Teddy is a tall, yellow, 110lb, 6 yr old rescue Lab. He certainly appears to be full lab – super handsome with light brown eyes. We’ve had him since very young but he developed elbow dysplasia at 2 years of age. He’s already had surgery, all the usual meds – Rimadyl, Dasuquin, Amantadine, Grizzly Salmon oil in his food, and now Adequan shots and yet the limping still breaks through all this. I am constantly thinking he is maybe in pain and I feel I need to prepare myself for possibly a shorter life span. Pippa, have you any sense of this? He gets good exercise but can only run for a few minutes. He limps all the time now.

    • I’m sorry to hear your dog is still limping Judith. It’s a good idea to keep reporting back to your vet on this situation, he or she needs to know that your dog is still having problems and they’ll be able to discuss the available options with you. Good luck with Teddy’s progress.

  5. My Luki is not yet in his teens. We will be celebrating his 9th bday next month, and I have some questions for all of you senior lab owners!!! Luki’s energy and stamina is unmatched. I mean, I cannot stress to you enough the hyperactivity this dog possesses. Recently, I took him to a new vet located inside a pet store. The seasoned vets exact words- I have NEVER seen a 9 year old dog with this degree of energy in my entire career. My questions are, were any of your seniors insanely hyper past midlife? Do you suppose this means he will live above average? His hyperactivity is indeed a handful, but hes family, and I want him around as long as possible! Thanks!!

    • Hi Cassie!

      My lab is now 12 years old! And he is still hyperactive as first day 🙂 He has so much energy and all of people told me he will settle down with years, but this is not case by my lab! I love him so much, he is adorable. He eats healthy food always with good long yard to run as well as daily walking so I know he is happy and hope he is going to be happy for many many years. Also posts here give me hope he will live a long life. He needs a little eye surgery to remove a little cancer on eye lip, but hope it is just a little one as doctor told.
      Also Cassie I hope your Labrador will live as long as those here with 16+ years, especially because we have those hyperactive babies even at this “old age” 😉 😉
      Cheers!

    • Yep. My Murphy is 14 and until her knees and nerve damage in her spine started failing her, she never slowed down. She’s still here, healthy except for these issues and her quality of life has been declining, but her personality, enthusiasm and love of people has held steady, which is making the decision for when it’s time incredibly hard.

  6. Im so glad to hear these stories. My Daisy girl is turning 12 this year. My oldest son turns 11. I have a 9 and 7 year old as well all boys. She us my only daughter 😂 They’ve had her their whole lives and love her like their older sister. I’m terrified of something happening to our sweet DG ❤ Thank you for giving me hope

  7. Daisy Mae of the Redwoods was the runt of her litter. She camped and swam and ate Ralston Purina. We used to have BBQ’s at the house and the band members would feed her ribs, chicken bones, and whole hot dogs. Had an open bowl policy her whole life. Was raised with two girls dressing her up and riding her around the house like a little horse.
    I am convinced that it was the love that let her see past her 17th birthday.
    I took her to the beach for the last time. She had lost bladder control, and the flys were starting to annoy her. It was time.
    We called the Vet, and Daisy died peacfully in my arms, at home. She is buried next to her favorite tree.
    She has a new little sister, 20 years later and my 4th lab.
    I can only pray that this one has the same life!

  8. I have a yellow lab now 17 years old July. She’s always vbeen a sleeper not a hunter very timid. She never had a weight problem and she never had any discipline problems. Didn’t chew, bark, scratch or jump up in people. She clapped her teeth together to talk. She is having major problems now. Loosing bladder and bowelsall the time. Started a little over a year ago when she sleepy, the
    Last 4 months she has really declined. Now her apathy is beginning to become more paralysis. Back feet want to roll over when I’m helping her walk. She lays down to eat and is still eating and drinking well. Almost seems she eats a lot more then ever. In addition she has always been a shedding machine all year in handfuls no matter what we did with diet and grooming which was the only complaint I ever had. Strangely enough in the last 3 months as she’s declined she does not shed at all.? She has been on gabapentin for a couple episodes she had had with stroke or seizure. I could tell she was starting to hurt or become weak with very slow standing up and laying down. I’ve been lifting her into my SUV for four years now. And up and down stairs. Now she seems to be loosing her sight and hearing and even acts confused. Like the one lab owner I’m not getting the sense she’s ready to be put down. She has always been very dependent on me and never did well separated for any amount of time. Now she’s right at my feet all the time except for this last few days with the paralysis problem. She gets stuck between things or under bed and wines to be saved. It’s truly 24/7 this last two weeks. Just hoping to get through the holiday if I’m going to have to decide for her. She and I have been inseparable for years now she even went to work with me. I’m alone so it’s definitely going to be a tragic loss for me. I only hope she isn’t suffering and that God takes her in her sleep so I don’t have to be the one to decide. July she would be 18 and she had been between 45 and 60 lbs throughout her life. So smaller bread but her coat is almost white she’s technically a cream colored lab. She will be a hard act to fallow. Best dog ever! She is loved and will be missed!
    Melissa V
    Central Michigan

  9. Molly is 14 and 3 months. She takes glucosamine and green lipped mussel supplements and her weight is low. I still feed her on a working dog mix which is high in calories. I think she is pretty deaf now as well as having poor vision. She really drags her right back paw now and walks very stiffly. Perhaps she needs a stronger arthritis drug now? Accidents do occur now.
    Just would like to keep her going for a few months. Big exam year for the children A levels and GCSEs. I don’t want to think of her not being here but I do need to be sensible…

  10. My son – puppy Hansi -lived to be 13.5 years. He had prostrate cancer and t was horrible. He was so healthy before this.. He was my son and I loved him with my heart and I did all I could, but prostrate cancer is very aggressive and he was unable to poo..he was a lab colie cross with a bit od Staffs in him, but very lab slim-line..I will love him always and he was my life. Life does not seem the same.

  11. We had a male labrador who passed away on 4th Dec 16, was close to completing 17 years of age. Had been through some operations during the course of last 3 years, but he made it through hale and hearty but due to old age he was unable to eat or see properly for last 1 year and last Sunday he passed away leaving a big emptiness in our family. We are again looking forward for a lab puppy as my daughter was very much attached to him. one thing i learnt that dont let labrador gain weight and make them exercise well, if everything goes fine they can live for 17-18 years also.
    cheers
    Saurabh Gautam, New Delhi

  12. I adopted a chocolate lab who was a 2 year old rescue. We fed him premium grain free food. He got lots of exercise…running, swimming, hunting and lived until he was 17 years old. He was a big boy, weighing in at 100 lbs. for most of his life. Towards the end, he lost weight and had painful arthritis. He took Rimadyl for the last few years, but finally even that gave him little relief. Tough decision to say goodbye, but his life had deteriorated so much. He couldn’t “load up” any more, not even on a ramp, was lethargic and had just lost his zest for life. He was such a part of our family and though we love the dogs we have now, he’ll always hold a special place in our hearts.

  13. My black lab boy is 13 years old and doing very well. We adopted him from a rescue group when he was 2. He began limping quite a bit about 1-1/2 years ago, and so we put him on Rimadyl, after a course of Glucosamine really didn’t help. The Rimadyl has been like a miracle drug! He is enthusiastic and wants to do everything, but we have noticed that more vigorous exercise or walks that are long leave him limping afterwards. So, we don’t run or bike with him anymore, but he can walk up to about 2 miles at a time (once or twice a day) without any issues, and he swims in our pool everyday. Over the past year, he had a couple of small tumors removed, which turned out to be benign. We feel very fortunate! 2-1/2 years ago, we adopted a rescue, mixed breed puppy. She has been great for him. They are the best of friends and truly love one another, play all the time! He’s close to 80 pounds and the young doggy ended up being 53 pounds fully grown, although the rescue group thought she would be closer to 100! She’s calm, but playful, which suits his sometimes overly enthusiastic attitude perfectly! I’ve always fed my dogs high quality food, so I am sure that helps. I hope my boy is with us for a number of years more.

  14. My LAB just turned 13 had a vet check up and is in good health. 50% hearing loss and have to wear a doggie diaper at times but other then that still plays catch and eats like she did when she was a puppy. I am getting nervous about how much more time we have with her. Labs are mans best friend.

  15. My 11.5 male yellow lab has just been diagnosed with Diabetes.
    I am wondering at 11.5 years, if he will still have a good life.
    For the past week he has been peeing in the house, which he has never done before and excessive thirst and just found out today from the vet.
    I am not sure what it will cost me to give him insulin everyday, I hope I do not sound cold and heartless, but not in my budget to pay 300 a month extra for Insulin.
    It is something I have to talk to my son about.
    I will have to price out the drugs required and will have to cost compare from vet or drug store direct, which I have heard is cheaper.
    It is a struggle I was hoping I would not have to decide.
    This is not a decision I take lightly or without tears and thought.
    I am single mom and my son is off to university next year.
    This hurts my heart.

    • Hi Andicece, There are charities who help people struggling to pay their veterinary bills. You can find a list of some of them here. I recommend that you talk to your vet about the local support available, and find out what they expect your dog’s additional requirements to be going forward. They are the best person to give you advice on the right way to proceed.

  16. My yellow lab, Sally, is 15 years and 9 months. She’s the queen of the house. She still has a great appetite and her tail wags just like when she was a puppy. Her hips and elbows hurt, she’s pretty deaf and she’s losing bowel control. But she hasn’t told me she’s sad or ready to go. I hope I will know when the time is right.

  17. I have a yellow Lab & Golden Retriever mix (he’s mostly Lab) who will be 16 in one month. He survived osteosarcoma (with removal of his back leg & 4 months of chemo) when he was almost 3 years old. He has arthritis and needs help going potty with the help of a harness, but is still a very strong & happy boy. He is our little miracle! People are always surprised when they find out his age because he still looks so good. He has begun to have accidents in the house, but that’s okay, it comes with age. Hoping he stays happy & healthy for more time to come!

  18. I have two female yellow labs. One is going to be 12 and has survived a cancerous parathyroid tumor. My other girl will be 14 next month and has survived laryngeal paralysis with tieback surgery three years ago and cancer of her nose with nose removal and reconstruction two years ago. Both are the loves of my life and both have been minimally vaccinated and raw fed. Here’s to keeping your dogs immune system strong.

  19. My “Goose” just turned 13! He is just as young at heart as he was the day we brought him home 13 years ago! Aside from lots of fatty tumors all over his body and a little arthritis in the hind legs he is extremely playful and still loves to eat his treats! Prior to this black labrador that I’ve had for 13 years I had another Labrador who lived to be 17 years old and I actually had to put him to sleep. He was an old man and probably had another year or two and him but he was becoming debilitated and it was difficult for him to walk so I made the tough decision to put him down. I didn’t do anything special with diet or exercise. However, both dogs were bathed in lots of love!

  20. You don’t mention quality of food, which very important.Cheap food is not good for dogs. Dogs did not eat grain in the wild and shouldn’t now.

  21. I have a yellow Lab that is now 15 years and 9 months old. She has definitely slowed down this past year, but still slowly makes the steps in our bi-level home to go out in backyard. She was spade and we’ve never used her as an active dog; just likes to lay around all day, and very lovable. Seems to be hard of hearing, and does have quite a large lump behind her left front leg, although it doesn’t seem to bother her. She has started to urinate on carpeting this past year due to old age. Eats well, drinks well…..no problems. We also have a very active 4 year old black Lab. My husband hunts her for birds, which she loves.

  22. My chocolate lab Mickey is 14 years 3 months old and is doing very well for his age. I also had Mickey’s sibling, black lab, Rocky that I had to let go just 3 days past his 13th birthday due to a rapid cancer. Mickey has always been a good weight and gets anti-inflammatory meds every day for the past year.

  23. I had a yellow female lab named Gabbie for 13yrs4mos. She passed away on June 11, 2016. She was diagnosed with epilepsy around age 2 and was on siezure med the rest of her life. Ultimitely she was diagnosed with cancer in her liver and spleen. Thankfully she was only ill for about 8 days at the end of her life. I now have a new yellow female lab puppy named Ruby. She is 13 weeks and so much fun but I will always miss my sweet girl Gabbie♡

  24. Hi my female labrador is only a couple of weeks away from her 14th birthday.
    Born in Stody Norfolk and immigrated at 7years old to NZ.
    Fortunately for her she has never been allowed to get excessively overweight and has always been walked twice a day.
    Never been spade.
    Suffered 2 types on cancerous growths 4 years ago which were removed along with some fatty lumps which have regenerated themselves. So they’re here to stay now. No more ops for this old lady.

    She still runs, loves to swim in the Pacific and the Rivers.
    A happy dog who is a great friend to all the family.

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