Inherited Diseases In Dogs

inherited diseases in dogsThis section of the website provides information about inherited diseases in dogs. You’ll also find links to the various sections of this website that focus on specific health conditions in more detail.

Just like people, dogs sometimes inherit some genetic information from their parents which can lead to ill health. Labradors are no exception.

Fortunately a lot of effort and money has gone into researching inherited diseases in dogs and tests have now been developed which can help us keep our Labradors healthy.

There are now some diseases which we can avoid entirely in our dogs by testing our breeding animals.

How are genetic diseases passed along in dogs

Many inherited diseases in dogs are caused by a recessive gene.

In simple terms genes come in pairs – one passed down from Mom and one passed down from Dad.

They also come in two types

  • Dominant genes
  • Recessive genes

Dogs inherit one gene for each characteristic (eye color for example) from each parent.

And there are three possible combinations of gene type in each pair.  So each puppy will have either

  1. Dominant + Dominant
  2. Dominant + Recessive
  3. Recessive + Recessive

The key to understanding how this influences the puppy’s health and other aspects of his development, is knowing that the dominant gene is a powerful ‘switch’.

It turns off, or ‘over-rides’ the effect of the recessive gene.

So for Labrador coat color for example there are a pair of genes that control whether the dog is basically black or basically brown.  Black is dominant and Brown is recessive.

So if the puppy has a black gene – he will only be able to have black fur (unless he also carries two yellow genes which can switch off the brown/black gene pair)

Diseases are often hidden in recessive genes and passed down through the generations without ever being expressed or causing trouble.

If the dominant gene is present, the dog will still be healthy. The dominant gene switches off the nasty, disease causing, recessive gene which cannot then be expressed.

Only a dog with two recessive genes – the third dog in that list above, can get the disease.

But, and here is the most important part of all, the middle dog, the one that has one recessive gene and one dominant gene, can pass the disease on to his puppies

What DNA tests do, is look at the genes that each dog possesses for the disease that is being investigated, and identifies which of those three categories above, that dog falls into.

Genetic tests are very specific, they only look at that one condition.

There are millions of gene pairs in every dog, and we don’t yet know which genes cause which disease in every condition.  It’s a work in progress to identify them

What can a dog DNA test tell us?

As well as being used for providing information about our pet’s ancestry, dog DNA tests can also give us information about their genetic health.

DNA health test serve two roles.

They can

  • Tell us if a pet can be expected to develop a disease during his lifetime
  • Tell us if a dog is able to transmit a disease to his or her puppies

The second of these roles is especially helpful and as a result of the tests available to us, some inherited diseases in dogs can be entirely avoided by screening

Check out Health screening for Labrador Diseases  for more information on the tests now available.

Detecting inherited diseases in dogs by examination

Some common inherited diseases in dogs cannot be detected through DNA tests.  In some cases this is because a test is not yet available.

In other cases it is because the mechanism of inheritance, the way that the disease is passed from parent to puppy, is complicated.

Some dog genetic diseases are thought to be caused by a cluster of different genes (polygenic), or by a combination of genetic and environmental causes.

Canine hip dysplasia falls into this category.

Some of these more complex inherited diseases in Labradors and other dogs can be detected by physical examination.

Assessing x-rays of joints for example, or looking at the interior of the dog’s eyes using special instruments.

The future of gene testing in Labradors

Scientists are always working to discover the rogue genes that cause health problems in our dogs.

And there is no doubt that more genetic tests will be developed in the future.  And they will be needed as new diseases occur

How do new inherited diseases in dogs appear?

Purebred dog gene pools are constantly shrinking.

This is because dogs die and many dogs are never bred from, and by definition, purebreeding prohibits the introduction of new genetic material.

Many scientist believe this situation will need to be changed sooner rather than later.

As gene pools shrink, the risk of two recessive genes being passed to a puppy, one from each of his parents, increases.
(paid link)
This is because his parents are increasingly likely to be closely related.

So while genetic testing is a wonderful thing for those of us that want to buy a puppy with the best chance of good health.

It isn’t going to prevent the long term decline of health within a breed.

You can read a great deal more about genetic health in dogs and about the health of our purebred dogs in my new book “Choosing The Perfect Puppy(paid link)

And you can find a list of our articles focusing on specific health conditions in Labradors at the foot of this article

More information

Here are some of our articles that relate to inherited diseases in Labradors,  or diseases where inheritance is involved (or believed to be involved) to some extent

You can find a full list of other related articles in our health articles category.  Let us know if there are any health topics you would particularly like us to feature on the website.


  1. Hi I have a silver lab and she’s almost 2 years old suddenly she is growling at me and not letting me on the bed she usually obsessed with me and she keeps going into the other room when I come near her and she’s the most spoiled dog ever so I can’t see what I have done but she won’t let me touch her

  2. Our lab came down with a liver issue a few months ago, sadly we were unable to save her and had to put her down. Thank you for the article we will definitely use the tips to keep an eye on our male labrador.

  3. Hi, my dog is 5 years old and have some problems. From nowhere she will not be able to walk and start like fainting .. every vet tells us different ! They told us that she has diabetes and we start giving her insulin but no progress then was something else they ran every test and they don’t know what is it if somebody had similar issues please share . also i am from Bulgaria and we don’t have very good vets at least not in our city so i would be thankful if you guys can help with something

  4. Hello! I love this site 🙂 I have a new silver lab puppy – she has been obsessively eating dirt, grass, sticks etc since I brought her home at 8 weeks (she is now 12 weeks) She came with a UTI, ear infection and fleas 🙁 2 rounds of antibiotics and I think her UTI is getting better although she still pees very frequently. Her coat was dull and rough and her poops were explosive! so I started her on a raw diet (Tefco Performance Dog) and he coat is looking amazing and her poops are great – with the exception of them containing lots of dirt, pebbles and sticks….
    Any tips to getting her to stop eating dirt is much appreciated! Also, we are getting about 3 hours now in between pee trips at night – when should she be able to sleep most of the night? (she is crated at night)
    Thank you so much for your advice!!!

  5. Hello I have a Golden lab who is 9 months old and intermittently has issues with the front and back leg at a time or both together going numb for a few days at a time. The thing is she limps but does not seem to be in pain and tempermant remains exited as ever. This can go weeks without a reoccurance and appears to be perfectly normal. What sorts of things could cause this. Vet appointment is booked already. Just curious.

    • Hi Jade, Sorry to hear that your Lab is having problems with her joints. There are a lot of potential causes, hip dyslasia and elbow dysplasia, are not uncommon in Labradors, but there are many other possibilities too. So the best thing is to discuss what you are observing with your vet at her appointment and go from there. Wishing you all the best, Lucy

  6. I have one golden Labrador aged 7years. She has swollen lymph glands in her back legs in last 2 years and its huge now. Local doctor try lots of madicine but nothing improve, now the only option to operate but doctor said if we operate to remove the glands another glands will be raised in body. What to do – confuse. Please suggest if any one has any solutions.

  7. My girlfriends Yellow Lab is about 9-10. Seems still like a pup most of the time. Lately he has been down. Sometimes he is like normal and the next minute he is kinda lathargic and kinda down. Head hangs low and had a hard time going down the stairs which is normally not an issue. Took him to the vet and they exrayed his stomach and found nothing. Blood work came back good as well. We have no clue what it could be. Please help if you can

  8. My Lab Mac, 11 years old is suffering fom kidney problem.Is this problem is a common one? His Blood urea was 503 and creatinine was also too much high. He has left eating from past 20 days and constantly vomiting with dark yellow fluid 5-6 times a day. Nowdays he is on glucose via IV with lasyx in it. Can you recommend us medication or please suggest something for the same.

    • Hi Asim, Medication for your specific dog is something you really need a veterinarian to help you with. If you are not happy with your current vet’s advice, then do seek a second opinion from a qualified veterinarian. I hope your dog feels better soon. Best wishes, Lucy

  9. Hi I have a golden brown Labrador names jojo Which I had adopted one week a go from one of my freinds relative as they were not able to take care of him he is around 4 months old ,As on 12.04.2017 i have have give him around 250gmof Chicken by boiling only as i was not knowing how to give from that day he is looking tired,and not eating any thing i feel i had done a big mistake. Please help, as am in to much tention
    Plz Reply and also please tell what to give to eat

  10. My 2yr old black lab was diagnosed today with waterline disease!!!…labs are my dog if choice and I have never heard of this. Other than weekly shampoos with 2 different shampoos I could use some help and information about this. She is an inside pet and my sweetheart. Thanks, Carla

  11. Hello, I have a 10yr old chocolate lab who I adore as one of my own children!! Several years ago he had a tragic accident where his tail was skinned and went through 3 different surgeries to correct it. After that he began to have seizures, our local vet prescribed Zonisamide which has controled then very well. Now over the last week he refuses his favorite dog food, he too has fatty lumps on his sides, I’m becoming very concerned this may be a sign of a greater problem?? Waiting for vet, what can I do or expect?

  12. I have a Lab female of 14 months. Is it advisable to feed her pork for a chnage or is it harmfull. Normally i provide him chicken or at times beef. kindly advise

  13. I adopted a Golden retriever mixed with Basset Hound. She looks just like the retriever but has the body of the Basset hound She was 3 months old when I got her and now she is 6 1/2 years old she was bleeding through her urine in December of 2014 taking her non stop to vets office I finally found a new vet this past June she was diagnosed as having transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). They ended up doing the surgery removing the large mass they gave her a few months to live.. She has her good and bad days! My reason for telling my story is so others can look for signs in their Labradors!

  14. My female Lab Retriever is 10yrs old in Oct, she is 37kg, is she over weight.
    Also she was diagnosed with a ‘fatty’ lump on her side 3 yrs ago, it is about the size of a tennis ball when she is standing, but flattens out when she is laying down. There are more lumps, one on her chest bone, & smaller ones on her side & upper leg. We have been told Labs are prone to these lumps, & leave alone, unless they are troublesome or get to big, is this true?
    Thank you

  15. my labrador puppy is 3months old and earlier when i bought my puppy when she is 1mnth old that time i frgot to put vaccine so she got vomit n dieria n it didnt take any foods for 4days Now she cured but new pbm araised now that she got more hairfall even if i lift r touch her there is more hairs depositing on my hand and now my hall full of shes hair particles but she is active and also biting too much..what is the reason for hairfall and biting toomuch temme what is d reason for eagerly waiting for your

    • How can I forgetful the vaccination
      Please set up a reminders as first year there will be multiple vaccines and then yearly one. For hairfall you can ad omega fatty acid supplements and organic coconut oil to the diet.also give homemade foodlike vegetables with chicken n little rice..avoid kibble

  16. my lab 15months old and she is pregnant..
    Now days she get itching so much and rad patches she bites his leg and body and get it red.
    What can i do..

  17. Hi, my golden lab was diagnosed with acute colitis at 18 months old. He is now 5 years old and has steroids daily to control the symptoms but now has steroid induced cushings. I have been trying to find more information about both of these but haven’t had much luck. Can you help?

  18. My 2 months old lab female its not eating anything .. getting vomiting watery and motion is fully brown with durty now my vet advice pedilite so n in motion there is worms also tel me what happened to my puppy.

  19. My dog is a 5 month old white lab recently I came to see some wounds is his knee joints of his front legs and hair lose I m so worried about hsi situation please help me


  21. I have a 67 days old lab pup it has some sort of disease its hair are going and dandruff substance is formed wat sort of of disease is that

  22. we have a 9 week old lab and all he wants is water can’t get enough he will turn down food for water I have a dr app for him Tuesday but there is something bad wrong with him could this be something he got from his parents

  23. hi! my friend has an 8 months old chocolate lab, he just texted me that tip got bruises on his mouth and the hair on his mouth is depleting. what should we do? thank you!

  24. Hi I have a golden brown names Leo he is 4 months and 10 days old from last few days he is not keeping well, he has bad cough and running nose and have swollen stomach, i have showed him to many Vats but i font know why he gets well for a day or two then again, i feel as if he does not have energy to walk. his saliva has very bad smell and it also drips out of his mouth. Please help, he coughs and feel very heavy when he breaths

  25. I have a 6 year old Choc. lab who was diagnosed with Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) at 10 months. She also has an enlarged heart that was base lined with ultrasound. I am finding very little information about EIC here in the states (Maine, USA) and was wondering if you had any information you could share. Thank you for a great site and insight.

  26. I have a 7 mo old choc labby I call him Einstein bcuz he is so smart. I am so attached to him and wanting him to have a good life with me I try to learn mor e about his breed everyday, so I purchased a book Its the 4th Edition of “HOME VETERINARY handbook Its taught me much I would suggest this book to all pet parents It has a lot of the answers to all the questions I have read onn this web page . ps sorry for all the typos

  27. I have also been giving him oral antibiotics since last Thursday when we first noticed the swollen glands, but so far, no improvement in the swelling. They are not tender to the touch and are sort of free floating, somwhat hard and firm.

  28. Hello there, Just found this site and have a question regarding my 7 year old Josh. Noticed swollen lymph glands in the back legs, under the jaw, and in the chest/shoulder area. He has really bad allergies and takes a Benadryl twice daily to combat the allergies. We are now in bad allergy season here in Canada, and I am wondering if it possible that the swollen glands might be because of the allergies. He has no other symptoms. Because of the huge amount of vet costs over the years, I have started treating him more naturally and have stopped visiting a vet for more than 2 years now.

      • Our 5’year old chocolate has had allergies for 3 years now. A vet suggested Benedryl to us as well. Hugely expensive and it really didn’t work. Switched vets, put him on prednisone . There was an almost instant change. It has been three years ( the controlling doses are MUCH, smaller than the original ) and it really was like night and day.

  29. hi
    i have a beautiful black lab who is now nearly 16 months
    when he is walked occasionally he makes an awful choking noise very deep growly noise and also when over excited
    can you help

  30. I have just come across your wonderful forum, which is so interesting and very helpful. I have recently adopted two beautiful Labradors, both of which bring me great joy. One of my boys ( him 9 weeks ago) I think has a hearing problem, so getting him to come back to me whilst off a lead can be a bit of a problem, and Bailey (got him one week ago) has chewed his own bed, plus a few pillows! I’m going to concentrate on training, but any advice and suggestions you have would be most appreciated. Many thanks, Kate

    • Hi Kate and congratulations on your two boys. You will have your hands full for a while 🙂 You can find articles on chewing in the behaviour section and puppy behaviour articles in the puppies section, both links are in the menu at the top of the page.
      You might also enjoy the forums where there are a lot of puppy owners and plenty of experienced Labrador owners who support and advise one another.
      Best wishes

  31. Hello there
    Finding forum answers and questions very interesting.
    Our boy pup is now almost six months old and has brought us much joy.

  32. My dog shadow can’t walk or sometimes can’t even pick up her head. We took her to the et she had x-rays and its not her hips or her back first back in October they gave her antibiotics and that didn’t work then in January they gave her steroids and that didn’t work someone help! She’s 7 months old.

    • So sorry that your dog is so ill. There are a number of potential causes of the symptoms you describe and it would be wrong to hazard a guess as to what is wrong with your dog. She needs to be diagnosed by a vet with access to test results. You need to ask your vet some searching questions. Ask him to list the possible diagnoses that he is considering. Ask him what tests he will be doing to confirm his diagnosis. Ask why he gave her antibiotics and steriod, what did he suspect was wrong? If you cannot get answers to these questions, you need another vet. When you are in the surgery with a sick dog it is easy to forget what you want to say, and its a good idea to write down your questions before you back. Good luck. Pippa

  33. My chocolate lab who is 4yrs old srarted to chew his feet , probably back in may time, whole foot in mouth chomping away. At first i didnt think anything of it. I checked.his feet and he has little blister looking patches but they arent full of anything , if anything look like callouses. He has seen a vet had anti.biotics & cream . But nothing seems to be clearing them up. Any ideas would be apprwciated. Thanks

    • Hi there, have you told the vet that the problem isn’t improving? He may need another course of treatment or a different antibiotic. The vet might need to send a skin scrape off for testing. Hope you get some results soon. Pippa

      • Thanks pippa, he had skin scrape.couple of weeks ago & nad found. He actually saw vet today because of a new patch appeared. It doesnt seem to be worrying him , think i will ask for different antibiotics & see if that helps. Thanks

        • Hello Julie my 4 year old yellow Lab has similar problems but licks but doesn’t chew his feet he constantly lick them until they’re Raw the vet gave him antibiotics steroid for the itching I change the is dog food and dog snacks I’m waiting to see if this is the trick I’ve been going through this like every 3 months with him I Run him I let him swim a lot very active I wash his ears after every workout but he’s always gets these allergies my vet said after these antibiotics and cortisone to start giving him Benadryl couple times a week

  34. Hi ,

    I have a 6 year old lab (female) , she is facing a lot of problems while walking , her hind leg gets cramped , can you please help me with a solution.

  35. My daughter has a fawn labrador, he is nine month old, his stomach bulges day by day so, I took him to veterinary doctor. The doctor took out around three to four litres of water from his stomach consecutively for three days and he has very fast heart beat. what are the causes of it, will he survive? please help…………

    • Hi there, so sorry to hear that your labrador puppy is ill. You really need to contact your vet again and ask for more information. He is the very best person to advise you and the best informed because he has treated your dog. We often forget to ask the right questions when a dog is taken ill, and vets understand that sometimes people need to phone up afterwards and talk about their pet’s treatment. I hope your puppy gets well soon. Pippa

  36. My Daughter Has A Chocklate Brown Labador She Is Seven Month Old ,She Lives On A Island With A Lot Of Farmland .She Takes Her Dog For A Walk To The Shore And Has To Pass Through Common Grasing Land Where Cows Feed. Her Dogs Eats Cow Poo And Sheep Poo On The Way And Lots More ,Like Dead Birds . Will This Harm Her. Or Does She Need To Stop Her From Doing.This.

    • Hi Jean
      Eating poo of other animals is not a great idea, partly because of the potential for ingesting parasites, and partly because we humans find it offensive!

      Most dogs come to no harm from eating the poo of herbivores, but it is a good idea to stop the dog from eating the carcasses of dead birds in case they have died from some kind of contamination that might harm the dog