Labrador Health

labrador-healthMaking sure that your Labrador stays in great health throughout his  lifetime is one of your top priorities.

Keeping your Labrador healthy

We explore a range of health issues in labs, and we have gathered lots of information to help you keep your Lab in tip-top condition.   In this section of the Labrador site you can find sections on:

Check out our health category Here you’ll find a collection of all our articles on Labrador health articles displayed one one page.  They cover a wide range of health topics. You can also find articles on nervous dogs,  and on other behavioral problems in our Labrador Behavior section.

Are Labs Healthy Dogs?

In general the Labrador Retriever is a fairly healthy breed. Labs don’t suffer from major conformational defects, they are well proportioned with a good length of leg and muzzle.

There are some genetic issues in the breed that have arisen due to inbreeding. And some of those issues can be tested for. So its important when choosing a Lab puppy, that you go to a breeder with a good knowledge of those tests, and a willingness to make use of them!

What to do when your Labrador is sick

We get many questions on this website from people whose dogs are sick or injured. We are always so sorry to read about dogs that are unwell. People send in their dog’s symptoms and most often ask about

  • Vomiting and tummy troubles
  • Limping
  • Hair loss / falling out
  • Failure to grow/thrive
  • Rashes

While we can provide information about different conditions that Labradors may suffer from, it isn’t possible for anyone, no matter how well qualified, to attempt to diagnose health problems over the internet. Usually, the best course of action is for you to visit or telephone your own veterinary surgeon.  It is especially important to seek help without delay, when a very young puppy is sick.

When to call the vet

Quite a lot of the puppy questions people ask us, are about puppies that need to be examined by a qualified vet. But it can be difficult for new puppy owners to know exactly when  to call the vet. And when to wait a while to see if the pup improves on his own For this reason, I am posting up some guidelines as to what is normal for an eight week old puppy,  and what might suggest that you need to take your puppy to your local vet.

Normal for puppies

A healthy Labrador puppy sleeps deeply but is lively when awake. He smells lovely, has clean ears and eyes, and pees often (eg at hourly intervals or more frequently) during the day.

When to call the vet to your puppyHe eats hungrily, and may have several bowel movements between waking up and bedtime. Many Labrador puppies cannot last more than four or five hours at night without a wee or a poo. Upset tummies are common in new puppies after rehoming, but need to be taken seriously as small puppies can get dehydrated very quickly.

Puppies bite very hard (it hurts) and growl fiercely while playing.  This is not aggression.

All the above is normal.   The following is not normal

Not normal for puppies

  • Call your vet if your puppy seems listless, won’t eat, has persistent diarrhoea, is sick more than once within 48 hours, or twice in a week.
  • Call your vet if your puppy swallows anything you think may harm him, cries for no apparent reason or in an unusual way.
  • Call your vet if your puppy’s breathing is noisy or laboured.
  • Call your vet if he drags one of his limbs, is unsteady on his feet, or seems to be limping.  Call your vet if your puppy has a discharge from any part of his body.
  • Call your vet if your puppy cuts himself, falls badly, or just seems generally off colour.

If in doubt, call your vet!

Puppies under eight weeks old

Very young puppies need special care, and puppies under eight weeks old need to be with their brothers and sisters. We strongly recommend that you do not purchase a puppy that is less than eight weeks old. We cannot advise you on feeding underage puppies, you do need to get this information from your vet or from a very experienced dog breeder.

More information

There are lots of articles on puppy care in the puppy sections that are listed on the main puppy page.  You’ll find this link on the menu bar at the top of every page on this site. We do try and answer as many of your questions as possible but will always give priority to topics that are not covered in the articles that are already on the website.

My vet isn’t helping

Sometimes people write in because they are not happy with their vet’s diagnosis or prescription. The answer is almost always to go back to your vet and talk to him about your concerns, or to get a second opinion.

Going back to your vet

Some vets, while brilliant with animals are not the greatest communicators with people. If your vet has not clearly explained his diagnosis (what is wrong with your dog) his prognosis (what he thinks will happen next) or his recommended treatment.  Get him to spell it out for you.  You are entitled to this information!  In plain English.

It is very common to leave a vet’s office or surgery, get home with your dog, and think of a whole load of questions you wish you had asked.  This is normal. We do it when we go to the doctor too.

Many people fail to make use of telephone consultations with their vet.  You don’t need to go to your veterinarian’s office in order to speak to him.   If you have questions to ask, or points that need clarifying, write them down and telephone him.  If he isnt available ask him to phone you back.  Many vets will do this free of charge provded you don’t make a constant habit of it.

Getting a second opinion

Even experts disagree sometimes, they are only human.  And we can’t all get on really well with everyone we meet. I think it is important that we have a good relationship with out vets, and that we understand what is going on when they treat our pets.

If your vet is a poor communicator, you are concerned about the treatment he has prescribed for your dog, or you simply don’t get along, there is nothing wrong with getting another opinion. In fact, it is the right thing to do.

Many people are not aware, that in the UK it is also illegal for anyone other than a qualified veterinary surgeon to diagnose or even recommend treatment for, anyone else’s animals. Any health information given on this website should be used in  conjunction with veterinary advice.

We are adding to our library all the time.  Let us know if there are any other topics you would like us to cover.   We love to hear from you!


  1. I have a two month girl lab puppy and she used to swallow coal and small stones. When it comes to my attention, immediately I will take the stone or coal out of her mouth. Eating stones and coal will harm my puppy?

    • My male lab did that too. I was scared he’d get a blockage. Luckily he didn’t (yet), and he outgrew swallowing rocks, wood chunks, Legos & small toys. He carries them in his mouth all the time (or chews on them) until I remove the object, but doesn’t typically swallow them anymore. Hopefully she outgrows this habit soon. And in the meantime, just keep an eye out for signs of blockage or her not feeling well. Good luck! (To readers that think that puppy proofing is enough, please know that a few puppies out there will eat EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that comes across their paths, no matter how much effort you put in clearing their environment. Pls don’t judge and recognize that it’s scary for us to see our pup gobble up an object in record time and not be able to stop it in time.)

  2. I can’t seem to get straight answers on the best treatment for my Labrador’s joint pain. She is elderly and weighs 80 lbs but has great difficulty getting her rear end up to walk. Any recommendations?

    • I also have a 80 Lab/Golden mix. She has joint pain and displasia. She does get up to walk but lately tires easy and sits down. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is important. I was told by one vet several years ago that mine should be 80lb. So since she was diagnosed 6 years ago I struggle to get her to 75. I got close at 77 once, but as your know Labs love to eat!! I asked my current vet about grain free, and he does not suggest grain free for older dogs. What do you feed yours?

    • My Labrador had this prob with arthritis there’s a drug called metacam the vet used . Was really good . The human form is meloxicam used for same condition. Also a orthopaedic bed help our boy xx

      • my dr prescribed meloxican for my old lab, it worked wonders, she only needed a quarter of a tab daily. So much cheaper than metacam !

  3. Hi I have a 5 weeks old labra female puppy, She seems healthy she eats 4 times a day. Poops 8-12 times in every 24 hrs. She is playful and happy. But since last 14 hrs she hasn’t pooped even once she had 2 meals in b/w also peed, We played with her and she looks fine but she hasn’t pooped yet. Should we take her to vet? It’s my first dog so I dont know plz help.

  4. Hi we have a 9 year old chocolate lab and in recent weeks he will not go out in back garden, when I open the door he startes whining and backs up, any suggestions? Thankyou

  5. Hii my labradore hairs is falling out and severe skin problem his skin threatens to elephant skin apperance he is 6 years old i treated him with vet but there is no improvement

    • we have a 11 year old black lab.
      had skin problems for years.
      tests for allergiees ect nothing worked.
      the best thing to relieve him so far is
      oatmeal & alo vera shampoo
      really cools his body down

  6. Hi

    We have a 8 month old lab and he has an occasional limp. Usually after he’s been running around. We took him to the vet and she said he’s all good but when looking at him he doesn’t look in pain but the limp is still there.

    Do you have any advice?



    • Hi Alpesh, It could be helpful to take a video of your dog limping to show the vet as these things are not always apparent all the time? Hope he feels better soon!

    • My lab puppy had the same thing-she would limp and whimper and xrays showed no obvious signs of skeletal problems. My vet prescribed Vetprofin and it made a big difference immediately. She is now on 1/2 pill twice a day and has returned to a very “normal” lab temperament.

  7. I have a 5 yr old yellow lab who started having trouble leaking, plus having a few urine accidents, extremely thirsty, lost interest in all his toys, running, plus I noticed he no longer had his two sensitive spots on his tummy and neck. He was diagnosed with a bladder infection, on antibiotics for 10 days, infection cleared up, but still has all the other symptoms. Lyme’s and diabetes were ruled out. Did have an ultra sound, again OK. Any ideas?

  8. I have a 5 yr old yellow lab, drinking lots of water, having some accidents and leakage issues, lost interest in toys and running. He was treated for a bladder infection, lymes test came back negative, now being tested for diabetes and Cushing’s Disease. Has not lost his appetite, but I noticed he no longer has his two sensitive spots the one on his neck and stomach. Stool sample came back fine, Any ideas what could be ailing him?

  9. Hi my 14month old Labrador who is fully toilet trained and knows when to ask to go outside just had a massive Diarrhea inside on the floor. It was extremely liquid but a tan brown. I then took her outside and she appeared to attempt to do a poo but little bits of liquid almost pee came out of her butt. Other than that she appears to be fine she’s drinking and eating and her behaviour is completely normal other than that. should I be taking her to a vet?

  10. hi! we have a full grown male, yellow lab- healthy, normal weight…his favorite activity is chasing/catching a rubber ball. a couple of months ago, he yelped during this & began to limp on his back left leg. it was not tender to touch- there was no injury to his paw or foot. it was a Friday afternoon- after hours for vet- so i contacted on olnline vet, who recommended X-rays to rule out any fracture, & rest. we forego the X-rays r/t to $$. He recuperated nicely after a few days of rest, but has now done the same thing- we have not been throwing the ball for him at all- but even a week later, he is better- but still limps some. any advice? should he be on glucosamine, or something? what can we do as an alternative activity (i suspect this is something he is going to be prone to). Is this something labs are prone to do?

    • We recently had our 11mth old black Lab diagnosed with Arthritis and she had similar symptoms to yours. She has recently had an operation to remove fragments of cartilage and now time will tell going forward how that works etc

      I note it is two months since you posted your question, and I hope by now your Lab is fully recovered, and/or diagnosed

  11. I have a 7 week old lab puppy who has started drooling a lot more that he has been and he keeps going outside to poop and squatting but after several minutes of squatting never poops. He acts like he’s almost straining to poop but the times he does poop it’s soft, not hard. He constantly will pee and then dribble as he walks around. He will also have times where he just grunts almost and acts uncomfortable. Any idea what’s wrong with him?

  12. One of my labs came from a breeder who bred labs for competitions. He was giving Allie away because he believed she had a pinched nerve in her leg at 4 months old. He didn’t want to work her, train her, or sell her. I went and picked her up and took her home and babied her. After some time, I noticed she would drag her feet. I took her to a different vet about it around 5 months old- no pinched nerve and they thought she had neuropathy. We took her to a different vet around her first birthday, and they discovered calcium deposits in both knees. Fast forward 6 months, same vet, new x-rays, and in that 6 month period, both of her CCLs are torn and she has a bunch of arthritis already. Her first TPLO Surgery is March 5 to replace the right knee, and her left knee surgery will be scheduled after. My question is, how could a 1 year old dog end up in such poor shape when we take such good care of her? Do you think it could have been something that breeder could’ve done to her, or something we’re failing to do? She’s on joint supplements and gets a shot to help her joints once a month. Once he told us what he thought was wrong with her knee, we decided not to work her because we didn’t want to make it worse. And now her poor knees are obliterated. I just feel so bad for my baby. She’ll be two in April, and it just makes me think about what could’ve caused this to happen to her when she was as young as 4 months old when the breeder noticed something wrong with her.

  13. my chocolate semi breed 7 months old labrador have an appetite problem, since puppy he eats a large amount of any food but this later months he has a problem in eating many times he doesnt eat and when he eats on the following morning he vomit a lot. What should I do to get him treated.

    • Hi Gigi, You need to take your dog to the vet to be checked over if he’s regularly being sick. I hope he feels better soon. Best wishes, Lucy

  14. Hi my name is Sofia. I have a 6 year old chocolate lab and he hasn’t been feeling well today. He’s very weak, it takes him great effort to walk up the stairs. He’s been laying down all day but hasn’t been sleeping since his eyes are open. He’s also constantly moaning or making some sort of whining sound in his breathing. I took him for a walk yesterday in the evening and he ate something that was on the street but I couldn’t see what it was since it was dark. I want to know if it’s possible he’s sick because of the thing he ate on the street or if it’s something more serious and I should bring him to the vet. Thank you.

  15. Hi we have a 2 yr old malr chocolate lab and he is worrying us. He normally has a very good(large, always eats) appetite but the past week or so he hasn’t wanted to eat hardly anything we’ve given him and his abdomen seems to be slightly swollen at the very back(by his rear legs) and is quite a bit tighter than normal. He also sounds as if he’s whinning(or crying so to speak) when he’s laying down in his breathing. What(if anything) could be wrong with our boy???? He’s just like one of our kids and seeing him like this is about to break our hearts!!! Thanks in advance for any and all help!!!

  16. i have a lab male original breed which is 2years 4 months he is healthy i have i finding a female for him can you give me phone no address

  17. i have a 1yr and 3 mnths labrador his eyes led is covering with white bubling he cannot see while wallking,it possible can be cure my dog,.

  18. Hi, My Fox Red Labrador is 16 weeks old. He cannot see from his left eye. Our vet cannot see the problem as both eyes are healthy (although he did under surgery at 10 weeks for an intropia on his right eye – this seems to have healed nicely). The problem seems to be that the eye isn’t communicating with the brain to tell it what it is seeing, invariably making him blind on this side. He is a very timid pup and is vocal whenever people approach, we believe this is because he may not focus properly, with only having the one eye. However, the barking doesn’t appear to me to be what I would deem a nervous bark, merely just because thats what he likes to do. He’s a very laid back dog and not at all the ‘waggy tailed puppy’ we envisioned, but we love this about him, he doesn’t play for long, i feel he gets bored as he loses sight of the object sadly. He is very much loved and has stolen our hearts. My question to you is, where can I look for help to help him overcome his disability? is there anywhere you can point me so that I can help him lead a happy life? He may be broken but he’s awesome 🙂

  19. At a loss! Our new 13 week old chocolate lab female was diagnosed with a Peritoneum Hernia. Surgery is going to cost us $3500. I’m so upset inside and out?
    We just lost our 13 year old Black female Savanna last August.
    The Vet can’t guarantee she will live through surgery.
    Although she eats, drinks, and plays with us and the kids as is nothing is wrong. Even the Vets were shocked at the videos we showed them.

  20. I have a chocolate labrador puppt ..2 months old…he has very less hair on his chest nd tummy …is it normal…what should i do

  21. I have a five month golden Labrador retriever called Rosie and she is in very good health but I am worried that quite recently her pink tummy has become a brown colour which will not clean off. Is this a common thing for young labs, any advice would be welcome. Thank you

    • I’m looking for this answer too. My labs momma had a black tummy too so I think it’s an inherited trait, but I would like to know for sure. It’s not hardened like a skin condition and she doesn’t scratch it.

  22. I hVe a one and half yr old labra he had vomit 4 times in a day may be because of some garbage eating what should i do now plz tell me i m worried

  23. I have a 3 month old puppy and she will urine one place wake further and do it for 3 to 4 times. Is that normal ? I am just worried that there is something wrong with her bladder.

  24. My friend’s lab puppy is almost 3-4 months old now he is getting sick again and again since 2 months what to do ,? Has been vomiting and sick tummy with fever week after week ?

  25. Hi Joan, You need to take your dog to the vet for a check up as there are a vast number of possible reasons for this, and only your vet will be able to find out which one it is by examining her. I hope she feels better soon. Best wishes, Lucy

  26. I have a 5 month old yellow lab who seems to be “ collapsing” after heavy exercise.
    EIC genetic test is neg. Any ideas on what it could be ?

  27. I have a yellow lab that is 10 yrs old. He has always been healthy but the last two months he is panting more than usual and wheezing when he walks.

    • Sounds like the onset of a syndrome that begins with paralysis of the larynx and hind end weakness. Your Lab may need surgery to tie back one side of the larynx to make breathing possible. Sudden death from suffocation in the past heat is a risk. This is an urgent problem so acr quickly.

  28. My Choice Lab is 10 yrs. She has stopped eating and seems sick. I took her to the Vet twice and they have checked her thyroid and basically she’s lost 15 lbs in two months. The tests seemed fine just a little low on red blood cell ct. and a little low on iron. She has a bit of labored breathing and the vet didn’t seem concerned. I’ve noticed some tremoring not like a convulsion but more like a Parkinson. I’m concerned she is dying or has cancer? Under her jaw she has what the Dr. calls acne or elephantitus… She also has been licking her paws like crazy the past year and a few little tumors too. One in her eye and another I think in her throat area. She’s been coughing up some thick saliva too. Please advise me esp now that she’s not eating…

    • Hi Melissa, I’m sorry to hear your Lab has been unwell. If I were you I would take her to another vet for a second opinion, make a list of your concerns and go from there. I do hope she is feeling better soon. Best wishes to you both, Lucy

    • Have your do a chest ex ray to rule out blastomicosis. My black lab died of that at 4 years old. The vet continually missed diagnosed himand put him on steroids which in turn rendered his immune system worthless.

  29. My 14 week old black lab, Jesse, has woken up lethargic today and we noticed, when we took a stone out of her mouth yesterday, a large pink gland ay either side of her tongue, is this normal?

  30. I think my dog may have PANOSTEITIS or wandering lameness because she is only 15 months old and we have rules out lyme disease among other things and xrays don’t show anything out of the ordinary. I have been feeding her Orijen dog food for her health and now wonder if she has been getting too much protein but she is lean and has had a lot of growth in the last number of months. She is taller and leaner than her sisters but does weigh about 3-5 pounds more than they do. Any ideas?

      • We just had xrays yesterday and nothing appeared out of the norm but he forwarded them to a specialist for a second opinion. He thinks it might be growing pains but we are concerned about the food and protein content which I thought was the right thing to use for her.

        • Definitely talk to your vet about feeding. In my view Orijen is one of the best dog foods on the market and provided you are feeding an age appropriate variety it shouldn’t cause a problem in a healthy dog. But if your vet thinks a different food would be more appropriate for your Lab then be guided by him – he has the knowledge and experience of your dog to be able to advise you.

  31. My yellow lab in the past 6 months has gained about 10 pounds and has hair loss only on her tail (not red or irritated though). She is a very active lab getting heart rate up every day playing fetch and going on long walks (off leash) minimum once per day, but it is noticeable she has gained weight. Any tips?

  32. Hi I have a 8 yr old choc lab, when we first got her she’s a rescue dog. Every now and then she would have a few sicki
    days, very unsettled &unit eating. But after a couple of days she’d be fine, can I give her anything!!

  33. Hi
    My black lab started shredding lot of hair (not patchy loss) last few weeks..he s 8 months old. Please advice what to do.

    • It’s very normal for Labs to shed an awful lot of hair when they molt. However, if you think it’s excessive and are worried then there is no harm in taking him to the vet for a check up for your peace of mind.

  34. Hello!
    My 3 year old healthy black lab mix was hit by a car in January and after braking his leg now has a metal plate in it. The break has healed but he continues to worry the injury by licking it and my surgeon has suggested the plate should be removed.
    I have spent over $10,000 on the surgery, medicine and aftercare and am not wealthy and can not afford to go further into debt on his necessary care.
    I am looking for any resources for agencies or individuals who have the financial means to adopt labs that require medical assistance.
    He is a young, wonderful dog and it is terrible to begin having to entertain the idea of putting him to sleep.
    Thanks so much-

  35. Hello,

    I have a black lab that is 13 yrs old. He has always been healthy but the last few months he is panting more than usual and wheezing when he walks. When he gets to over stimulated from running he vomits. Any thoughts.

  36. Very concerned lab owner had my black lab back and forth to the vets due to her suddenly starting to lose hair we’ve had skin scrapes she’s on specialised hypoallergenic food steroids and now oxycare antibiotics along with baths every other day but is still scratching and balding further I’m at my wits end please someone help me or shed some light as to what to do. Going out with her is now embarrassing as people pull their dogs away and look in disgust at me.

    • Apoquel is very good for itching. Ask your vet. You need a prescription and its expensive but if you buy it online its much cheaper

  37. hi there, my 6 year old female black lab got into the trash yesterday while i was at work, (there wasn’t anything really bad in the trash just left over food and some papers) and when i took her out to go potty when i got home she had some very stinky loose stool. She had trouble telling if she was done pooping or not so she strained pushing for a few minutes. I felt her tummy afterwards and it was hard and slightly distended. I wanted to see if it was mostly from pushing so hard while pooping so i just had her relax and checked again later in the night. It did go down some. her stomach was softer and not distended so i figured she just contracted those muscles to much. But this morning she didn’t want to poop (she hasn’t sense the loose stool) and her stomach is sill slightly hard…. Does anyone have any ideas? or should i take her to the vet asap? She is acting mellow and not as hyper but she doesn’t act as if it hurts when i feel around her stomach. She has been whining when her neck is messed with so i had already had an apt set next week for that…. But now with her tummy too…. please help!!! she is my baby!

  38. I have an 11 year old Labrador who for the last week has been passing pale chalky hard poo. His food has not changed and there is always access to water. Why?

  39. hi have lab nearly 2yrs old but last few months keeps bringup food etc but is fit as fiddle help please any advise be helpfull

    • Hi Barbara, Sorry to hear your Lab is being sick. What does your vet say the cause might be? They are the best person to give you advice on potential causes and solutions.

    • the vet thinks just how we feed him but its not that if he gets upset or we lightly tell him offf up his din comes cannot think what causes it but eat garden plants dirt excetra

  40. Hello, I have a 5 month old male. One day we noticed he was limping and not wanting to eat, after a few hours he was not able to walk at all. We called the vet, since it was the weekend she just gave us advise what to do. After 2 days he was back up walking again. One week later the same thing happened so we took him into the vet. We were told it was swelling in his joints and were given medication. It is now a problem for him everyday if he doesn’t get his medicine. Has anyone else had this problem?

    • Our 10month old lab had similar symptoms and it was osteochondritis dessicans, where cartilege is overproduced in a joint and can chip off. Our neighor’s lab of the same age had si,ilar symptoms but her puppy had panosteitis. I suggest getting your vet to take an xray. Or find a new vet… orthopedic/growing conditions are common in lab puppies and if there is an issue you don’t want it to go unaddressed.

  41. Please can you help l have a 6yellow lab under his front legs it as gone black his belly went black but that’s faded could you help thankyou

  42. Hi I have a chocolate lab that I adopted about 4 yrs ago. In the last 2 years She wants to lick her legs a lot. Last yr. She had to have a place removed from where she was licking. In Oct this year she had to have surgery again on another leg. Her dr thinks it her soothing method but I am not so sure… Do you have any ideas. She is very well taken care of so there are no signs of skin problems

    • Hi we have a 14 month old golden lab who licked and chewed his paws all the time took him to the vet and found out that he has severe allergies hope this help