Labrador Life Span – How Long do Labs Live?

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labrador lifespan - how long do labs live

how long do Labs live” is a popular question, and Labrador Retriever Life span is what we are going to look at in today’s article.

It isn’t surprising that you want to find out about your Lab’s 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.

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 categories of factors that have power or influence over your Labrador’s lifespan, and over the lifespan of any dog.

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.

And to some extent, his lifespan

We don’t know exactly how this works, but most likely it is because some dogs inherit a number of favorable genes that improve their chances of good health – reduced risk of cancer for example – and then pass these favorable genes on to their puppies.

Temperament, including tendency to fearfulness, is influenced by genes, but it is also strongly influenced by environment. One study showed that fear and anxiety has a negative effect on lifespan in pet dogs.

So this is a factor that may straddle both categories

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 in some respects.

On the other hand, an amiable relaxed temperament may work in your Lab’s favor. But let’s look a little closer at the issue of size.

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.

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

This is the reverse of what we often find when we compare large species of mammal, the elephant for example, with smaller species – such as the mouse.

When we look at individuals within a single species, in this case the domestic dog, being larger seems to be something of a disadvantage

As a medium to large dog, size 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.

This doesn’t mean that your Boxador will definitely outlive your neighbor’s pedigree Lab. It’s all about averages.

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. Many very tiny dogs have hormone problems, brain problems through skull compression and a range of other health issues. In comparison, 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.

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.

Orthopedic dog beds are good for old dog’s bones

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. Accidents are far more common in dogs that are allowed to spend time outdoors unsupervised.

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.

Not only do serious infections diseases have the potential to kill your dog, they also have the potential to make him generally less healthy should he survive them

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.

Overfeeding

Obesity is increasingly common in dogs generally and in Labradors in particular and is a direct result of overfeeding

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

Added to which, many Labrador parents find it hard to judge how much their dog should have to eat, and whether or not he is overweight.  We can help you with that.

Check out our guide to Labrador weight to make sure your dog is at the right weight for optimum health. It’s important that you don’t slavishly follow feeding guidelines on packets but feed your dog according to how he looks and feels.  That article will help you.

If you have a greedy Lab then you might find a slow feed bowl helpful, like this one

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. But it is a message that is being ignored by a great many dog owners.

A study published in 2003 showed that Labradors are capable of maintaining a consistent lean body mass throughout their lives.  There is no “tendency to getting fat” inherent in the breed as many people mistakenly believe.  There is only a “tendency to eat a lot and be very good at persuading people to provide food”

You need to resist your dog’s charms

Keeping your dog slim can help him live a long and comfortable life. It can defer the onset of, and reduce the impact of, conditions like arthritis in older dogs. Elderly dogs that retain their youthfull waistline have a more active and happy retirement.

Being firm about the quantity of food that your dog eats each day, will also help to ensure that you have the benefits of his company for the longest time.

So, Is Longevity In Dogs Inherited?

Yes, to a certain extent, it is clear that longevity is inherited in that some dogs will have an inherently higher potential for long life than others.

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, good tempered, and well structured go in his favor and for these reasons, the Labrador falls into the medium range of life expectancy when compared with other dogs.

You can help your Labrador live longer

There are some dog breeds that are longer lived than our beloved Labs, and quite a few that are much shorter lived.

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.

Make sure the parents have great temperaments, and have been well cared for. And socialize your puppy thoroughly when you get him home, so that he is confident and views the world as a happy, friendly place.

Above all, keep your dog slim.  Really slim.

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 – A Summary

Labradors have a middle of the range potential for lifespan and you can influence that potential

Train, socialize 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, a visible waistline, 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

References and further reading

  • Colin Selman, Daniel H.Nussey, Pat Monaghan. “Ageing: It’s a Dog’s Life” Current Biology 2013
  • Kimberly Greer et al. “Statistical analysis regarding the effects of height and weight on life span of the domestic dog” Research In Veterinary Science 2007
  • James Kirkwood. “The Influence Of Size On The Biology Of The Dog” Journal Of Small Animal Practice 1985
  • Matt Kaeberlein, Kate E. Creevy, Daniel E. L. Promislow “The dog aging project: translational geroscience in companion animals” Mammalian Genome 2016
  • J. R. Speakman, A. Van Acker, E. J. Harper “Age-related changes in the metabolism and body composition of three dog breeds and their relationship to life expectancy” Anatomical Society 2003

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

 

403 COMMENTS

  1. Our 12.5 year old Choc. Lab. just died in our arms yesterday. We kept him slim, he was strong, active and happy with good eyes, ears and teeth. We brushed his teeth every other day. He had very little hip stiffness, no apparent arthritis. But Osteosarcoma got him. His rear leg broke on 12/20 and he came limping up to me. I tried to find the thorn in his paw but to no avail. He galloped ahead to the house on 3 legs as I prepared to take him to the vet. The vet was astounded, as were 3 other vets following him. “Usually they are in so much agony… you can’t put them down fast enough”, but our brave boy didn’t seem to care, running around on 3 legs until the broken one was turned to mush by the cancer and had to be amputated about 2 months later. We got 4 1/2 months more with him after that initial break… a nice long good-bye. The cancer finally made him a paraplegic just 3 days before he died and incontinent just a few hours before he died. I snuggled with him all day, fed him lots of treats… fillet mignon, bison, chicken, peanut butter, and chocolate! He could finally have chocolate… LOTS of chocolate. He was alert and happy when the vet arrived. It’s still very raw. We miss him so much. I just wanted to tell his story… 12 1/2 and who knows how much longer if that cancer hadn’t shown up.

    • Thank you for sharing about your sweet boy. Sounds like he was so very brave and well loved and cared for in those 12 years. I am so sorry for your loss. How wonderful to have had those extra months to love and spoil him. I know just how much that time means, as we have been in that position and loved and lost three of our senior babies in the last four years. It’s awful. We got them all as puppies and were blessed to have them so healthy for many years and only have to visit the vet for checkups. Now time is running short for our fourth senior girl, she’s a yellow lab almost 14, and she is my heart. They all are. They each have their distinct personalities and traits and special quirks that you miss so much. But my Sydney is as sweet as they can possibly come, she is just so special. One of those once in a lifetime dogs. I understand all about treasuring every single moment with them. She has had several scares and slowed down so much recently, although she can still catch a frisbee like nobody’s business! She started going on our beach vacations with us some years ago after we finally got serious about searching, and searching and searching, for a “large dog” friendly rental. Oh how I wish we could’ve spoiled her at the beach her whole life! She just returned from her fifth trip and I can’t even put into words the obvious joy she feels being in the water and the soft sand on her toes. And the joy I feel watching her “in her element” we call it, is indescribable! We truly have twice as much fun having our babies on vacation with us!
      Anyway, your words touched my heart as I can relate so well to that kind of love…..and loss. Don’t wait too long to give your love away again to a new friend. It really does help you to heal when you are ready, and you will fall in love all over again. I highly recommend rescuing from your local shelter. Where I live, there are even full labs in shelters and litters of puppies on a regular basis:( May God bless and heal your heart!

  2. my English lab is 14 years old. The first time she went to the vet by me, the vet was surprised how calm she was. He told me to breed her!! She loves to eat. Shes overweight primary because my hubby feeds her too much, and buys fried chicken liver and gives to her. Shes not taken to the vet very much because I never leave their without paying AT LEAST 150.00. I know I am truly blessed with her, I love her dearly. Someone once said, “YOU HAVENT REALLY LIVED UNTIL YOUVE LOVED A COMPANION DOG ALL ITS LIFE, AND WATCHED IT DIE IN YOURE ARMS” I guess I will someday soon have LIVED!!

  3. I have the most awesome long haired black lab. 12 years old. 80 pounds not an ounce of fat on him. Still acts like a puppy. No table scraps ever ever ever. Long walks every day of his life.
    Vet says he is a perfect physical specimen.
    He is not a food mooch. He eats / grazes as he wishes. Only dry food. Never had any canned food.
    He will still chase and retrieve tennis balls. Jumps into the truck and into the back seat without any trouble whatsoever. Swims like a fish at the beach.
    Always—> All his shots up to date.

    Sweet gentle creature. Loves kids.

    I may be kidding myself but this 12 year old Pup appears to be in such great shape- I think he has many years left.

    If you get a Lab Puppy- please follow the steps above. They have worked fabulously for my Woofa.

  4. My male pure bred choc lab lived to 13 1/2. He collapsed one day and was told at the vet’s he’d had some episode heart atrack? and his organs were shutting down. They made him comfortable and he passed away with e hugging him. My female (his cousin) is still alive and can still run around and is just over 14.5. I always controlled both dogs’ diets. They both have (had) lipomas but luckily nothing particularly large or anything interfering with movement. They’re just a little lumpy! I can only hope when she passes on, she makes the “decision “ like my male did. I have had to do that in the past with other dogs and I hate it, even knowing it’s for the best.

  5. My purebred female, black Labrador is 13 years, 4.5 months old. She has allegies to corn which developed at age 2. I have been feeding her dry food formulated for dogs with corn allergies. She eats her food wet, especially since age 7. She also gets supplemented with additions like a cooked egg, or sardines, bones and all, added to the beef and brown rice or chicken and brown rice formulas. She gets her daily ration, currently 3.5 cups divided into two meals. Her blood work done on 4/14/18 shows all major organs are functioning very well. She has a strong heart, no abnormal sounds. She weighs between 85 to 88 pounds, that sounds heavy, but she is a large Lab with a wide, boxy frame and a blocky head. She does have a visible waist from above. Her age is starting to show in that her albumin, red blood cells and white blood cell counts are lower than average, suggesting that she is not as thrifty as she was a year or two ago in absorbing nutrients. She has sprouted several benign lypomas and some skin tags. She does have arthritis in her hips and knees, which we treat with pain meds on an as needed basis and we help her navigate stairs, up and down. I hope to have her a year longer, or maybe two with blessings from above. I am not ready for her to leave us yet.

  6. My loving Labrador great Dane mix ‘Tessa’ lived up to 20 year… unfortunately her hips gave in yesterday and we had to put her down today.
    She had a long and happy life. I will mis her till the end of time.

  7. Hi there to all the lab parents. Whom all truly live there dogs. I have black mix breed dog. Half springer and half lab. He looks more like a lab but seems to have the springer nature. With being very boystrous and constantly always on go. Always looking to get up to no good as such. Lol. He’s nearly 4 years. He has around 8 walks day. And much exercise out back area and in side home. As he loves getting chased He has much energy in him. We feed max wih 3 measured day meals that he’s meant to get. He will have one treat. Later on he will have some veg. Being carrots, broccoli, coliflower. He truly loves his veg. Been giving this to him since a pup. Which helps him as well. I also cook some of his food with some tuna. (Tina fully washed out of oil). And place in his food some alovera drink. As this is known to be good with dogs health. And also helps with may urine issues that most dogs have. And helps with digestive system and other benefits. Including with small amount of herbal tea. With no caffeine at all in this. This also helps with these very issues. I do hope that I have our max for as long as most of you guys have your lovely labs. Myself and my family all love our max millions. And do anything for him. Hard work he maybe. But truthfully couldn’t have asked for better dog. Thank you.

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