The average Labrador Retriever lifespan is 12 to 12.5 years. Although a recent study suggests chocolate Labs live shorter lives averaging 10.7 years, significantly less than black and yellow Labradors. Factors influencing lifespan in Labs include diet, healthcare, management and inherited diseases. Changing these factors can enable you to help your dog live longer.
- Factors influencing Labrador lifespan
- Genetics, diseases and body shape
- Do pedigree Labs live longer?
- The coat color conundrum
There are over five hundred comments under this article, some are sad, some happy, all about much loved Labradors. Check them out at the bottom of this article, and have a tissue ready.
What Controls Labrador Retriever Lifespan?
Obviously ten isn’t a guaranteed Labrador lifespan for every dog. Some Labradors live a good deal longer than twelve. But some don’t make it to ten.
There are two key categories of factors that influence your Labrador’s life expectancy. And the lifespan of any dog.
- One is the genetic information your dog inherited from his parents.
- The other is the events that happen to your dog during the course of his life. Through puppyhood to old age. Things like accidents, injury and disease.
How Long Can A Labrador Live?
Life span statistics for dogs are often wildly inaccurate, based on outdated information. Luckily, we don’t need to guess. Accurate Labrador life span information comes from data from scientific studies.
Labrador Lifespan Surveys
Two surveys were carried out in 2004 and 2013. The earlier study showed the median age of death in over 500 Labradors was 12.25. The later study gave a median age at death in a group of over 400 dogs as 12.5 years.
A bigger and more recent study published in 2018 looked at over 30,000 Labradors. This one found a median longevity of 12 years in Labradors overall. So the average Labrador lifespan seems to work out at around 12 years.
Is Labrador Lifespan Getting Longer?
The good news is there is evidence that Labrador lifespan might be increasing. One recent study, although it only looked at 39 dogs, suggested the average could be getting closer to 14 years. So our original question “how long do Labradors live” is changing!
The longest confirmed lifespan for a Labrador was 19 years. There are plenty of reports in the comments section below of readers’ Labradors living over 15 years.
You can help your dog to reach these high numbers, but nothing is guaranteed. Let’s look at the genes controlling how your dog looks and behaves. These set broad limits to the lifespan of your Labrador.
Genes & Labrador Retriever Lifespan
Your purebred Labrador inherits a number of Labrador characteristics shared with all other pedigree Labradors.
These genes don’t just control his coat color, the shape of his ears, and the length of his tail. They control aspects of his temperament and susceptibility to disease.
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. Nor do they have excessive skin or a massive amount of fur. This is great because a good body structure makes a dog naturally healthier than a dog with poor conformation.
Temperament and Labrador Lifespan
Genes control some aspects of your dog’s behavior. And his ability to carry out tasks like running and hunting, or fetching things. However, temperament, including tendency to fearfulness, is influenced by genes and the environment.
One study showed that fear and anxiety has a negative effect on lifespan in pet dogs. Some dogs are euthanized for aggression or behavior problems. So temperament is a factor in life span.
Some dogs inherit a number of genes that improve their chances of good health. Reduced risk of cancer for example. These genes are passed onto their puppies.
How Inherited Diseases Affect Labrador Retriever Life Span
Labradors are relatively healthy, but there are diseases in the breed that can influence how long your Labrador will live and how healthy your dog will be during their lifetime. Some of these diseases, hip dysplasia and CNM for example, we have tests that should be carried out before breeding adult dogs.
There are however no tests for diseases like cancer. A 2004 study showed 31% of Labradors die of cancer, slightly more than the average rate of cancer in dogs overall.
How Size Affects Longevity
Little dogs live longer than big dogs. A quirk of nature we don’t entirely understand. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. But in general the longevity of dogs is strongly linked to body size.
This is the reverse of what we find when comparing species of mammals, like the long lived elephant and the short lived mouse.
Looking at individuals in the same species, in this case the domestic dog, being large is a disadvantage.
As a medium dog size is a limiting factor for your Labrador. The average Labrador won’t live as long as the toy poodle.
Labrador Lifespan and Inbreeding
Genetic diseases establish in pedigree dog breeds like that Labrador breed due to inbreeding dogs that are closely related. The average coefficient of inbreeding for Labradors is 6.5 %. We see adverse effects of inbreeding in dogs at over the 5% level.
Do Purebred Labs Live Longer?
Purebred Labradors outer limits on lifespan are set partially by their pedigree. Mongrels live on average 1.2 years longer than purebred dogs according to a study published in The Veterinary Journey in 2013. This doesn’t mean your Boxador will outlive your neighbors pedigree Lab however, it’s all about averages.
Comparing Pedigree Dogs
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 life spans 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.
Let’s take a look now at that topic we mentioned at the beginning of the article. The recent discovery that Chocolate Labs live shorter lives than their cousins.
Color vs Lifespan
For a long time it was believed that coat color had no influence on Labrador life expectancy. With the exception of color dilution alopecia in silver Labradors, it was thought that inherited diseases were not linked to any particular color or type of Labrador.
A recent study of over thirty three thousand dogs has thrown that assumption into doubt. It shows us that black Lab life expectancy and yellow Lab life expectancy is around 12.1 years. While chocolate Lab life expectancy is quite a bit shorter at 10.7 years.
The Chocolates in that study were more prone to ear and skin problems. This included self-inflicted “hot-spots” as a reaction to irritants like fleas. And we don’t know if the two main Labrador ‘types’ differ. So we can’t tell you if English Lab life expectancy differs from American Labs.
How Long Will My Lab Live?
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. Some of these are events that you can control. Let’s take a look at those now.
Accidents & Roaming Impact Labrador Lifespan
Hundreds of dogs die each year in avoidable accidents when unsupervised outdoors. Secure fencing around your backyard and a good recall training command will help you keep your dog from becoming a part of that statistic.
It was believed neutering increased life expectancy. Older studies showed a higher death rate for unneutered dogs because they were uncontrolled. They had the urge to roam, the ability to leave the backyard, and therefore got into accidents.
Recents studies link neutering to health issues including joint disease and cancer, both leading causes of illness and death in Labs.
The neutering issue isn’t clear cut, but the principles of training and control will help keep your dog safe.
In parts of the world there are serious diseases that kill unvaccinated dogs and puppies. Vaccination enables your pet to avoid the infections that have the potential to kill them
Overfeeding Decreases Labrador Lifespan?
The biggest influence you can control regarding your dog’s longevity and enjoyment of life is his bodyweight. Obesity is increasingly common in dogs, and Labradors in particular. The direct result of over feeding.
Labradors are greedy dogs good at persuading people to hand over treats and refill the food bowl. Some Labrador parents struggle to judge quantities of food fairly in the face of puppy dog eyes.
Don’t slavishly follow feeding guidelines on packets, but feed according to how your dog looks and feels.
What Do Studies Say?
Studies show reducing calories intake in dogs increases life expectancy a significant amount due to the health impact of obesity. Labradors are all capable of maintaining a consistent lean body mass through their lives, according to a 2003 study. Dog owners just need to be vigilant.
Hungry Labrador Eyes!
Your Labrador does not have a tendency to get fat from their breed. Only to eat a lot and be good at persuading their family to provide food. You have the keys to the larder, and you can resist your dog’s charms.
Slim dogs live a longer, more comfortable life. They defer the onset and impact of conditions like arthritis in older dogs, when they retain a youthful waistline. Be firm about the amount of food your dog eats to ensure the benefits of his company for longer.
Is Longevity In Dogs Inherited?
To a certain extent longevity is inherited. Some dogs have an inherently higher potential for long life than others. But this isn’t the whole story.
Line breeding and size go against your dog in terms of life expectancy. But being fit, friendly and well proportioned go in their favor. So the average Labrador has a medium range life expectancy compared with other dog breeds.
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. Look for a co-efficient of inbreeding that is below 5%. Consider choosing a black or yellow Lab. And make sure the parents have great temperaments, and have been well cared for.
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.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website