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.

2017 international dog name surveyOf 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

354 COMMENTS

  1. Our lovely black Labrador “Willis” died on the 1st August 2017 at the grand age of 19 years. Having been a drug sniffer dog in the local prison until the age of 8 when we re homed him he had a free and active life at our side. Suffering a heart problem in 2015 was given a few weeks to live by the vet but soldiered on for another two years still alert and still quite active. We walked every day even though the journey became less and less. We lost a real fighter, a testament to the his breed and their most wonderful bravery and stamina. Much loved and oh so much missed. Wait for me Will, I will be along soon.

  2. My wife had a black lab, when we got married. Her name was Midnight, and she survived sclerosis of the liver and made it to twenty! We then got another black lab, her name was Shadow, but she only lived to fifteen and a half.

  3. I had 2 labradors that lived to be 13 and 15. I now have 3 labs (one if each colour) the oldest is a chocolate and she is almost 14. My yellow lab has just turned 9 years old and my black lab will soon be 6. As for me I am now 72, struggle a bit to give them enough exercise but I do walk approx. 2 – 3 hours on most days.

  4. We lost our beloved Bella in December at 14 years, 8 months. She was a purebred black lab but had terrible arthritis the last five years. We did everything for her (including laser acupuncture, which was amazing) and she gave everything to us in return. Ultimately, a massive tumor developed on her spleen and we made the hardest decision of our lives. She was brave, loving and stoic to the end. We miss her joyful spirit every day!

  5. My dog China was a beautiful black lab, that would have been 12 Nov 14. She passed away suddenly last night. She was fine one minute and acting weird and not wanting to eat, just 2 hours later. She passed 3 hours later. We took her to a 24 hr vet for her to be cremated and the vets said, she must of had an underlying heart condition that was not diagnosed. I miss her sweet face and my other two dogs miss her too. Now she can play and keep my late husband company in heaven, now he doesn’t have to miss her any more.

  6. My Fritz made it to 13, before cancer took him just this past week and my heart is still broken, however, reading the comments of other owners of this breed shows how easy it is to love the Lab , Fritz was such a joy to have, and I miss him, such a joy …

  7. Our chocolate lab turned 17 years old last week. Although she is deaf and wobbly on her back legs she still loves her food and loves all people. She is a joy.

  8. All of these beautiful stories have given me hope that I might have quite a bit more time left with my 2 girls. Butter (yellow) & Pepper (black) are pure bred Lab sisters born Dec 17th, 2003. Their dad was a chocolate & mom was black. I’ve had them since they were 8 weeks old. Before the girls, I had a black Lab named Velvet that I rescued from the SPCA when she was about 4 months old. She lived to be 13 before I had to put her down as she had a huge inoperable cyst on her hind end & it made her quality of life almost unbearable. After mourning the loss of Velvet for a couple of days, I decided that I would get 2 dogs, which I had never done before but it made so much sense that having 2 would be better so they can keep each other company. Bringing Butter & Pepper home was the best thing that I’ve ever done. They’ve been the best companions that I’ve ever had. My dogs have grown up with the kids & the grandkids too. All the kids are grown & on their own so it’s been just me & the girls the past few years. They almost fell down the stairs in the house a few times trying to get up to my bedroom so I decided it was time to downsize, sell the house & find some place with no stairs. I’ve been trying to prepare myself over the past couple of years for what life will be like without them but I am making every effort to make their lives as easy as possible for the rest of their time with me. Watching them age gracefully together has been so beautiful. Thank God that I operate my business from home so that I can care for them. I moved into a roomy 1st floor apartment this year & the girls love it. They have to go to potty at least 4 or 5 times a day. Living in an apartment has been quite an adjustment since I have to put the girls on a leash to go outside. But it’s been good because they get a nice little walk several times a day. Our walks have shortened to just a very slow almost snail’s pace for no more than about 10 minutes at a time, but we still go out 4 or 5 times a day. Pepper’s legs are getting weaker & over the past month I’ve seen that she is having a hard time squatting & holding herself up to where she falls back & her legs come out from under her to a sitting position on top of her poo. With her legs extended in front of her she is stuck so I have to lift her hind end to help her up to standing position again….even after just a couple of minutes into a walk, it’s so sad to watch her walk in a wobble & she’s panting. Butter is starting to wobble a little but as well – her face is aging so much & her eyes look so tired, she gets this crust around her eyes which make her look even older. Both girls look at me sometimes like they are trying to ask me what is happening to them. They sleep a lot & when they get up I have to quick get the leash & take them outside even if it’s 3 or 4 in the morning. Butter has not had any accidents yet & she is still holding it pretty good. Pepper tries so hard but it is apparent that she can’t hold it as long anymore. She does good holding if I can get her right outside when she comes in the room to let me know. Both girls still have good appetites & are nice & trim. Lately I can feel Pepper’s bones more & more even though she still eats on a regular basis. They aren’t showing any signs of pain that I can see which is good. For these sister to still be together after 14 years is truly amazing. Maybe next year I will be back on this page letting you all know that we are celebrating their 15th birthday. Every day that they are still here with me is a real blessing from heaven. Thanks for reading 🙂

  9. My yellow boy died last October aged 14 years, 7 months.
    I knew he was slowing down but when he stopped eating and drinking for two days…well, as any Lab owner knows…that’s a problem. As the vet was administering the injection that would release him into peace but take my best friend away forever, my dear dog lifted his head and licked the vet’s hand over and over. His life was full of love, right till the end. He was also a therapy dog for many years and brought joy to hundreds of people in that time. I will miss him forever.

  10. We had a chocolate lab that made it to 7 years before catching everyone by surprise with liver problems; we had her since she was a puppy. She was a purebred, pedigreed dog. We have a yellow lab (no idea if this one is mixed breed or not – we picked him up from a shelter when he was 1 year old) that is currently 9.5 years and in great health with beautiful weight.

  11. Our pure bred black lab “Lady” is 16 and 3 months and still going strong. She has arthritis and cataracts but nothing pain medication can’t help. Her nose works VERY well. She still walks around the block. She was an incredibly active dog and then at 12 she slowed down. I’m enjoying her company every day. I’m so very lucky.

  12. My last chocolate lab Sam made it just past his 15 birthday sadly I’ll health forced us to have him put down a fantastic gun dog and family dog my best mate .Our current old boy a chocolate lab is coming up to his 15 th birthday and still going strong pussed on by the new additions max and Monty both chocolate labs and two years old and given a new homes with us in the countryside best decision we ever made so much pleasure and a massive part of our family and both coming from different backgrounds but now the best of friends all 3 of them

  13. Zeke 11yr old black lab went to heaven 8-1-17 vestibular dx and ALS, he was full of energy, beautiful dark velvet coat of hair, very faithful, loved by my family and strangers were not welcome with top wt of 90 lbs lost 15 lbs creeping up to his disease and not appear fat in any fashion. He totally dependent on me for 5 weeks where was immoble, maintained a some what dignity in his life, he was carried out stood up to use restroom q3hrs till bedtime. he will be truly missed and remembered forever.

  14. My canine soul mate, a black Lab named Trigger, made it to 15, when he developed vestibular disease. Putting him down was both the hardest and easiest decision I ever made. He’s been gone since June 2010 and just writing this is making me cry.

  15. Our English yellow lab, Beau, is 14 1/2 years old and still doing well, though his age is finally starting to show. We recently found out that he might have the start of very early CRF but, other than potentially some mild arthritis in his knees and some loss of hearing, he’s doing quite well for his age; he’s still playful, hungry, smiley, and attention seeking. 🙂 I hope he’ll still be with us for at least another year.

    Beau in his prime:
    http://i.imgur.com/y9mj1qd.jpg

  16. My beautiful dog, Bear, passed away three weeks ago. He was 14- 15 yrs. old. He wasn’t a pure bred lab – a combination of lab, alaskan malamute and rottie. He had the temperament of a lab. Until the end of his life he retained his beautiful black coat. If one didn’t know, he looked no older than 8-9 years old. He was diagnosed with cancer and died within three weeks. The vet came to my home and put him to sleep surrounded by friends and family. He went peacefully. His ashes have found a resting place on the mantle over the fireplace. He was loved by all that knew him.

  17. My dog named coda is currently 14 and she is a black lab she’s still healthy and relaxed and she’s good with children.

  18. We had a beautiful yellow girl named Shyla . We had to put her down last year . She lived to be 14 years and 2 months old . She was an amazing girl . Miss her deeply ❤️❤️

  19. I had to make the difficult decision last August to put my beautiful girl Nugget to sleep at the age of 15yrs.plus 3 month.She just couldn’t eat,nothing appealed and I tried what ever,she was getting so weak I couldn’t let it go although she was still so loving.I have her daughter Mitsey who is 11 now.she has slowed down a lot since her mother is gone,some arthritis but still happy and always looking for treats.

  20. My Black Lab Gunner Gauge is 11 plus years old born April fools 2006, and he is still going strong.
    He was trained in Austin Texas and has lived in Louisiana all his life. Both parents were champions.
    He is still like a puppy, although he has a grey goatee and his coat is turning chocolate. He is still the protector of the family.

  21. We lost our beloved friend Jaeger yesterday. She was a black lab. 12.7 years old. Full of lumps and bumps, was only on thyroid medication. She was the sweetest girl and I am just full of guilt because she died at home after coming home from a short walk. We always kept her at a good weight, 65-69 pounds and thought that she would live forever! As I write this, tears are flowing after reading all of your stories. We are in shock and so sad, and I only feel good because I was with her when she died.
    Labs are the best dogs……so loyal…….so gentle…..you can trust them totally. Would never get another breed of dog ever……….Labs are the best friends….ever.

  22. Snickers was 14 years and 2 months
    In good health but stopped eating or drinking; had i.v.s for 3 days.
    The vet said Snickers took the hard decision from me when she passed away in sleep. Miss her

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