The Labrador Retriever is one of the world’s most popular breeds, and with good reason, so it’s no wonder so many people are asking, “What problems do Labradors have?”
Of course, Labradors are friendly, loyal, active and outgoing. They make excellent family dogs and can be highly affectionate. They’re able to lounge with the best of ‘em, but they also love a good day’s work.
However, this doesn’t mean that Labrador Retrievers don’t have their issues. In this article, we’ll go over all of the health problems that a Labrador might be predisposed to.
Most Common Labrador Problems
“What problems do labradors have?” is a complicated question, but health is definitely a major consideration.
Especially as health issues can affect a Lab’s lifespan.
Labrador Retrievers are predisposed to several health problems including:
- Elbow and hip dysplasia
- Heart disorders
- Hereditary myopathy
- Progressive retinal atrophy and other eye conditions
- Ear conditions including otitis externa
- Exercise-induced collapse
Labrador Health Problems
Elbow and hip dysplasia are common diseases in canines, especially heavier breeds which put more stress on their joints regularly. These illnesses are caused by malformations in the hip sockets and elbow joints which can lead to lameness, especially if untreated.
Hereditary myopathy is a genetic condition that causes malfunctions in the formation of muscle fibers. It causes a general skeletal muscle weakness that can take away a dog’s capacity to exercise or even walk.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a condition of the eye that eventually results in blindness. It is caused by the degeneration of the retina and is a common Labrador eye problem.
Bloat is a serious, rapid-onset illness which the Labrador breed is predisposed to. However, you can greatly reduce your dog’s chances of getting bloat by educating yourself and staying vigilant.
In addition, Canine Genetics and Epidemiology asserts that some of the most common Labrador Retriever health problems are “obesity, otitis externa and degenerative joint disease.”
What Problems Do Labradors Have? Looking Closer at Obesity
Obesity is a major problem for modern day pets across the world.
But perhaps none more so than the Lab.
In 2016 a UK study found that some Labradors have a genetic mutation which makes them more likely to gain weight and store fat. And it makes them even more food motivated.
Obesity places strain on dogs’ joints and internal organs. It also puts them at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.
So carrying extra weight is a big problem for Labs, and can be one of the toughest to overcome.
In the next section, we will go over how to prevent obesity, joint disease, and other Labrador health problems.
Preventing Common Labrador Health Problems
There are several things you need to do to ensure your Labrador’s quality of life. These include several day-to-day behaviors both you and your dog need to adhere to.
Diet And Exercise
Diet and exercise are crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing obesity in dogs, a leading health problem among Labradors. But it also helps with many other health issues.
For instance, studies show that diet, exercise and weight all play a large role in joint conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Large dogs already put extra strain on their joints, so adding unnecessary weight can be detrimental to your pet’s health.
Ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise and eating a properly balanced diet. This will also help prevent heart conditions, which are more likely with obesity.
When it comes to exercise, you’ll need to be careful and vigilant, though. For instance, you must not over exercise a puppy. This will result in joint issues later in life.
In order to maintain a healthy diet, ensure that your pets are getting the right food in terms of size and age. The wrong food can result in malnutrition or an oversaturation of nutrients, which would result in overgrowth.
Attention to potential allergies or intolerance can help to prevent Labrador skin problems.
Screenings And Vet Visits
The other major way to prevent and catch illnesses that might reduce your dog’s quality of life are health screenings. All dogs need health screenings to determine what health issues they have or might be predisposed to.
Specifically, a breeding Labrador should receive the following health screenings to be absolutely sure of their health care needs, and any conditions they might pass to their puppies.
- Cardiac exam
- Thyroid testing
- Hip/elbow exam
- Eye exam
- Exercise-induced Collapse DNA exam
- D Locus DNA test
- Centronuclear myopathy test
- PRCD-PRA DNA test
- Ophthalmologist evaluation
Breeders should have done many of these tests on generations of parents before they ever consider selling a puppy. This allows them to choose only the healthiest individuals as parents of the next generation.
Once you find a puppy you love, take them for regular vet visits. For the first sixteen weeks of your puppy’s life, they should probably see a vet monthly. Once they are an adult, they can scale back to once every six months to a year.
When To Go To The Vet?
Of course, sometimes your pup needs a bit of extra care. You may one day find yourself wondering at what point you should take a potentially sick pup to the vet.
Any open wound needs a vet visit to be safe, especially if you think something might be broken or that other trauma has occurred.
If your dog becomes unconscious or stops breathing momentarily, take them to the vet.
Difficulty breathing will also require a vet visit if it does not subside quickly. Repeated vomiting or diarrhea could be a sign of very serious issues. Call your vet. Extended, uncharacteristic lethargy is also a serious concern that requires a vet visit.
In general, it is best to err on the side of caution and call your trusted veterinarian if you are ever on the fence. They can give you the best idea about the seriousness of any potential issues you may notice in your Labrador.
Paying this special attention to your pet is an excellent way to prevent many of the potential health problems a Labrador might have.
The best way to protect your dog from bloat is to learn to recognize the symptoms so that you can catch it early and get to a vet.
The most notable sign of bloat is the swelling of the abdomen. Your dog will also salivate, and may dry-heave. You will also notice that your dog prefers to pace rather than lay down when they have bloat, as laying down will be quite uncomfortable for them.
If you notice these symptoms or if your dog whines when you touch their belly, it is time to get to a vet immediately. Bloat can set in rapidly and result in seemingly overnight death.
The good news is that bloat treatment has come a long way in recent years. If you are able to get to a vet, your chances of saving your dog are good.
These days, about 80 percent of dogs treated for bloat survive. The key is training yourself to know when to take action and call your vet.
A large portion of the work that goes into preventing illnesses in your pet will come before you ever acquire a dog. You should pour a lot of time and effort into researching your breeder.
Responsible breeders will select parents that have little-to-no history of the diseases that Labradors are prone to. If your breeder cannot supply proof of exactly this, you should not buy a dog from them.
To acquire a healthy pet, stay very far away from pet stores and puppy mills. These types of establishments do not breed responsibly.
They can subject puppies to poor conditions and difficult lives by breeding irresponsibly. Do not support these businesses with your patronage!
Conclusion: Average Labrador Lifespan
Although these issues are common among Labrador Retrievers, Labs are still considered a generally healthy and hearty breed. If you care for your pet properly and give them the attention they require, you can count on your lab to live around 12 years.
To this end, let’s review what ways you can help ensure your dog’s health and what problems Labradors have.
- Remember to give your dog the right types and amounts of exercise and food.
- Register your new Lab with a vet and take them for a health exam as soon as possible. After that, honor your vet’s advice about how often to go back for check ups.
- Be careful not to acquire your dog from a puppy mill, pet store or otherwise unethical breeder. This will require some time and effort, but it is worth it to get a healthy, long-living companion.
Hopefully, this provides some answers regarding the question, “What problems do Labradors have?”
Remember to comment if you have any questions or insights and to share all this information with any of your friends who have Labradors or are considering getting one!
- Mcgreevy, Paul D., et al. “Labrador Retrievers under Primary Veterinary Care in the UK: Demography, Mortality and Disorders.” Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. 2018.
- O’Neill, D. G., et al. “Gastric Dilation-Volvulus in Dogs Attending UK Emergency-Care Veterinary Practices: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Survival.” Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2017.
- O’Neill, D.g., et al. “Longevity and Mortality of Owned Dogs in England.” The Veterinary Journal. 2013.
- Salander, Marie H., et al. “Diet, Exercise, and Weight as Risk Factors in Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Arthrosis in Labrador Retrievers.” The Journal of Nutrition. 2006.
- Smith, Gail K., et al. “Evaluation of Risk Factors for Degenerative Joint Disease Associated with Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2001.
- Woolliams, J.a., et al. “Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia in UK Labrador Retrievers.” The Veterinary Journal. 2011.
- Raffan et al, “A Deletion in the Canine POMC Gene Is Associated with Weight and Appetite in Obesity-Prone Labrador Retriever Dogs”, Cell Metabolism 2016.
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