Labrador Health Problems

If you feed your Labrador Retriever a well balanced diet, and give your dog enough regular exercise there is no reason why he should not be expected to live between 10 and 13 years.

Nevertheless, as with any breed of dog, there are some Labrador health problems that you should be aware of.

Hip Dysplasia

Every year millions of dogs are affected by Hip Dysplasia. Labrador Retrievers seem to be particularly susceptable to this disease. It is caused when the femur does not fit properly in the hip socket. The joint becomes worn and unstable resulting in degenerative joint disease which causes pain and immobility.

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Labrador health problems can include osteoarthritis which is caused by the degradation of the cartilage inside a joint. The breakdown of cartilage can stop the joint from working properly and create pain or stiffness. Mild arthritis is uncomfortable for your dog but severe arthritis is very painful.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include: stiffness of the joints, favouring one leg over another, trouble in sitting or standing, reluctance to jump, and reduced activity level.

Labrador Retrievers are susceptible to joint problems, so if you are acquiring a puppy, always ensure that the breeder furnishes you with copies of certifications for both the parents.

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Osteochondritis Dissecans - OCD

This is a bone degeneration disease. It can affect the shoulder, ankle or elbow joint and almost always surfaces during the growth phase of the larger dog breeds, usually between the ages of six to nine months. It can start as an intermittent limp in one leg.

A lot of young dogs with OCD run as though nothing is wrong but when they slow down they recognize that the limb causes pain and the limp comes back. Contributing factors to OCD include physical impacts, such as jumping off high places, and unsuitable diets causing weight problems.

Hereditary Myopathy of Labrador Retrievers

This condition is unique to Labrador retrievers. It's a hereditary muscle disorder in which there is a deficiency of type II muscle fibers that leads to a decrease in skeletal muscle mass. While several breeds of dog have been known to have similar disorders, this condition is only seen in Labrador Retrievers. It was first described in 1976.

Additional names for HMLR include Autosomal Recessive Muscular Dystrophy (ARMD), Myotonia, Generalized Muscle Weakness, Polyneuropathy, and Hereditary Myopathy. The disease is inherited when both parents of an affected dog carry at least one copy of the a disease gene.

Symptoms include muscle weakness, abnormal gait and posture, and diminished tolerance to exercise. Onset of any symptoms generally take place at three to four months of age, even so, some dogs exhibit symptoms as early as six to eight weeks or as late as six to seven months.

The symptoms of abnormal gait and posture become more visible as exercise continues and the dog tires or if the dog is exposed to cold weather.

Rest improves symptoms but a relapse will take place when the activity level is increased again. Other signs of HMLR include irregularities of the joints and, with progressesion, wasting of the muscles in the limbs and head becomes evident.

Bloat or Gastric Torsion

This condition is caused by a twisting of the stomach and so entrapping the stomach contents and gases leading to a rapid swelling of the abdomen followed by pain and eventual death if not treated. It is most often found in large deep chested breeds. and calls for immediate veterinary intervention before it becomes life threatening.

Symptoms can include:

Continuous pacing and/or lying down in peculiar places

Drooling, panting, whining

Not able to get comfortable

Behaving very agitated

Vomiting or retching, sometimes bringing up frothy vomit in small quantities

Swelling in abdominal area

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Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia

TVD is a congenital, heart defect that is becoming more common in Labrador Retrievers. The tricuspid valve allows blood to flow in one direction from the right atrium into the right ventricle. If a puppy inherits the gene responsible for the defect, his tricuspid valve will be deformed.

The puppy will have a dysplastic valve at birth that does not shut tightly, letting blood to escape back through it. The severity of the disease depends on how much leakage there is. A puppy with mild leakage can have a normal life span. If the leakage is severe, the disease can prove fatal


Canine Epilepsy is a chronic condition characterized by repeated seizures. Seizures are the result of muscle reactions to an abnormal nerve-signal burst from the brain. The cause can be anything that disrupts normal operation of the brain.

Idiopathic Epilepsy, meaning "no known cause", also referred to as Primary Epilepsy, is possibly inherited.

Secondary Epilepsy can be the result of:



Brain Tumors

Low blood sugar,

Low thyroid function,


Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy usually have their first seizure between the ages of one and five years. A genetic reason for Idiopathic Epilepsy is strongly suspected in several breeds including the Labrador Retriever.

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Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus affects Labrador Retrievers and other breeds that have a deficiency of the hormone insulin or an insensitivity to it. A diabetic dog has insufficient insulin to stop glucose production by the liver or to efficiently store excess glucose derived from energy giving foods.

Consequently, the blood concentration of glucose rises and in time surpasses a level beyond which the kidneys can dispose of it into the urine. This causes larger than normal volumes of urine to be produced. The excessive loss of water in urine causes increased water consumption.

Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus are:

Excessive thirst

Excessive urination;

Weight loss.

Other symptoms may include: cataracts, recurrent infections, increased appetite, and exercise intolerance. Ketoacidosis occurs if the production of ketones by the liver is excessive. This makes the affected dog very sick.

The normal treatment is to give your dog insulin injections. Oral hypoglycemics are not of value in the treatment of dogs with Diabetes Mellitus.


Herbal supplement for maintaining insulin levels and blood sugar (glucose) already in normal range

Hypothyroidism, Low Thyroid Function

This is the most typically diagnosed hormonal disease found in dogs. The term hypothyroidism means the underproduction of thyroxin, the hormone produced by the thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland is located on the trachea of the dog, just beneath the voice box. It produces and releases thyroxin into the blood stream. This hormone is very important in controlling growth and development and maintaining normal protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism of the dog.

Hypothyroidism commonly occurs between the ages of two to six years. The most common sign is an increase in body weight. Lethargy and some form of skin disease are also common signs of Hypothyroidism. This condition is treatable by a thyroid hormone supplement.

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Laryngeal Paralysis, LP

If your dog is suffering from Laryngeal Paralysis, one of the first things you may notice is a change to the sound of the dog's bark and a rough sound in the breathing.

Laryngeal paralysis occurs when one or both sides of the larynx fail to open and close properly. This can stop the dog from taking in enough oxygen to breath properly. It can also result in overheating, as dogs pant to cool themselves. In serious cases, the dog can develop cyanosis where the dog's gums go blue from lack of oxygen. The dog could collapse and in some cases it can be fatal.

LP is most commonly seen in older large breeds of dog, including the Labrador Retriever.

Eye Problems

Labradors can suffer from several eye problems, including: Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Cataracts, and Retinal Dysplasia.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy or PRA is a category of diseases involving the gradual deterioration of the retina. In the early stages of the disease, an affected dog becomes unable to see well in dim lighting. When the disease advances, daytime sight also fails.

If the affected dog's environment stays constant, it can adapt quite comfortably to this disability. As the affected dog's vision fails, the pupils become more and more dilated, causing a "shine" to the dog's eyes. The lens of the eyes can also become cloudy, or opaque, this can result in a cataract.

Although some breeds are affected early in life, others can develop PRA much later. The Labrador Retriever is generally affected as an adult so the dog's eyes should seem normal as a puppy.

Because PRA in Labrador Retrievers often does not come along until the dog is an adult, the disease has been difficult to eradicate. If your dog does seem to be losing his vision, contact your Veterinarian, and if he is diagnosed with PRA, inform the breeder of your dog.


Like humans, dogs can get cataracts, but the presence of cataracts in young dogs, called juvenile cataracts, are hereditary. If the dog is healthy, cataracts can be surgically removed, normally with beneficial results.

Retinal Dysplasia

This is an irregularity in the developing retina. There may be no visual defect so it may only be found after an eye examination. Retinal Dysplasia is a condition that is thought to be inherited in the Labrador Retriever. The condition may also develop as a result of an injury or due to a viral infection, toxins or nutritional disorders.

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Ear Infections

Because of their floppy ears and their love of being in the water, Labrador health problems include ear infections.

Not all Labs get them, but many get chronic ear infections that can cause great discomfort. Check your Lab's ears regularly as part of his grooming program.

The ear should be light pink or flesh-toned and clean, and there should be no odor coming from the ear or the ear canal.

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Ruptured Cruciate Ligaments

Labrador Retrievers seem to be particularly prone to this injury which is commonly suffered during an activity involving twisting of the legs. A dog who has ruptured his cruciate ligament will look suddenly lame, and normally carry the foot of the affected leg off the ground.

The knee may become swollen. If the ligament is completely torn, the dog is generally treated by a vet with surgery. Swimming is an excellent rehabilitation exercise after an operation of this kind.

Limber Tail Syndrome

Limber Tail Syndrome or cold water tail as it is sometimes called is most often seen in sporting breeds of dog, including Labrador Retrievers. Ages of dogs suffering from this condition range between six months to nine years.

Usually, the dog's tail goes limp and hangs down from the tail base or is held horizontally three to four inches and then drops down. The dog may seem uncomfortable and in some pain.

This is not a serious condition and complete recovery is usually seen within two weeks and often occurs within a few days.

The causes of Limber Tail are not known but it is believed to be connected with hard workouts, heavy hunting, and swimming in water that is either too cold or too warm.

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