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Common Health Problems in Labradors

4 min read
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Labradors are wonderful pets so it’s hardly surprising that they’re one of the top dog breeds you’ll find in homes all around the world.

Their popularity is easily attributed to their endearing personalities and as an added benefit, they tend to be quite good with families and other pets. Not to mention that they’re often employed in many service roles including as guide dogs for the blind and in search and rescue.

Unfortunately, their good deeds and kind natures don’t make them exempt from illnesses and health conditions and there are a number of health problems in Labradors that you should be aware of if you’re looking to add this breed to your home. Keep reading to find out about the most common issues affecting this breed.

Common health problems in Labradors

Healthy Labrador Retriever Puppy after medical exam

Labradors are currently classed as category two by The UK Kennel Club, meaning they have some points of concern that, should they become exaggerated, may cause health and welfare concerns for the breed in the future. The most common health issues in Labradors are described below.

Hip dysplasia

Labradors are predisposed to hip dysplasia, a condition resulting from abnormal formation of the hip socket which causes the hip to deteriorate. Signs tend to include difficulty going up or down stairs, lameness in the rear legs, a ‘bunny hopping’ gait, pain, stiffness, or limping. This condition often leads to arthritis in the future. Therefore, breeding dogs should be hip scored prior to breeding to help reduce the risk of hip dysplasia being inherited.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is caused by abnormal growth and development of the elbow joint. The symptoms you’ll see with this condition are forelimb lameness, pain when moving the elbow, possible joint effusion, and a decreased range of motion. Surgery may be necessary to remove bone fragments and cartilage, as well as physical therapy to restore range of motion. Again, elbow scoring should be carried out on potential breeding dogs.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a common health problem in Labradors, especially as they get older, and is the result of their size and the strain this puts on their joints. It’s important to keep your Labrador healthy through regular exercise and correct feeding because obesity can put excess strain on their joints and increase their risk of arthritis.

Laryngeal paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis impairs or restricts airflow through the larynx and is caused by a change in the muscles within or surrounding this organ. This condition typically presents as a bark with a ‘honking’ sound, increased respiratory effort, coughing, and a lack of willingness to exercise.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is an endocrine disorder that’s the result of the lowered production and release of T4 and T3 hormones from the thyroid gland. Labradors are more at risk of this disease, and they may experience weight gain, hair loss, lethargy, and an intolerance to the cold if they have this condition.

Obesity

Veterinary Doctor Does Medical examination on a Yellow Labrador Retriever

It’s no secret that Labradors are complete foodies, but this can also cause issues with obesity. Luckily, it’s quite easy to prevent. You’ll just have to make sure they don’t eat too much or too quickly, whilst also reducing their snack intake.

Obesity is a serious health issue in Labradors because it can increase their risk of heart and liver disease, joint problems (including arthritis), skeletal issues, and metabolic and respiratory diseases. Another reason you shouldn’t let your Lab overeat or overhydrate is that it can lead to bloat. This may seem harmless, but in dogs, this refers to a distended abdomen or a swollen or twisted stomach. Bloat is more common in Labradors because they have a deep chest.

Progressive retinal atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a range of diseases that can cause gradual deterioration of the retina. It’s most common in larger breed dogs such as Labradors and it can cause them to lose large amounts of their central vision over time.
The most common form of progressive retinal atrophy that impacts Labradors is progressive rod-cone degeneration, in which the rod cells present in the eye have a mutation that causes them to die. Keep a look out for cloudy eyes and behavioural changes in your dog. In addition, because this disease is usually inherited, it’s imperative for eye exams to be carried out on breeding dogs.

Ear infections

Labradors have large, floppy ears which form part of their endearing appearance, but this does mean that they’re more susceptible to ear infections. Make sure you dry their ears after bathing and swimming and ensure that you regularly check inside their ears and eyes for signs of infection.

Heart disease

Heart disease tends to be quite common in older dogs and will likely display as fatigue, coughing, lack of appetite, swollen abdomen, breathing difficulty, and weight loss. Tricuspid valve dysplasia (TVD) is a common health issue in Labradors which is present from birth and mainly affects male dogs. This problem is caused by a defect in the valve on the right side of the heart, and a heart murmur and signs of congestive heart failure will usually be the first signs of this condition. Sadly, there’s no cure for this health issue, but diuretics may be prescribed to relieve fluid retention, and reduced exercise will be recommended to try and put less strain on the dog’s heart. If it’s only a mild case of TVD, most dogs can lead a happy, normal life, whereas more severe cases will likely lead to congestive heart failure.

Preventing health problems in Labradors

The health issues in Labradors listed above are only conditions that the breed is more predisposed to. There’s no guarantee that your dog will get these problems, they’re just more at risk. In order to reduce the risk of your dog developing these issues, it’s imperative that you purchase puppies from a reputable breeder that’s knowledgeable and cares about the future of the breed. Responsible breeders will also make sure that all the necessary screenings and tests are done on the parents so that the puppies don’t carry poor genes. Once you’ve got your puppy, keep them happy and healthy throughout their lives with a good, complete, and balanced diet and regular exercise.

That’s our guide to the most common health issues in Labradors! If you want to find out more about breed-specific health, read our guide on the common health problems in Golden Retrievers, next.