Labrador Retrievers are typically healthy dogs. Here’s some advice to ensure that they stay that way and answer your Lab health questions and concerns.
What are the signs of good health in my Labrador?
A Labrador Retriever in the prime of health shows a shiny, thick coat. There are no bald or missing patches of hair. They will have tons of energy and are always be up for a good ball toss or a long walk. Labs are notorious for their curiosity. So, watch out for a healthy Labrador while he is checking out your garbage cans, the neighbor’s garage, or the hole you dug in the garden for planting veggies.
Labs are also famous for their tremendous appetites. They love food – any kind of food – and an untrained Labrador will grab it off the table or countertops if the food is left unattended. Many a Labrador has ended up in surgery with intestinal blockages from eating things they should not, including such objects as rocks, coins, socks, rubber balls, and underwear. If a Lab can get something in the mouth, he will swallow it. Conversely, if your Labrador isn’t eating, something may be wrong.
When healthy, these friendly, gentle dogs love to be around their people and want to please. Senior Labs often live to the ripe old age of 10 to 13 years. Smart and funny, with a definite sense of humor, Labradors’ typically get along well with other animals, and their sense of fun and play can be contagious.
Common Labrador Health Issues
Generally, your Labrador Retriever is a healthy dog with few health and medical concerns. However, the following health disorders are visible in the breed.
- Gastric torsion (bloat) is a life-threatening illness common to deep-chested dogs associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting inside the abdominal cavity. It is a veterinary emergency.
- Hip or elbow dysplasia are malformations and abnormal development of the hip and elbow joints during the growing phase of a Labrador’s life. These abnormalities result in lameness, extreme pain, and arthritis.
- Progressive retinal degeneration is a congenital disease that is passed down through generations, which causes nerves cells on the back of the eye to atrophy and die. This condition can lead to blindness.
- Atopy is caused by a Lab’s allergic reaction to plant pollens in the air and allergens in the environment. A dog with atopy will rub and scratch at the muzzle, ears, and eyes, and may have itchy skin with patches of hair loss and sores from scratching.
- Obesity is the most common ailment of the modern Labrador Retriever. According to breed characteristics, females should weigh between 55 and 70 pounds (24.9kg to 31.7kg), and males should come in at 65 to 80 pounds (29.4kg to 36.3kg). If your Labrador weighs more than 6 to 7 pounds (2.7kg to 3.1kg) over the norm, it is obese.
- Certain cancers, including hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer affecting the liver, spleen or heart, and mast cell tumors, malignant overgrowths of mast cells in the skin or body, can be found in Labradors. Lipomas are benign tumors composed of adipose (fat) cells and can often be detected on the Labrador’s rib cage, chest, and flanks.
How To Tell If Your Labrador is Sick
There are definite signs to look for if your Labrador is not feeling up to par.
A sudden decline in energy, a reluctance to move, or tiredness after exercise commonly means something is wrong with these energetic dogs.
The lack of appetite in an always-hungry pooch might mean some sort of gastrointestinal upset. This goes along with a sudden weight loss that indicates your Labrador may be experiencing some kind of health problem.
A dull, hair coat with patchy hair loss signals some sort of hormonal problem, possibly Cushing’s Disease or hypothyroidism.
Continual diarrhea or vomiting leads to dehydration. This may be indicative of a number of diseases, including cancers, organ failure, parvovirus, and a host of other maladies.
Note: Please see your veterinarian if your Labrador experiences any of the symptoms we have described here for you.
How To Buy A Healthy Labrador Puppy
If you decide you want to purchase a purebred Labrador puppy, make sure to look for a reputable breeder. He is the only one to assure that you have a healthy puppy.
Good, honest Labrador Retriever breeders commonly screen all their buyers before they ever turn over a Lab pup to someone they do not know. They do not sell over the internet or in pet stores. You will be able to visit the breeding facility – whether it is a farm, kennel, or family home – and you will meet the parents of the puppy you are wanting. Additionally, reputable breeders provide all paperwork detailing your new Labrador puppy’s ancestry, including a family tree and legal pedigree. They will also make sure your puppy receives the initial vaccinations. Also, both puppy and his mother must have been tested and dewormed for intestinal parasites.
A good Labrador breeder should have tested the parents of your Lab puppy for hip and elbow dysplasia. Appropriate x-rays and hip-scoring tests are a must prior to the breeding. The should also have performed genetic testing on both parents for progressive retinal atrophy, a congenital disease that leads to eventual blindness. Responsible Lab breeders will not mate dogs with either of those disorders.
Preventing Labrador Health Issues
As a new pet parent, you will need to be proactive to keep your growing Labrador puppy healthy and happy.
They will need all their boosters and vaccines at 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks of age. These typically include vaccines for distemper, measles, parainfluenza, bordetella, hepatitis, parvovirus, and rabies. Some of the vaccines may be combined into one inoculation.
Your veterinarian may also want to test the feces for intestinal parasites. Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and Giardia are all microscopic organisms that feast on your Labrador puppy’s intestinal products while causing severe diarrhea and anemia.
At some point, you will have to decide whether to spay or neuter your Labrador puppy. Spaying before the first heat is the best way to prevent mammary and uterine cancers in older Labradors. Neutering in males prevents prostate and testicular cancers.
As your puppy ages, you may want to afford her the best nutrition. Good behavioral training, and regular, daily exercise are also important for her healthy journey.
Regular visits to the vet, home tooth brushing and veterinary teeth cleaning, and regular bathing and grooming are a must for a healthy pet. Your Labrador Retriever’s interaction with the family is essential. It ensures that he has his best chance at living a long and happy life.