We all love our labrador retrievers. They can require some careful attention, but we’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they stay healthy and keep their positive dispositions and gorgeous smiles. With their happy faces and warm hearts, a labrador retriever is a joyous presence and can make any day better. They’re our best friends, and we have to keep them safe.
This is why it’s important that everyone knows the potential health risks they need to look out for in labrador retrievers, whether they already have one or are just toying with the idea of getting one. They’re one of the healthier breeds, but any dog can get sick and they rely on us to know the warning signs.
Common Health Problems in Labrador Retrievers
The health problems that your pet might develop can be divided into three main categories:
- Joint issues;
- Canine cancers;
- Obesity-related conditions.
These conditions can often overlap. Each will have different causes, but as a general rule they’ll either be environmental, inherited or a combination of both.
1. Hip Dysplasia
Abnormal development on the hip joint is the primary characteristic of this genetic disease. Hip dysplasia cases can range from “mild” to “severe”, and are mostly an issue in large dog breeds – like labrador retrievers. Medical therapy and/or surgery are used to treat the condition. Hip dysplasia’s signs and symptoms can include…
- A pronounced limp;
- Lower drive to be active;
- Narrow stance (back legs close together);
- Occasional or consistent lameness in the hind limbs, especially after exercise;
- Degeneration in the joints and osteoarthritis;
- Bunny hopping;
- Difficulty rising;
- Pain in hip joints;
- Reluctance to jump, go up stairs or run;
- Laxity or joint looseness.
2. Eye Problems
A serious eye disease that causes blindness is a common issue in labrador retrievers, and this can affect them even as puppies. You can get your dog examined by a vet specialising in this field to attain a “clear” BVA eye test certificate, which will show you that at the time of the examination, your dog does not have this disease.
A clear test result doesn’t mean that the dog hasn’t inherited the condition or that they will never develop it, it simply means that at the time of the test they showed no signs or symptoms. For this reason, it’s important that you get your labrador retriever’s eyes tested every year at their annual checkup.
If you’re getting a labrador retriever puppy from a breeder, it’s a good idea to check that both parents have a “clear” eye certificate that’s no more than a year old.
3. Elbow Dysplasia
In young dogs of large and giant breeds, elbow dysplasia is the most common cause of forelimb lameness. It can sometimes be a result of injury or poor diet, but in most cases it occurs as a hereditary disease. Elbow dysplasia is a joint problem where varying growth rates in the three bones making up the elbow result in the elbow joints on a dog’s front legs becoming malformed.
This is a generally a lifelong illness, though symptoms can be improved to a certain degree through surgery. Labrador retriever owners should look out for symptoms such as…
- Discomfort when stretching or moving the joint;
- Limited motion range;
- Holding forelimb out;
- Avoiding using the limb to support weight;
- Persistent or occasional forelimb lameness made worse by exercise;
- Grating of joint and bone movement;
- Buildup of fluid on the joint;
- Severe (sudden) instances of elbow lameness.
4. Dental Disease
By the age of two, 80% of all dogs will be affected by dental disease, which is the most common chronic problem in pets. On top of that, labrador retrievers are more likely than any other dog breed to develop dental issues. Infections can develop in the roots of your dog’s teeth and in their gums if tartar is allowed to build up. Your dog can lose their teeth and risk damage to their liver, joints, heart and kidneys if dental disease isn’t prevented or treated properly.
Untreated dental disease can cut between one and three years from a labrador retriever’s lifespan. So be sure to clean your dog’s teeth regularly and do all you can to keep their mouths healthy!
5. Skin Conditions
You should talk to your vet as soon as possible if your labrador retriever exhibits signs of a skin condition, as there may be a more serious issue hidden below. As in many other canine breeds, skin diseases are pretty common in labrador retrievers. Skin conditions are one of the most common reasons for a dog or cat to be taken to the vet.
Skin conditions can come from many sources including food, ticks, bacteria, parasites, pollen, mould, mites, fungi, warm or cold air, fleas and dirt. Common canine skin complaints include…
- Lick Granuloma. A dog’s urge to lick the lower parts of their legs can result in this problem.
- Fatty tissues that form benign tumours.
- Sebaceous Adenitis. This is a hereditary condition where the sebaceous glands become inflamed and cause hair loss.
- Sebaceous cysts. These are swellings in the skin of the sebaceous gland, generally filled with yellowish sebum.
- Seborrhea. This is a chronic inflammatory skin disease characterised by the excessive discharge of sebum from the sebaceous glands.
6. Ear Infections
Warm, moist air can easily become trapped in the ear canals under your labrador retriever’s long, floppy ears. Infections and bacteria thrive in this sort of environment. Try to clean your lab’s ears as often as you can. Many pet stores sell special doggy ear wash, which you can use with a simple cotton ball. Don’t poke too deeply into the ear canal, but scrub the inside of the ear flap very gently and try to clean all the folds and creases.
Visit your vet immediately if you ever detect an unpleasant odour, discharge or unusual buildup in your dog’s ears. These are all signs of an infection, which your vet will need to treat.
Did you know that the Labrador Retriever is the UK’s most popular dog? For more information about our favourite companion, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to Labrador Retrievers which walks the owner through ‘essential things to know’ including: microchips; vaccinations; insurance; weight etc. All aspects of care are covered including: the Labrador Retriever as a puppy; the Labrador as a ‘teen-ager’; feeding and exercising and dangerous foods to be avoided.