Health issues with Labrador Retrievers

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Health issues with Labrador Retrievers

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British Labrador Retrievers are quite possibly the best dogs to own owing to their intelligence, athleticism and training. It is no surprise that Labrador retrievers in general are the most popular breed of dog to own in much of the world. As with any breed of dog there are some specific health ailments that can happen. This post will detail the more common ones so that you, the owner, can be on the lookout for the symptoms and take the necessary steps so that your British Lab will be with you for years to come.

Joint and skeletal issuesLab Puppies for Sale in South Carolina

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) occurs when the ball and socket joint in the hip are malformed so they do not fit properly. Rather than sliding smoothly the joint rubs and grinds and this can be extremely painful. This can affect any breed of dog but it is more common in large dogs like Labrador Retrievers. In most cases it begins when a dog is about four months old and develops into arthritis as the joint cartilage is worn away but it can also occur later in life due to obesity or other factors. A dog with canine hip dysplasia will have trouble getting up, will be reluctant to run, go up steps or even do any physical activity, will walk with a more narrow stance or with a more swaying walk. The shoulder muscles also tend to grow larger as the dog puts more weight on its front legs. It can be detected by a veterinarian and can be corrected either with surgery or therapy depending on the severity.

Another is canine elbow dysplasia. With elbow dysplasia a growth occurs in the elbow that disrupts the joint causing the a mismatch in growth between the two front legs. This is common in larger breeds of dogs like Labrador Retrievers and develops early in life. Overtime it will lead to arthritis and eventually loss of the use of the limb. It can be difficult to detect as it can affect both forelegs so the dog’s stride will be even but the most common symptom is that the dog will not want to exercise. A veterinarian can determine the issue and treatment most often involves surgery.

Hereditary myopathy occurs as the skeletal muscles weaken and degenerate. Affected Labs will begin to exhibit the signs of this between six weeks and seven months of age. They will not want to exercise, will have trouble holding their heads up, will hop while running and will collapse after only a brief exercise period. Cold can make this worse but medication can be used to keep a puppy warm and the condition itself tends to improve as the Lab ages to the point that most can live a normal life.

Vision problems

Entropion, or an inverted eyelid, is another common malady for Labrador Retrievers. The eyelid folds inwards which allows the eye to be scratched. A scar can develop over the wound and can lead to blindness. This is common in dogs, particularly large breeds and sporting breeds. Mucus or pus will be visible in the corner of the eye or the cornea could rupture as a result. Entropion develops because of extra slack in the ligaments around the corner of the eyes which allows the eyelid to fold inwards. This is usually an easy malady to pick up on and should be treated quickly by a veterinarian. The eyelid can be turned outward by suturing in many cases but surgery is also an option and in extreme cases facial reconstruction surgery is necessary.

Labrador retrievers are also susceptible to cataracts and typically manifest in puppies and treatment is done through surgery. Retinal dysplasia can also occur where folds form in the outer eyelids. Mild cases will lead to small folds in a small area of the retina and will usually not cause any issues and they can even disappear as the dog ages. Dysplasia that is geographic will lead to the thinning of the retina and/or detached retinas which will lead to blindness. There is no cure for this and dogs can compensate for a vision issue with their other senses.

Progressive retinal atrophy occurs when the retina cells are destroyed in the eyes. The earliest sign is night blindness and as it develops the dog will not want to go down the steps. It can develop slowly or quickly and will lead to blindness. There is no treatment for this and most dogs can overcome vision issues with their other senses.

Endocrine issues

Hypothyroidism affects the thyroid gland which produces T3 and T4 hormones that keep up a dog’s metabolism. This is common in larger breeds of dogs and tends to occur more in spayed or neutered middle aged dogs. When it happens a dog will become lethargic, will lose a lot of hair, will gain weight, will lose tolerance to the cold and will develop a dry coat. It can be caused by another disease, an iodine deficiency, cancer or as an after-effect of a surgery. A veterinarian can determine if your lab has this through lab tests and medication as well as a change in diet can be implemented to treat it.

Heart issues

Pulmonic stenosis involves a defect in the pulmonic valve of the heart which makes it difficult for blood to exit the heart and enter the pulmonary artery and lungs. Blood pressure increases on the right side of the heart and with the blood vessels that take blood from the body back to the heart. It can lead to heart failure, arrhythmias, fainting and even death in severe cases. Labs with milder cases can live normal lives without issue. Treatment can come from medication to prevent heart failure or from surgery.

Another heart issue is Tricuspid valve dysplasia. This is a congenital disorder where the tricuspid valve does not close properly causing abnormal blood flow and the right side of the heart to work harder. It is common with puppies and they will be lethargic or unwilling to exercise. There is no cure and in most cases ends in death by the age of three.


Labrador Retrievers are predisposed to diabetes, particularly diabetes mellitus. The symptoms include increased drinking and urination. Labs will have an increased appetite yet will lose weight. As the disease advances the appetite will disappear and they will be more prone to infection, cataracts and neurological issues. There is no cure but it can be managed with insulin and a proper diet if caught early.

There are many others to be on the lookout for like epilepsy, cancer, as well as several other less common ailments. The key to keeping your British lab healthy is to keep their weight within a healthy range by feeding them a proper diet and getting them plenty of exercise. This last part is usually not a problem as Labs love the outdoors and exercising. Labs though tend to like to eat and it is easy to overfeed them so be careful. Of course proper veterinary care is essential as well and can be the key to catching many of these issues early.

Hip dysplasia –

Elbow dysplasia –




The dog lives for the day, the hour, even the moment. 
–Robert Falcon Scott