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Labrador Retriever Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Labrador Retriever

Start your Labrador Retriever puppy off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.

Jump down to this list of
Labrador Retriever Health Problems


Or check out my advice for raising a healthy Labrador Retriever puppy or adult dog:

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Labrador Retriever lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet.

Real homemade dog food The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your Lab
Food is the #1 foundation for good health. The best diet for feeding your dog is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, fish....these are not just "people foods" and I'll tell you why.

Dry kibble and canned dog food Kibble or Canned Dog Food – Almost As Good As Homemade?
Are you looking for the best dry kibble or canned dog food?

NomNomNow homemade dog food service Feed Homemade Dog Food Without Needing To Make It
Would you like to feed your dog homemade, but think you don't have the time or skill to make it? I have the solution for you....

Pet insurance Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review
My advice on the pros and cons of pet insurance, and the best pet insurance company I've found.

Information on booster shots for your German Shepherd. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Labrador Retriever puppy really need? Does your adult Lab need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you.

Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of spaying your female dog.

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of neutering your male dog.

Information on choosing the best vet The Type of Veterinarian I Recommend
Is your veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Learn about the differences between vets who practice conventional, holistic, and alternative veterinary medicine.

Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review: How I Helped Treat Inflammation and Pain
Does your dog suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis, a skin wound? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to help reduce inflammation and pain.

Labrador Retriever dog breed

Complete list of Labrador Retriever health problems

The typical lifespan of Labrador Retrievers is 10-12 years. Some do live to 13 or 14, but often with chronic health issues such as arthritis.


Orthopedic disorders

Most large breeds, including Labs, have higher-than-average rates of hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, which can range from uncomfortable to crippling. Surgery may or may not be possible. These joint diseases always result in arthritis, as well.

Other painful orthopedic conditions can strike young Labradors: hypertrophic osteodystrophy (very serious) or panosteitis (less serious, usually goes away with maturity, but causes pain and lameness for months).

Labrador Retrievers are also prone to rupturing the cruciate ligament in their hind legs. Actually both cruciate ligaments, since when one goes, the other usually follows months or years later.

Eye diseases

  • When a Lab has inherited genes for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), it will appear at 4-8 years old and always leads to blindness.
  • Cataracts can appear anytime from birth to old age.
  • Retinal dysplasia (RD) is fairly common in Labrador puppies, especially from field-hunting lines. RD ranges from mild to severe. Oddly enough, it can be accompanied by a form of dwarfism in which the front legs are shortened and bowed out at the elbows.
  • Eyelid abnormalities in Labradors include entropion and ectropion.

Heart disease

The form of heart disease that is most concerning in Labrador Retrievers is called tricuspid valve dysplasia (TVD).

TVD occurs in other breeds as well, but it is inherited in Labradors. Someone thinking of breeding should make absolutely sure to test both parents for this disease. It is simply irresponsible to breed any Lab without testing for TVD.

There's no cure for TVD. You just have to hope it doesn't progress too quickly. You can try to manage the symptoms with medications and careful monitoring of exercise.

Skin disorders and tumors

Allergies are common. Allergies cause itchy skin and often lead to bacterial skin infections (pyoderma). Other skin diseases in Labs include seborrhea, lick granuloma, and nail bed disease.

Lumps, growths, tumors, and cancers (especially those that first appear on the skin) are fairly common in Labrador Retrievers.

These include mast cell tumors, melanoma, histiocytic sarcoma, and digital squamous cell carcinoma. That last one is cancer that appears on one of the dog's toes. Yes, that sounds odd, but it's a very serious cancer.

Neurological or neuromuscular diseases

Labrador Retrievers can be affected by some extremely serious, even deadly disorders that affect the brain, nervous system, and/or muscles. The names of these conditions are a real mouthful to say, but you should be aware of them if you're interested in Labs.

Polyneuropathy (specifically centronuclear myopathy), laryngeal paralysis, megaesophagus, myasthenia gravis, cerebellar ataxia, and narcolepsy.... all occur in Labrador Retrievers.

Some Labs may have vague head tremors that aren't harmful, but may be the result of unknown abnormalities in the brain.

Finally, there is exercise-induced collapse (EIC) which is exactly what it sounds like. It first appears in older pups and adolescents, especially those from field/hunting lines.

EIC only appears when the dog is exercising vigorously – not just running around, but participating in a strenuous activity (such as a hunting field trial) where the dog is extremely excited and intense. An affected dog suddenly becomes incoordinated and begins swaying, then collapses and requires a rest of 10-20 minutes before he can move again.

The cause of EIC is not known for sure. But it is hereditary in Labs, so it's important to test at least one parent before breeding. Fortunately, it's a mostly benign condition that need only be managed sensibly, by restricting intense exercise in dogs who have inherited the disorder.

Miscellaneous health issues

As with all deep-chested breeds, Labrador Retrievers are at higher-than-normal risk for the emergency gastrointestinal syndrome called bloat.

Epilepsy, which appears around the age of 2 or 3, has become a serious concern in the breed.

Hormonal/endocrine system diseases occur in Labs, especially hypothyroidism, but also diabetes and Addison's disease.

Blood-clotting diseases (von Willebrand's, hemophilia A, hemophilia B) are potential concerns in Labrador Retrievers.

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if both parents of your Labrador Retriever have certificates proving they were tested and cleared of hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and eye diseases, your Lab has less risk of developing those conditions.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton Other health problems can be prevented, or partially prevented, by the ways you raise your dog.

My best-selling book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to raise your Labrador Retriever puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways. It will help you be your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.