Labrador Retriever

Health Problems

Labrador Retrievers are known to be fun-loving pups who like to run, play and show affection. They're a hardy breed with a life expectancy that can regularly reach up to 13 years. As their pet parents, it's up to us to learn about—and know the warning signs—of the breed's most common health issues so we can help keep them healthy, happy and by our sides for years to come.

Let's take a look at some of the most common medical issues that can affect Labrador Retrievers and how to identify the symptoms.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Like most large dog breeds, Labrador Retrievers are at increased risk of developing hip dysplasia, a condition where a shallow hip socket causes the ball of the femur to shift in and out of the socket. Hip dysplasia can lead to early-onset hip arthritis. Elbow dysplasia is usually noticeable early in a Lab's life and is typically caused by poor conformation or abnormal growth and development of the elbow joint.

How to Spot it

Puppies with elbow dysplasia will typically feel pain when flexing and extending their elbows. They may show hesitancy using their front legs and may have difficulty standing or walking. Hip dysplasia can be more challenging to spot and often mimics arthritis. Consult your veterinarian if you notice that your dog has trouble running, doesn't want to walk, limps or has difficulty navigating stairs.. Your veterinarian can also perform some special testing such as taking joint X-rays during your pet's puppyhood to assess their likelihood of developing hip or elbow dysplasia.

Recommended Solutions

If your veterinarian determines your pet is at high risk of developing joint dysplasia, they may recommend starting a joint supplement to help prevent and/or slow the onset of clinical signs. Once your dog is experiencing effects from elbow or hip dysplasia, treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and the age of your dog. Options might include surgery and physical therapy. Your vet can also recommend advanced care joint supplements, as well as prescribe pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Allergies

Certain dog breeds—and Labs are included in this category—are more prone to allergies than others. These include food sensitivities, environmental or seasonal allergies and allergies to fleas. Many dogs also experience allergies from several causes, such as food and seasonal at the same time.

How to Spot it

One of the most common allergy symptoms is itching. If you notice your Lab excessively scratching or self-biting, a seasonal, environmental or food allergy may be to blame. Your dog may develop a skin rash, lesions or hair loss due to scratching. Symptoms of food sensitivities may also include vomiting and diarrhea.

Recommended Solutions

Your vet may perform blood or skin allergy testing to determine the specific allergens causing your dog's symptoms. Treatment will depend on the cause of the allergies. Consistent flea and tick prevention will help reduce or eliminate flea-related allergies, while changing your dog's diet can help alleviate food sensitivities. Pharmaceutical intervention is generally necessary for environmental and seasonal allergies, just like with people. Your vet may recommend antihistamines, immune modulators, steroids, topical medications or specialized injections that can help reduce symptoms. Allergic disease is one of the most difficult health conditions to control, so your Lab may need to be on combination therapy.

Ear Infections

Labs are well known for their floppy ears as well as a tendency to love water. This combination can easily lead to bacterial or fungal ear infections. The warm, wet ears of your dog can also be an attractive home for ear mites, which can also lead to infections. Finally, underlying allergic diseases that Labs are also prone to can predispose your dog to getting ear infections from the normal bacteria and fungal organisms that live on their skin.

How to Spot it

Perform a quick ear check if you notice your Lab scratching their ears or shaking their head. Signs of infection include redness and swelling of the ear canal, scabs or crusting near the ear, dark discharge or a foul odor. If your dog is shaking their head, seems to be experiencing pain in their ears or their ears are hot to the touch check in with your veterinarian, even if you don't see specific signs of infection. The infection may be deep in the canal and not visible to the naked eye.

Recommended Solutions

Your vet will likely perform an ear swab to determine if an infection is present. In most cases, ear drops and rinses will be prescribed to clear it up, but be sure to complete the entire course of treatment. You can help prevent further ear infections by cleaning your dog's ears regularly—especially after they take a swim or discover a new favorite mud puddle. Also make sure that any concurrent allergic disease is addressed, as this can be an underlying cause of chronic ear infections.

Bloat

Like many large, deep-chested dogs, Labs are susceptible to bloat. This severe medical condition happens when a dog's stomach twists to an abnormal position and causes gas and fluid buildup like in a balloon. Its specific cause is unclear, and there is no way to prevent it other than through surgical tacking of the stomach. Allowing your dog to drink or eat just before a bout of exercise is thought to increase the chance of bloat.

How to Spot it

The most common sign of bloat is a stiff, distended and swollen stomach. You may notice pacing, heavy breathing, excessive saliva or attempts to vomit.

Recommended Solutions

The most common sign of bloat is a stiff, distended and swollen stomach. You may notice pacing, heavy breathing, excessive saliva or attempts to vomit.

Arthritis

As your Labrador Retriever gets older, they face a growing likelihood of developing arthritis, a condition that afflicts one in four dogs in the United States. This inflammation of the joints can cause pain and limit your dog's mobility. Learn more about signs and treatment for arthritis in dogs.

How to Spot it

If you notice your dog slowing down, limping or displaying a reluctance to run or walk, arthritis could be the cause. They may also have trouble getting into the car or going up or down the stairs.

Recommended Solutions

One way to help keep your Lab feeling good as long as possible is to manage their weight. Overweight and obese dogs tend to put a lot of strain on their joints, which can lead to an earlier onset of arthritis. Unfortunately, once arthritis sets in, there is no cure. Your vet can create a plan to help you manage your pet's pain, however, usually by recommending joint supplements and prescribing pain medications . At Petco, we offer various supplements and vitamins to support dog hip and joint health.

Cancer

No pet parent wants to think about their dog getting cancer, but the good news is that there are many advanced cancer treatment options for dogs. The most common types of cancer in Labrador Retrievers include bone cancer, lymphoma and mast cell tumors.

How to Spot it

Cancer can lead to diminished appetite, weight loss, vomiting and general fatigue. You may also notice lumps on your dog's body. While these lumps can be benign, they should always be checked by your vet just in case.

What to do about it

Cancer treatments vary depending on the type of cancer and how far it has advanced, as well as your dog's age and general health. The most common cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If your Lab develops bone cancer, your vet may recommend amputation of the affected leg.

Obesity

One of the most common health issues among Labs is a condition which you, as your pet's parent , have control over. Many dogs in the US are overweight or obese. Labs can be particularly susceptible to these conditions due to their known affinity for food.

Although you may enjoy rewarding your dog with treats, overfeeding your pet can be damaging to their health. Obesity can increase your dog's risk of arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Some research indicates that overweight dogs live significantly shorter lives than those with an appropriate body weight.

How to Spot it

The most reliable way to tell if your Labrador Retriever is overweight is through a visual assessment of their body condition. Search online for image charts to help you assess your dog's physical condition. You should be able to see a waistline when looking at your dog from above and a slight tuck up behind the ribs when viewing from the side.

If you think your dog may be overweight or experiencing health concerns due to obesity, you can schedule a wellness exam with your vet to find out more.

What to do about it

You can help your overweight Lab lose weight by focusing on their nutrition and increasing their activity level. Ask your vet to help you determine how many calories your dog needs per day as part of a nutritious diet. Implement a strict feeding schedule instead of free feeding. Limit treats, avoid feeding your dog table scraps, and work your way back to getting them plenty of exercise to help avoid further health issues stemming from obesity.

Petco's pharmacy offers a range of medications to help address a variety of health concerns.. We also provide many different types of vitamins and supplements to help support your Lab's quality of life. If your veterinarian recommends a diet change, check out our many high-quality dog foods —including diet dog food and dog food designed for senior dogs. Learn more about how to keep your dog feeling great by reading this blog on 9 common health conditions in dogs.

Petco's pharmacy offers a range of medications to help address a variety of health concerns. We also provide many different types of vitamins and supplements to help support your Lab's quality of life. If your veterinarian recommends a diet change, check out our many high-quality dog foods—including diet dog food and dog food designed for senior dogs. Learn more about how to keep your dog feeling great by reading this blog on 9 common health conditions in dogs.