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What Are The Health Risks for Labrador Retrievers?

What Are The Health Risks for Labrador Retrievers?

According to research from the American Kennel Club, the Labrador retriever is the most popular dog breed in the country. Labs are well-loved because of their even temperament and active nature. They are playful, loving, loyal, and devoted. They are patient with children and make excellent family pets. Although many Labrador Retrievers bark protectively when meeting new people, they usually don’t make good guard dogs.

Labs face relatively few health issues compared to many other breeds. However, like all animals, they do sometimes experience health concerns. The most common health problems in labs are related to the eyes, joints, and nervous system. Not all labs will encounter these problems, but the breed is predisposed to these issues, and owners should be aware of the signs and treatment options.

Eyes Problems in Labrador Retrievers

Labs have friendly, intelligent, and loving eyes. Unfortunately, eye problems are common in labs. The most common eye-related health risks include:


Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to be opaque instead of clear, which prevents light from hitting the retina and can eventually lead to blindness. Labs likely inherit cataracts through their genetics, but researchers are unaware of which gene is responsible. You can notice cataracts if one or both of your dog’s eyes have a milky or cloudy appearance.

Juvenile cataracts, or congenital cataracts, can occur in labs up to six years old. Surgery is a possible treatment option, but it is usually expensive, and labs don’t always respond well to the operation. Some Labrador Retrievers still go blind even after having a corrective surgery, so many pet owners choose not to have the surgery.

Retinal Dysplasia

Retinal dysplasia is the abnormal development of the retina. Ideally, folds will form in the retina’s outer layers as the eyes develop. Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for retinal dysplasia. Labs are often able to compensate for their loss of vision with their acute senses of hearing and smell, though. If your dog has retinal dysplasia, always try to keep his surroundings constant to help him find his way around.

Progressive Retina Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is a combination of eye diseases that eventually results in the destruction of the retina, leading to blindness. Labrador retrievers often inherit a form of progressive retinal atrophy called progressive rod-cone degeneration, which damages the retina’s rod cells. Rod cells help the eyes see in dim lighting, so the first sign of the disease is usually night blindness. If you notice that your dog doesn’t like to go outside at night, it may be a warning sign. Take your dog to the veterinarian immediately if you see this.

Joint Problems in Labrador’s

Joint problems are common in dogs as they age, especially in Labrador retrievers. Three of the most common joint problems in labs are arthritis, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.


Arthritis occurs when the smooth cartilage in a joint wears down and becomes rougher, which makes the bones rub together. The disease is common in aging dogs, but it’s not unavoidable. You can take steps to prevent arthritis in your lab by controlling his weight from a young age. Also, keeping his feet and toenails in good condition so he can always walk normally will lower his risk of developing arthritis.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a genetic condition that is characterized by the abnormal development of the joint in the hip, which causes difficulty walking and running. If you notice your dog is bunny hopping or limping, it could be a sign of hip dysplasia. Labrador retrievers with hip dysplasia are at an increased risk of arthritis, so it’s best to care for the problem as early as possible. Treatments include surgery and medical therapy.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a combination of multiple congenital elbow diseases. When a lab’s elbow joints are malformed or distorted, it can lead to cartilage and bone damage, resulting in osteoarthritis. If your lab shows a lameness in one of his front limbs, you should have him checked for elbow dysplasia. Surgery is the best option for treating this issue.

Nervous System Problems in Labrador Retrievers

Many nervous system problems are more severe than eye or joint problems, but they can usually be treated or controlled. Two of the most common nervous system health concerns in Labrador retrievers are hereditary myopathy and epilepsy.

Hereditary Myopathy

Hereditary myopathy is inherited genetically and is characterized by the gradual degeneration of the skeletal muscles. The disease usually begins when a lab is between five and eight months old. If your lab begins showing signs of intolerance to exercise, bunny hopping while running, collapsing after small exertions of energy, and struggling to lift his head up, he could have hereditary myopathy. Fortunately, the condition usually stabilizes by the time the lab is between 10 and 12 months old, and he can continue to live a normal, happy, and energetic life.

Epilepsy issues in Labrador Retrievers

Epilepsy, which is caused by abnormalities in the brain, is characterized by seizures and is sometimes idiopathic. In Labrador retrievers, epilepsy usually begins at five months and five years. Common treatments include drugs like potassium bromide and Phenobarbital, both of which control the frequency and severity of the seizures.

Not all sudden behavioral changes in your lab are signs of a health concern. However, you can usually notice a health problem in your dog from a sudden change in their behavior. Most labs are extremely playful and friendly, so if your energetic lab becomes quiet, withdrawn, and inactive, there may be a problem. You lab’s health and well being rests in your hands, so always be sure to stay aware of changes in behavior, and stay on the lookout for other signs of health problems. Even if you don’t think a problem is severe of if you’re unsure whether your lab has a problem at all, it’s always better to get a problem checked out early on and get the sinking boat back on sail.

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