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The Most Common Labrador Health Issues and How to Handle Them

Chocolate Lab in a Wheelchair

Certainly one of the most popular breeds has truly managed to conquer the world with its lovable and playful personality, goofiness, loyalty, and overall cuteness. Labrador owners will tell you without a shadow of a doubt, Lab puppies are extremely devoted, affectionate, and occasionally mischievous.

But we forgive them everything since they are extremely adorable! Now, even though back in the day they were classified as working dogs, this breed is generally perfect for, families, families with small children, and households with other pets.

If you are planning to get a Labrador, then you should first get familiar with some health conditions they may potentially have. It’s always good to be prepared in advance, so let’s see what’s on the list.

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Walkin’ Lift Rear Harness
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Walkin’ Drag Bag

Labradors and Health Conditions


Even though Labradors are generally obsessed with their owners and would do anything for them, there’s one thing they probably love the most, food. This adorable breed is very food-oriented, and they would practically give their lives for it.

It’s literally impossible to eat anything without giving them at least one bite. Although this can be of huge help during training (because they love, love, love treats) if you’re not careful enough, your dog can become overweight or obese at some point which is definitely not a good thing.

Many studies have reported that precisely, obesity is one of the most common health problems with this breed. Just like with humans, obesity can become a major problem. If not treated properly, it can increase the risk of having these health conditions:

  • Hypertension 
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Bladder stones
  • Heart problems
  • Joint problems and arthritis 

These health conditions can seriously jeopardize their health. Unfortunately, overweight and obese dogs usually live almost three years less than dogs who do not have any excess fat. 

Sometimes this can be inherited, however, most frequently it occurs because their owners overfeed them. So if you want your adorable Lab to stay in shape and healthy for as long as possible, then there are some things that you must do to help him.

For starters, change their diet. Control their portions, do not give them what you eat, and make sure they are having a balanced diet. Moreover, ensure they are having the right amount of exercise. If you notice that your puppy is becoming chubby, talk to your vet to see what needs to be done.

Joint Problems

Hip brace for canine hip dysplasia

A majority of Labradors are sadly having issues with an elbow or hip dysplasia. Namely, these conditions can impact elbow joints or hip, preventing normal movement and causing severe pain and immobility.

Can you prevent this health issue? Huge Lab lovers suggest that, unfortunately, it’s not preventable. However, you can decrease its effect if you maintain a healthy weight for your dog, and provide him with high-quality foods that are loaded with nutrients, vitamins, etc.

Furthermore, there are a lot of supplements on the market for joint problems. No one can guarantee you one hundred percent that they are going to be able to help, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Still, before purchasing anything, make sure you’ve consulted the vet first.

Health Problems That Can Arise in Labrador Retrievers


Generally speaking, cancer is one of the most common problems in dogs older than ten years. Dogs are actually much more susceptible to it than humans. On a more positive note, in the last couple of years, many treatments have come to the forefront.

A dog diagnosed with cancer is no longer perceived as a ‘death sentence’. However, early detection is key to a good recovery.

The most common signs of canine cancer include abnormal swelling that keeps on growing, unusual discharges and/or bleeding loss of appetite, or issues with swallowing, difficulty relieving himself, or breathing, constant limping, loss of stamina, unintentional weight loss, sores that take a lot of time to heal or that won’t heal at all, the awkward smell from his mouth, etc.

If you notice any of these things, make sure to immediately contact your vet. It’s better to uncover it early, so it can be treated properly. When it comes to treatments, the most common ones include radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.

Osteochondritis Dissecans 

Labrador Retriever wheelchair

Short for OCD, this represents a growth abnormality that can potentially affect your Labrador between four and nine months of age. This issue begins at the cartilage lying, near the end of your puppy’s bones.

Now, if this cartilage starts growing too much, it is going to interrupt its own circulation. Without the proper nutrients, it may begin to crack and as time goes by, it may also float free inside his joint which is not good for his bones because they will not be able to slide against each other.

Unfortunately, this breed has a high risk of developing this condition at the hock joints or elbow. What are the most common symptoms of it? They include:

  • Lameness that get worse after physical activity
  • Swelling at the joints
  • Relying only on one leg
  • Joint grating
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Experiencing pain when moving 

Now, if you notice that your doggo is having any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your vet because if you keep on ignoring these symptoms, it can lead to permanent lameness.

How is Osteochondritis Dissecans diagnosed? For starters, your vet will probably perform a physical examination and will probably have an x-ray to see the current condition of the bones to determine whether there is any loose cartilage.

In puppies younger than six months, an x-ray may not be the best possible solution, since it will not be detailed enough. If that’s the case, then it is highly likely the vet will rely on an arthroscope to examine the joints of your dog.

Once diagnosed, you dog will receive anti-inflammatory medications, as well as some high-quality supplements to help the cartilage to heal up as quickly as possible. For a minor case, those medications will probably get the job done. 

On the other hand, if the situation is a bit more complicated (if the cartilage bits are sliding inside his joints) then the vet will be forced to eliminate the cartilage bit surgically. Even though all of this sounds pretty scary to you right now, don’t worry, it is a routine procedure that is very effective, and practically every Lab leads a long and happy life after it.

Ear Infections

Just like people, dogs are prone to ear infections, and sadly, this issue is quite common with Labradors. Dogs get ear infections because their fluffy ears tend to trap lots of dirt and moisture in their ear canal.

A dog’s ear canal is a perfect environment for bacteria to inhibit and causes some major ear infections. There are three types of ear infections, and the most common one is called otitis externa which attacks the outer ear canal.

Otitis externa symptoms include:

  1. Scratching and pawing at the ear
  2. Head shaking
  3. Unpleasant discharge from the ear
  4. An awful odor
  5. Your dog will showcase the signs of pain around his ear
  6. Inflammation and redness

Fortunately, ear infections in dogs can be prevented if you take these steps:

  • Clean his ears on a regular basis by utilizing an ear cleaner that’s dog friendly
  • Check his ears after swimming and bathing just to make sure they are dry
  • Check his ears regularly just to ensure there aren’t any signs of infections

Heart Disease

Disabled Labrador Retriever plays with dog friend

Unfortunately, heart-related conditions are quite common in dogs. Of course, this happens mostly to the older dogs, but if you want to prevent it, then you have to always prioritize the general wellness of your doggo.

So what can you do? First and foremost, ensure your fur baby has received all essential vaccines, is consuming top-notch food, has enough physical activity, and always stays hydrated. What are you going to do if your Lab is diagnosed with any heart condition?

Just bear in mind that it’s not the end of the world. Most likely, your vet will provide your dog with some first-class supplements, such as Vetmedin Chewable Tablets, that will try to prevent congestive heart failure.

Make sure you are giving your buddy a recommended dosage of this supplement to make sure his heart stays strong for longer periods of time. In this case, having a healthy weight is of huge importance.

Sometimes, if your Labrador older and ‘nothing can be done’, there are always some things that you can do to make sure he lives as long as possible. These things include:

  1. Healthy and nutritious food
  2. Maintaining a healthy weight
  3. Regular physical activity

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

blind dog halo for large dogs

Short for PRA, Progressive Retinal atrophy leads to retinal degeneration and unfortunately blindness. When it comes to this breed in particular, the most common type of progressive retinal atrophy is progressive rod-cone degeneration.

In this type, the cone cells and rod in their eyes develop completely normal, but then due to mutation, in time they start deteriorating and cause blindness. PRA occurs when a dog is really young, around one year of age. However, it is highly likely they will experience symptoms when they are a bit older, between the ages of three and seven.

How do you know if your Labrador has PRA? Typically, the first signs of PRA is your Labrador will start bumping into things and will get scared easily since he isn’t quite aware of the surroundings. The thing that happens first is typically night blindness, which can oftentimes be so progressive that it soon leads to blindness. This usually happens within six months.

No matter how traumatic this may appear to be, do not worry! A majority of dogs adapt to this situation pretty fast, especially if you do everything that’s in your power to make sure their environment is comfortable and safe. 

Furthermore, PRA is a genetic disease, which means your Lab to see can be tested for the genetic markers. Sadly, there is no cure for this illness, however, the good news is, your dog will never be in pain. PRA will not negatively impact your dog’s lifespan.


helping a dog with a neurological condition

Bloat is also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus. And it comes as no surprise since this breed has a huge appetite and will devour anything that’s in front of them.

That’s maybe one of the reasons why their tummies become very sensitive. Instead of giving them one huge meal during the day, it would be recommendable to give them two or three smaller ones because this strategy will decrease the chance of bloating.

What usually causes this condition? It normally happens when your Lab’s tummy fills up with too much food and of course gas. Sometimes, although rarely, their stomach can even twist on itself, which can lead to closing both the exit and entrance. The most common symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Enlarged tummy
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Trying to vomit but nothing comes out
  • Collapse
  • Tachycardia 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pale gums


Generally speaking, Labradors are a very healthy breed, but just like any other, they can suffer from different health issues. Therefore, keep an eye on the ones that were written here, and take them to the vet if necessary.

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