Labrador Retriever Health Issues & Problems

Labrador Retriever Health Issues & Problems

Although Labrador Retrievers are more genetically diverse than most purebreds, they still come with some common canine health issues and problems. Ailments that are frequently seen among a dog breed are generally caused by a combination of the genes inherited from parents and the environment the dog grows up in, especially during early life.

Environmental factors include diet, exercise, and hormones. You can help reduce some of these negative outcomes by being aware of common health problems affect Labrador Retrievers and how to manage them.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common ailment for many medium to large dog breeds. It is caused by abnormal formation of the hip socket causing deterioration of the hip which can lead to canine arthritis of the joints and/or loss of function. Usually hip dysplasia doesn’t become an issue for dogs until middle or later years, but can develop as early as 5 months.

When looking for a Lab puppy request for the hip scores of the parents of the puppies. All responsible breeders should have these scores.The hip score is given by examining an X-ray of a dog 1 year or older. Each hip is given a score of 0 to 53, combined the total hip score ranges from 0 to 106.

Low scores that are even on each side scores are best. According to the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club (BVA/KC), Labrador Retriever’s average hip score is 9, it’s ideal to have parents that are around or below this average.

Labrador Retriever health problems

Elbow Dysplasia

Similar to hip dysplasia, except abnormal formation and deterioration occurs at the elbow joint. Clinical signs of canine elbow dysplasia is often seen between 4 and 10 months, although late onset can occur too.

Treatment involves surgical removal of bone fragments and cartilage followed by weeks of physical therapy during recovery.

Elbow Grade gives a score between 0 and 3 based on an X-ray examination for elbow dysplasia. 

According to BVA/KC, Labrador Retrievers used for breeding should have an elbow grade of 0. So this is something to be aware of when you are looking for a Lab puppy to bring home.

PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) Blindness

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs is a blanket term used to describe a variety of diseases that cause retinal degeneration that leads to canine blindness. The most common PRA type in Labradors is progressive rod-cone degeneration, or prcd, where the rod cells have a mutation that eventually cause them to die.

This can occur as early as 1 year or may develop later between 3 and 5 years. There are many signs but the most common include the eye appearing cloudy and changes in behavior. Most eye diseases are passed from parent to offspring, so be sure to review a recent eye exam certification of the parents before adopting your pup.

Ear Infections

Ear infections in dogs are common for Labradors due to the intrinsic structure of their ear. The only way to manage ear infections is ensuring ear is dry after bathing and regularly checking the ear for abnormal discharge, odor, and/or redness. Common behaviors of dogs with an ear infection include: head shaking and pawing/rubbing at their ears.

Obesity-Related IssuesLabrador Retriever Health Issues

Labradors are known for rapid eating which can cause dangerous gastric distention, known as bloat in dogs.

Gastric distention is swelling of the stomach and becomes fatal when the stomach rotates preventing the canines ability to vomit and puts pressure on internal organs.

There is no known genetic link of bloat and there is very little information on preventing it besides slowing the rate your dog eats and feeding on ground level.

Reducing Labrador Retriever Health Risks


Keeping your Labrador healthy can reduce the effect of many health problems, including both dysplasias. One obvious way to keep track of your Labradors weight to ensure he is in the average range. Feeding should be regular but avoid overfeeding as extra weight is bad for joints.


Exercise your Lab correctly. Labrador Retrievers have a lot of energy and do require a lot of daily exercise but during these growing months be careful. Vigorous exercise can be hard on the forming hip socket, if your Lab is under 5 months old keep the walks on the shorter side since he can get most of his exercise just playing in the yard.

When your pup is less than 3 months old avoid the use of stairs and until 12 months keep stair use to a minimum because it is hard on his forming joints.

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