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About the aging Labrador Retriever
Since the average life span of a Labrador is 10-12 years, you must consider a 7-8 year old Labrador aged and in the later one third of his life.
Signs of Aging
The first thing you will see that makes you realize your Labrador is aging is the characteristic graying around the nose, mouth, and eyes.
The leather pads which have developed at the elbow joints will continue to get larger and harder as the Labrador ages. Many times as the dog gets older there will be wart like growths on the top of the pads. These wart like growths while certainly not attractive, are not dangerous to the dog. Making sure that your Labrador has soft places to lie at all times will minimize these warty growths.
As many Labradors age they will begin to develop fatty tumors under their skin. You should immediately have these examined by your veterinarian. My veterinarian has told me that these are usually dangerous if attached by roots. The fatty tumors on my old Labrador feel like they are floating. I continue to have them checked by my veterinarian on a regular basis.
Weight in Older Labradors
The weight of an aging Labrador is the most critical health issue to consider. As your Labrador ages he will continue to slow down, require less and less exercise, and at the same time sleep more. A weight problem will easily occur if you don’t continually monitor their food intake and weight.
All veterinarians will tell you that your Labrador and especially an aging Labrador will need to be kept on the thin side. Your dog’s ribs should be easily seen and the stomach area should taper in. Allowing your older Labrador to get heavier than necessary will diminish his quality of life and age expectancy.
Labradors characteristically have joint problems. Added weight only causes these joint problems to compound and be more pronounced.
Cut back on the dog treats, table scraps, and the amount of dog food if a weight problem begins to surface. Transfer your older lab to an adult dog food and if necessary to a weight control dog food. (Remember the recommendation to gradually change your Labrador’s food in order not to cause stomach distress.)
My youngest Labrador, Lucille, who is now nine years old has always tended to be on the heavy side. She’s been on a constant weight control program since she was three years old. She now only gets three cups of weight control food daily. When she gets a dog treat, which isn’t very often, it’s only ½ of a small dog milk bone. She is sure that I am abusing her but it is in her best interest.
Many Labradors develop arthritis in their joints as they age. The arthritis makes them hurt just as arthritis makes humans hurt. They will begin to limp when walking and fidget or whine when trying to rest. An old dog who displays these symptoms should visit the veterinarian. There are excellent medications that control this pain.
Old Labradors need exercise just as they did when they were younger. They will no longer be as insistent about exercising and will probably not get destructive if not exercised enough but still need exercise just the same. Exercise them daily. Watch your dog and read their signals about how much exercise they can tolerate. They will want to please you and will try to continue long after they should quit. Be careful and do not over do exercise with your old Labrador and do remember to give them plenty of fresh water.
Continue to keep your old Labrador well socialized. Continue to take them out and let them meet new people. I have to continue to work on socialization with one of my Labradors as she has gotten less tolerant of the unknown as she has aged.
If your Labrador lives long enough they will develop other health issues. My fourteen year old Labrador now is almost blind and deaf, has hypertension, early signs of congestive heart failure, and chronic stomach problems. Even with all these problems, I still see glimpses of the puppy I choose fourteen years ago.