Medical Issues with Labrador Retrievers

Common Medical Problems in Labrador Retrievers

The two most common health problems that labs usually have are:

  1. Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia-These are crippling abnormalities of the joints. Buy from a reputable breeder that has addressed this problem in its breeding stock.
  2. Progressive Retinal dysplasia or atrophy and cataracts-eye disorders

yellow labradorPreventative Steps To A Healthy and Happy Labrador

Photo right: Courtesy of Endless Mountain Labradors

Start all of these preventative steps when your dog is a small puppy so that they become used to these and they become second nature to your dog rather than a struggle as your dog gets older when it is imperative that they be done.

  1. Labradors are shedding dogs. They need to be brushed 1 or 2 times weekly with a firm brush or currying comb. The short coat is easy to comb but needs to be done regularly. This of course needs to be done outside. This will cut down on the housecleaning and will keep the Lab’s skin clean and healthy. Much of the literature says that a Labrador is a medium shedder. I would argue that this is an underestimate.
  2. Labrador’s triangular shaped ears fit tight to their heads and trap moisture. They need to be cleaned weekly with an ear wash and dried with a soft cloth. Ear infections are common with Labradors and this simple weekly task will save time and money at the vets and a lot of aggravating ear and head slinging.
  3. Keep your Labrador thin. Labradors are great eaters and will eat until they can hold no more food. Do not leave the food out and let them eat when they want to. Automatic feeders were not made for Labradors. To extend their life span they need to be kept thin. Regular exercise and well controlled portions are the rule for a lab.
  4. Keep your Labrador off the furniture and keep them from jumping off high objects. One of the most common health issues with Labrador Retrievers are problems with their joints. This may not stop a genetic hip or knee defect but it will stop an overly energetic Labrador from hurting themselves and causing premature arthritis. Also, a herniated disc in the back is not unheard of for a Labrador.
  5. Brushing Teeth – This is almost impossible to start with an older dog. Vets will tell you that it is very important to keep dogs teeth clean and free of tartar in order to promote overall health. Puppies will see it as a game and the toothpaste which you can buy at all animal specialty stores will be a treat.
  6. Bathing – Some of the Labrador literature tells not to bath a Labrador. My dogs have always been bathed 1-2 times monthly. My dogs love a bath. In fact, I can tell my younger dog that it is time for a bath and she will go sit in the tub and wait on me. Labradors are not smelly dogs like some hound breeds but a bath makes them smell really nice and cuts the shedding in half.
  7. Nails – Labradors are extremely sensitive to having their feet touched. Their nails grow long quickly and will scratch hardwood floors and linoleum. If they grow too long they also tend to throw off their stance. Trim their nails often and start doing it when they are very young. Remember to cut off small portions at a time so as not to cut into the quick and cause them to bleed.
  8. Keep your Lab’s food and water dishes clean. This may seem like common sense, but some people do not consider this. Dogs like humans are susceptible to germs so keep their dishes as clean as yours.
  9. Labradors do well when you leave them on the same food all the time. Once you have found a good quality food that your dog likes do not swap around to different foods. Swapping foods will usually give your Lab diarrhea. If you find it necessary to change foods ( for instance from puppy to adult) do it in steps. Introduce ¼ of the new food mixed with the old food for 3-4 days. If no adverse reaction occurs then go to ½ new food and ½ old food for another 3-4 days. After a week then go completely to the new food.
  10. If your dog develops diarrhea or nausea for some reason you need to be very careful. Dogs dehydrate quickly. Take them off dog food and at the same time give them all the water they want. If a dog refuses to take water then they need to make a trip to the vet.

Homemade Dog Food for Stomach Upset

When dogs develop stomach problems and can not tolerate their usual dog food there is a great food that you make yourself which is easily tolerated and helps them to get over stomach distress. (My dogs have never turned this food down)

1 lb cooked and well drained ground beef
4 cups cooked rice
2 cups cottage cheese
1 can veg-all vegetables

I have been making this food for my old lab (14 years old) for several months. As long as she eats this, there are no stomach problems. The minute I try to introduce dog food she gets diarrhea.
I have used this recipe with my dogs for years.  It was originally given to me by my daughter’s Vet.

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