WHAT IS THE AVERAGE LIFESPAN OF A LABRADOR RETRIEVER?
You would be forgiven for thinking that the Labrador Retriever's rustic origins have afforded it an iron constitution. After all, these dogs can swim in cold water, track a scent for miles, and even play frisbee for hours on end! The reality, however, is more nuanced. Your Labrador’s health is both robust and fragile. Find out more below!
The Average Lifespan of a Labrador
The average life expectancy of a Labrador is between 10 and 12 years. This is a decent amount of time for a dog and aligns with other dog breeds of the same type and size, such as the Golden Retriever and the Flat-Coated Retriever. Bear in mind that the average life expectancy of any dog breed is only an indication. Your dog could exceed it or, unfortunately, have their life cut short by an accident or unexpected health problem.
Labrador Life Expectancy Linked to Coat Colour
According to a British study of 33,000 Labradors, the colour of your Labrador’s coat can affect their life expectancy. Indeed, chocolate Labradors were found to live significantly shorter lives than other Labs. This is believed to be the result of selective breeding for the chocolate colour, which is a recessive trait. The inadvertent side effect of selective breeding like this is that it narrows the gene pool, thus causing chocolate Lab puppies to receive a higher proportion of genes related to ear infections and skin problems. This ultimately affects the dogs’ lifespan.
How Can I Increase My Labrador's Life Expectancy?
Put the odds in your favour and help to increase your dog's life expectancy by taking a few simple precautions:
Choose a High-Quality Diet
Don't neglect your Labrador’s diet; your dog’s health depends on what goes into their stomach. Low-quality dog food will have a negative impact on your Labrador's health and life expectancy, and vice versa. Choose dog food rich in high-quality animal protein. Try to avoid buying supermarket dog food, as this tends to be very poor in quality and thus incapable of meeting your Labrador's nutritional needs. Always read product labels before buying and pay close attention to the crude ash content (it should be less than 9%), as well as the presence of additives or preservatives. Remember that your dog’s dietary needs will change as they grow: you won't feed a puppy the same way you feed a senior dog.
Prioritise Dog Training
Training your dog can indirectly extend their life expectancy by helping you to prevent accidents. With proper dog training, your Lab will be able to learn how to navigate the world around them safely and without fear. A dog who responds when they're called, is obedient, and understands exactly what is expected of them, is much more capable of following their master's orders. Starting training your Labrador puppy as soon as you welcome them home.
Preventive Care and Maintenance
Taking care of your Labrador also means providing them with preventive care and maintenance. Adhere to your dog's vaccination schedule and make sure to visit your vet every year for a little check-up, especially when your pooch begins to age. Keep your dog's deworming and antiparasitic treatments up to date; parasites like fleas and ticks can sneak into their coat and transmit serious diseases, such as Lyme disease and leishmaniasis.
Don't Neglect Physical Activity
The Labrador is a large dog with a lot of muscle mass to maintain. As such, this active dog breed needs regular exercise to expend all its energy. Take your Lab for at least one long walk a day, in addition to regular playtime and other activities. If you like to run or cycle, why not take your dog with you! Buy lots of toys and games for your Labrador to occupy them while you’re out, especially if you live in an apartment!
What are the Most Common Diseases for a Labrador?
Unfortunately, your Labrador is not infallible and their health may be affected by certain diseases. It’s important to know about these before you adopt a dog in order to be well prepared. Consider taking out pet insurance for your Labrador to cover yourself in the event of unexpected vet fees, and ensure that your pooch gets the care they deserve throughout their life.
Canine obesity is the biggest Achilles' heel for a Labrador's health. Labrador Retrievers are not only greedy but also have a genetic predisposition to gaining weight. Being overweight can trigger an onset of certain more serious pathologies in your Labrador, such as diabetes. It can also exacerbate osteoarthritis because it forces their joints to bear more weight. As with humans, canine obesity is defined as being more than 20% heavier than the healthy weight. This excess weight can have significant consequences on your dog's health, especially over a prolonged period. Obese dogs live an average of two years less than normal and often suffer from heart and respiratory problems. Obesity can also affect your Labrador's daily life, causing them difficulty moving around.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Like the majority of medium and large dogs, the Labrador Retriever has fragile joints. It's not uncommon for this fragility to result in hip or elbow dysplasia, especially if your dog regularly undertakes strenuous physical activity. Dysplasia is a congenital condition caused by a "defect" in the ligaments at the head of the femur. By failing to properly secure the femur to the pelvis, this defect causes deformities and then osteoarthritis in the affected dog. This common joint disorder usually develops during the first six months of a dog’s life. In the vast majority of cases, hip and elbow dysplasia is hereditary. So, be sure to check that your breeder has done the necessary screening tests on your pup’s parents before adopting.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is characterised by degeneration of the retina. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. While not particularly painful, it will nevertheless require certain adaptations in your daily life. It's important to get your Lab screened annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist to prevent the onset of this eye disease. If detected in time, treatment or even surgery could delay its development.
Cataracts involve a gradual thickening of the lens of the eye, which is accompanied by decreased vision and even blindness. Cataracts are treated surgically.
Also known as Idiopathic Epilepsy (IE), this type of epilepsy is defined as recurrent seizures with no identifiable cause. Seizures manifest as a loss of consciousness and convulsions that can last for several minutes. Treatment can be prescribed to help limit seizures and improve the animal's quality of life.
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