Labrador Health Issues

Below is a brief outline of some of the health issues which maybe of concern for the Labrador Retriever and should in no way to be considered as a complete listing. This is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care - always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.

Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip joint (coxofemoral joint) that occurs during an animal's growth period. In essence, the ball of the femur can’t fit properly into the hip socket. An affected dog may show absolutely no signs of this condition, whilst others may show severe signs. Environmental factors also play a role in the development of dysplasia including diet, weight gain and exercise.
Hip dysplasia develops in young growing dogs, and signs maybe noticed as early as four to six weeks of age. However, there is no link between age and severity of this condition which means a very young puppy can be debilitated very early. A puppy/dog suffering from hip dysplasia could demonstrate the following:
·         Hind leg lameness
·         Lack of coordination in the hind quarters (swaying and staggering)
·         Reluctance to run and jump
·         Difficulty when attempting to lie down or stand up
·         Abnormal gait
Elbow dysplasia is the counterpart to hip dysplasia.  Basically, elbow dysplasia affects the dog’s front legs in a similar way to the way hip dysplasia affects the dog’s hind legs; both are problems with the joints. If left untreated, arthritis develops, causing lameness and extreme pain for the dog.
This is a disease with normal rod and cone cell development but late onset degeneration of the rod cells that progresses to the cone cells. It is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait and has been linked to the ninth canine chromosome. The effect this has on a Labrador Retriever is night blindness by four to six years old, blind at six to eight years of age.
Exercise Induced Collapse is a genetic syndrome. Some affected dogs show signs of muscle weakness, incoordination, and life-threatening collapse when participating in strenuous exercise or activity. Affected dogs can tolerate mild to moderate exercise, but just 5 to 20 minutes of strenuous activity, or even extreme excitement can induce weakness or collapse. Dogs affected with EIC usually cannot continue with intense retriever training, but can live normal lives as house pets.
EIC is being observed with increasing frequency in young adult Labrador Retrievers. Dogs that have EIC are prone to mild to severe collapse that can range from dragging of the hind legs to complete collapse.
Entropion is an inward rolling of the eyelid edges. This is a common eye problem and can be present soon after birth or acquired later in life. It most commonly affects the lower eyelids. There is no medical therapy to correct the entropion itself - surgical correction is necessary. Once corrected, there should be no ongoing issues related to entropion.
Because of their floppy ears and their love of swimming, Labradors can be prone to ear infections. Not all Labs get them, but those who do, it can become a chronic hard to manage problem, if neglected. It is important to check your Lab's ears regularly. The ear should be light pink or flesh-toned and clean, and there should be no odor coming from the ear or the ear canal.

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. This can first occur in one hind limb and then affect the other. As the disease progresses, the limbs become weak and the dog begins to buckle and has difficulty standing. The weakness gets progressively worse until the dog is unable to walk. The clinical course can range from 6 months to 1 year before dogs become paraplegic. If signs progress for a longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur and eventually weakness will develop in the front limbs. Another key feature of DM is that it is not a painful disease. 



Hyperuricosuria means elevated levels of uric acid in the urine. This trait predisposes dogs to form stones in their bladders or sometimes kidneys. These stones often must be removed surgically and can be difficult to treat. Hyperuricosuria is inherited as a simple autosomal recessive trait. Dogs that carry two copies of the mutation will be affected and susceptible to develop bladder/kidney stones.



Centronuclear myopathy (CNM) in Labrador Retrievers is an hereditary myopathyand the signs associated with CNM vary in severity, but include generalized muscle weakness, difficulty eating, abnormal gait, exercise intolerance, increased collapse when exposed to cold, and decreased reflexes.  As the condition progresses, generalized muscle atrophy is seen and is attributable to the microscopic changes present in the muscles as described below.  Affected dogs will normally begin showing signs of the disease in the first 6 months of life.  The disease tends to progress in severity until about one year of age when the progression will typically stabilize.  However, affected dogs will continue to have issues related to the disease throughout their life. 



Canine Cystinuria is an autosomal recessive disorder that affects a dog's ability to filter cystine out of urine. Normally, tubules in the kidney are responsible for re-absorption of cystine, filtering it out of the urine. In dogs with Canine Cystinuria, the tubules are unable to transport the cystine, allowing it to accumulate in the urine. Cystine is generally insoluble in the acidic conditions of canine urine, allowing it to crystallize and form caliculi, also known as stones. 

Not every dog that has the mutation responsible for Cystinuria will exhibit symptoms. Stones causing inflammation and blockage are often more common in males, due to their long, narrow urethra. Females exhibit symptoms much less frequently and may be completely asymptomatic.



Myotubular Myopathy is an inherited muscle disease known to affect Labrador Retrievers. Affected puppies are typically normal at birth, but between 7 and 19 weeks of age they present with muscle weakness especially in the hind limbs, decreased muscle mass, a hoarse bark and difficulty eating. Puppies are smaller than littermates, walk with a short, choppy gait and often fall over. The disease rapidly progresses from generalized muscle weakness and frequent episodes of collapse to a complete inability to stand or even raise their heads within 4 weeks of initial presentation. 



Dogs are infamous for their frequent napping habits. While naps are quite normal for domestic dogs, sometimes excessive daytime sleepiness is caused by a medical condition called narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a syndrome in which the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted, causing tiredness, lethargy and brief periods of muscle paralysis or unconsciousness.

Dogs suffering from narcolepsy periodically (and abruptly) fall into a state of deep sleep during normal waking hours. They often become partially or completely immobilized, and then spontaneously recover. 



Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency is a disorder that affects red blood cells. Dogs suffering from pyruvate kinase deficiency have a mutated form of pyruvate kinase, an important enzyme in cellular metabolism. This defect causes the red blood cells to die, leading to severe hemolytic anemia. Because red blood cells deliver oxygen to tissues around the body, it is important that dogs are able to maintain an adequate supply of red blood cells, and dogs suffering from PK deficiency typically are chronically anemic.



Retinal folds are common in many breeds.  Generally, this finding not clinically significant and the condition may not be inherited.  In Labrador Retrievers and Samoyeds, retinal folds may indicate that the dog carriers the gene that is associated with Oculoskeltal Dysplasia (OSD).  This serious inherited disorder results in skeletal malformations, including dwarfism, and retinal detachment that results in blindness at an early age.


HNKP is an inherited skin disorder in Labradors.  Affected dogs develop scales and crusts on the nose. Painful cracks on the nose may also develop.  This disorder can be managed with moisturisers and antibiotics if necessary.  The abnormal gene is recessive, therefore, an affected dog must inherit the defective gene from both parents. Dogs carrying one abnormal gene will not develop the disorder.






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