4 common health issues in Labrador retrievers

March 2, 2024 - 4 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Yellow Labrador Retriever standing in profile with arrows indicating hip and elbow joints on a dark green background, suggesting areas prone to dysplasia.

Anyone lucky enough to have a Labrador retriever, affectionately known as a "lab," understands they're not just pets—they're cherished, highly trainable, and loyal members of the family.

With their well-known friendly disposition and boundless energy, it's easy to see why Labs have become one of the most beloved breeds worldwide.

Whether you're considering adding a purebred lab to your family or you're looking to enhance your current lab's health and longevity through preventative care, it's important to be aware of some common health issues that affect the breed.

A quick reminder before we delve deeper: each dog is an individual with unique needs. If you have any concerns about your lab's health, ask your vet first. They can offer advice tailored specifically to your pup.

Hip and elbow dysplasia

Average ManyPets Claim Received: Over $520 (hip dysplasia)
Highest ManyPets Claim Received: Over $9,800 (hip dysplasia)

Yellow Labrador Retriever standing in profile with arrows indicating hip and elbow joints on a dark green background, suggesting areas prone to dysplasia.

A common concern among larger breeds, hip and/or elbow dysplasia occurs when the respective joints develop abnormally, leading to arthritis and discomfort. Symptoms can include a reluctance to exercise, difficulty rising, and a noticeable limp.

Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and veterinary interventions such as medication or surgery can manage these conditions, ensuring your lab maintains a good quality of life.


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A yellow Labrador Retriever standing in profile, with a warm, golden-brown coat and a white underbelly. Two pinkish-red arrows drawn on the image point to the dog's midsection and hip area, highlighting common areas where signs of obesity may be observed, a condition Labradors are prone to due to their hearty appetites. The background of the image is a solid, dark green color, providing a contrast that accentuates the dog's coloring and the informational arrows.

Labradors are known for their love of food, which, if not managed, can lead to obesity—a prevalent issue within the breed.

Excess weight can exacerbate joint problems, like dysplasia, and contribute to other health complications, including diabetes (and potentially lead to a shortened lifespan, as we'll discuss later).

A balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial to keeping your lab at a healthy weight and preventing obesity-related health issues.


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A side profile of a Labrador Retriever. The dog's coat is a soft golden hue, complemented by a white chest and a gentle expression. A pinkish-red arrow points at its eye area, indicating the importance of monitoring for eye conditions, which Labradors can be predisposed to. The background is a deep green.

Cataracts can cause opacity in the lens of the eye, leading to blurred vision and, potentially, blindness. This condition can affect Labradors, particularly as they age, but can be surgically corrected in many cases.

Regular veterinary eye exams can help catch cataracts early, preserving your dog's vision.

Bloat (aka gastric dilation-volvulus)

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A Labrador Retriever is shown in profile against a green background. The dog's golden coat and white chest are visible. A red arrow circles the stomach, indicating a risk area for bloat, a common condition in the breed.

Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a sudden, life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists.

Symptoms include a swollen abdomen, distress, and attempts to vomit without bringing anything up. Bloat requires immediate veterinary attention. Preventative measures include feeding your lab smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding vigorous exercise around feeding times.

Other health concerns in labs

While hip dysplasia, obesity, cataracts, and bloat are among the top concerns for Labrador retrievers, the breed can also be prone to other health issues:

Ear infections: Due to their floppy ears, Labradors are susceptible to ear infections, which can be managed with regular cleaning and monitoring.

Heart disease: Labradors can be affected by various heart conditions, including tricuspid valve dysplasia and myocardial diseases, emphasizing the need for regular veterinary check-ups.

Skin conditions: Allergies and sensitivities can lead to skin problems for Labradors, requiring dietary adjustments and careful grooming.

Remember, regular veterinary visits, a healthy lifestyle, and a strong focus on preventative care (with vaccinations) can help mitigate the risk that your dog develops these conditions.

What do most lab dogs die from?

Many people think that cancer is the biggest reason why Labrador retrievers pass away. But, interestingly, recent studies tell us a different story.

Research done by VetCompass™, in partnership with the Royal Veterinary College and the University of Sydney, looked at over 33,000 labs in the UK. They found that problems with bones and joints, like degenerative joint disease, are actually the most common reasons these dogs die, being responsible for about 24.5% of deaths.

While an arthritis diagnosis might not sound quite as serious as a cancer diagnosis, the truth is that musculoskeletal disorders can reduce mobility, increase the risk of secondary health issues like obesity, and severely impact your dog's overall quality of life.

Final thoughts

Embracing the responsibility of a Labrador's health means taking proactive steps, and this is where lab insurance, along with a non-insurance Wellness plan, can be invaluable.

Pet insurance is designed to alleviate the financial stress associated with unexpected accidents and illnesses, ensuring you're prepared to provide the best care for your furry friend without the burden of unforeseen costs.*

Get a risk-free quote now

*ManyPets analyzes every claim on its own merits, subject to the terms and conditions of your insurance policy. Insurance exclusions apply, including those for pre-existing conditions. See your policy for details.

Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.