labrador retriever health

Labrador Retriever Health Conditions

Top of the AKC List of Dog Breeds

In 2018, the beloved Labrador Retriever once again claimed the top slot of the American Kennel Club’s most popular dog breeds.  The AKC cites that this breed’s versatility and capacity for friendship and love makes it one of the greatest breeds to own all around.

Due to the escalating popularity of the Labrador Retriever breed, many families are eager to get one of their own to add to the family.  As wonderful as this is, it is important for any soon-to-be dog owners to keep in mind the health conditions associated with this specific breed.

By knowing the common health conditions associated with a breed, in this case, the Labrador Retriever, a potential owner can prepare to best love their dog by knowing how to keep them in good health in body and mind.

Below are some of the widespread health conditions that are known to afflict Labrador Retrievers.

Hereditary Muscle Disease (Non-inflammatory Myopathy) in Labrador Retrievers

For the Labrador breed, many are susceptible to inherited muscles diseases, or myopathies.  In these cases of myopathy, the fibers in the muscles are unable to work properly.  This can occur for a number of reasons.

This muscular condition is also known as Centronuclear Myopathy, or CM.  It is a debilitating condition that can develop in dogs as young as 3 months old.  While this condition can improve with sufficient rest, to an extent, frigid temperatures and exercising may worsen it.

Breeders should be especially aware of not breeding dogs diagnosed with CM.  A DNA test can determine its presence or lack thereof.

Myopathy Symptoms

In all cases, it is characterized by the following sings:

  • Extremely weak muscles
  • Hunched over posture
  • Unnatural walking
  • Frequent falling down due to weakness
  • Tendency to tire quickly
  • Muscle tremors

If a Lab is exhibiting symptoms such as these, it is highly advised a vet be seen.

lab hereditary muscle diseaseDiagnosing Myopathy

In order to formally diagnose a Lab with inherited muscular disease, a vet may utilize blood work and urinalysis.  A biopsy of the muscle fibers may be sampled for analysis to determine if the fibers are working as they should.  A DNA test can work to pinpoint whether the specific Lab has inherited the condition.

Obesity in Labrador Retrievers

Like many large breeds of dog, Labrador Retrievers are no different in their battle against obesity.  This condition is one that requires the consistent and determined help of the owner to get the dog down to a healthy weight again.

While a small population of Labradors may become obese as a result of a secondary illness, most dogs of this breed become obese due to overeating and a lack of exercise during the day.  As tempting as it is to constantly feed a dog treats or several meals in one day, it poses an imminent danger to the dog’s health.

Obesity in dogs can affect heart health, trigger joint issues and arthritis, and bring about problems in the liver, respiratory system, and metabolism.  Essentially, it affects every part of the dog adversely.

Overcoming the Obesity

A board-certified veterinarian will be able to help an obese dog return to its normal weight through planned exercise regimens and diets.  A dog’s success with these regimens is largely up to the owner’s commitment to seeing it through.

A Labrador Retriever’s normal weight is around 50 to 75 pounds, so a vet may have a set goal weight as something within these margins.

Heart and Liver Disease in Labrador Retrievers

When it comes to diseases that affect the heart and the liver, a myriad of causes could be easily pointed to.  For Labrador Retrievers, however, these diseases have similar roots.

Obesity and Diabetes

As mentioned before, obesity is a top cause in this breed when it comes to these diseases.  Owners may frequently give their Lab fatty foods without thinking.  This can easily be a stepping stone to obesity and subsequent diseases in the organs.  Even more, diabetes is also a root cause of liver disease.

Tricuspid Valve Malformation

A common heart disease seen in Labradors in particular is Tricuspid Valve Malformation, which is a congenital defect.  In this condition, the valves along the right side of the heart are not formed properly and are unable to adequately pump enough blood to the heart.  This can be detected as a heart murmur or in a generalized weakness throughout the body.

While this heart disease can occur in any breed of dog, Labrador Retrievers have been found to be especially prone to developing it.

Joint Inflammation in Labrador Retrievers

joint inflammation hip dysplasia labrador retrieverHip Dysplasia

In the cases of joint inflammation, hip dysplasia is the frequent culprit in big dog breeds like the Lab.  Hip dysplasia can come as a result of many things, such as an unhealthy diet resulting in obesity, genetics, and strenuous exercise as a puppy.

This condition occurs when the joints of the hip, the femur and pelvis, do not fit perfectly together.  This leaves the Lab unable to run, jump, or play without some pain being experienced.  Dogs with this condition usually are limping or trying to stay off the affected joint altogether.

There are also different forms of dysplasia that affect the elbows and the knees in a similar fashion.


Also known by the name of degenerative joint disease (DJD), this condition is distinguished by the substantial loss of cartilage around the joints.  Due to this cartilage shortage, a dog may showcase similar symptoms to hip dysplasia, such as weakness and a decrease in activity.

Without sufficient cartilage, the joints can become grossly inflamed and eroded to the point where pain is felt every time the joints are used.

Metabolic and Respiratory Diseases in Labrador Retrievers

Metabolic Diseases

This refers to the metabolism, which is not only responsible for the dog’s growth, but also for the breakdown and conversion of food into energy.  Some common metabolic diseases include Cushing’s disease, diabetes, adrenal tumors, and other common autoimmune disorders.

The introduction of one of these diseases in the Lab’s body halts the normal bodily rhythm associated with growth and the energy needed to do so.

Respiratory Diseases

Diseases of the respiratory system affect the lungs and the Lab’s ability to breathe properly.  Some of the classic diseases are illnesses like pneumonia or kennel cough (both of which are extremely infectious).

A commonly diagnosed respiratory condition in Labs is what is known as laryngeal paralysis, or GLOPP.   In this ailment, the dog has difficulty breathing due to the arytenoids not working as they should in the larynx.  This condition is one that can worsen with exercise or being in hot weather.

Learn more about the beautiful Labrador Retriever temperament and why it’s one of the most loved dogs on the planet!

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