Your lovable lab is likely to be a healthy guy, but like all purebred dogs, there's a risk of certain hereditary diseases. Some of these diseases are evident in puppies, but most don't show up until the lab reaches maturity. Surgical correction solves some common diseases.
Your dog's beautiful brown eyes might be affected by several eye diseases common in labs. Progressive retinal atrophy eventually renders a dog blind, starting with a loss of night vision and progressing to the point where he can't see in the daytime. Many older dogs get cataracts, but labs are prone to juvenile cataracts, which can be removed surgically. Retinal dysplasia concerns abnormal retina development, but often doesn't affect the dog's vision to any substantial degree. The vet usually discovers this condition during a routine eye exam.
Affecting puppies, centronuclear myopathy shows up as early as two weeks after birth. The puppies don't gain weight, and as they get older their gait is awkward, unlike their littermates. Between the age of 8 weeks and 5 months, puppies display exercise intolerance -- no running around like normal pups. While the puppy can live into adulthood, his muscles atrophy and he moves like an old dog at a young age. This muscle disease can also affect his breathing.
As your lab ages, you might notice that his bark sounds different, not as robust as it used to be. Along with difficulty breathing and exercise intolerance, this could be a sign of laryngeal paralysis. This disease affects the muscles in the dog's voice box, partially paralyzing them. Take your dog to the vet if he exhibits these symptoms, as the condition can be serious, requiring surgery.
Like many other breeds, labs are subject to this malformation of the hip joint, leading to lameness and early-onset arthritis. When buying a lab puppy, make sure the breeder gives you a health guarantee, stating the parents were free of hip dysplasia. Breeding stock should be certified through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. If your dog does develop hip dysplasia, severity of the condition ranges from mild to disabling. Your vet can prescribe medication to make your dog more comfortable.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.