Your lovable Labrador retriever should be a happy, healthy dog. However, Labs are prone to certain genetic diseases, as are other purebred canines. They might also suffer from some health problems because of their size, build or activities. Purchasing your puppy from a reputable breeder might help you avoid problems.
Elbow and hip dysplasia, and malformations of those joints, often occur in Labs. Eventually, degenerative joint disease causes early arthritis and lameness in the dog. General arthritis also affects Labs. If your dog becomes lame or is very stiff when getting up from a nap, take him to the vet for testing. She can prescribe medications that help get him back into the swing of things. Young Labs may suffer from osteochondritis dissecans, better known as OCD. This disease affecting the bone underneath the joint cartilage shows up in growing dogs, generally before they reach their first birthday. While affected Labs may run around and play normally, limping starts when they finish their frolics and slow down a bit.
Just like their owners, older Labs may suffer from cataracts. However, young Labs may have a hereditary inclination toward juvenile cataracts. Surgery can correct this problem. Labs are also prone to progressive retinal atrophy, which leads to total blindness. It starts out with the dog unable to see at night, progressing to complete loss of vision. Since this generally affects older Labs, it's hard to detect the problem in puppies.
Like many larger dogs, Labs are prone to bloat, formally known as gastric torsion. This condition comes on suddenly, when the stomach twists. Your dog might be fine one minute and in excruciating pain the next. He might pace around, or try to throw up with no result. Take him to the vet at once, as without surgery the situation is fatal. To help prevent bloat, feed your dog several smaller portions of food daily rather than one large meal. Don't feed him within an hour of a hard workout, either before or after. Ask your vet about stomach tacking, a surgery that prevents bloat.
If your aging Lab begins sprouting lumps on his body, take him to the vet. Many times, these lumps aren't cancer but benign tumors called lipomas. These fatty growths might look bad but don't generally pose a risk to your dog. If the lipoma is so large that it interferes with your dog's ability to get around, the vet might remove it. Otherwise, unless the lipomas are very large, most vets advise just leaving them alone. Some lipomas may even grow back after removal. Whenever your Lab sprouts a new lump, take him to the vet to ensure it is only a lipoma and not something more serious.
Limber Tail Syndrome
Also known as broken tail or cold water tail, limber tail syndrome occurs when the dog's tail droops, appearing broken. It's common in Labs and other hunting dogs. While the tail looks broken, it actually has similar to a muscle sprain. Causes include overexertion and swimming in very cold water. Since sporting Labs might retrieve ducks from frigid lakes or rivers, exposure to cold water is often the culprit in the breed. Fortunately, limber tail syndrome generally clears up within a few days. Your Lab's tail may be sore during that time, but rest is the best medicine.
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.