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The Labrador Retriever Wellness Care Guide

No other breed is more popular by the numbers than the lovable and even-tempered Labrador Retriever. Learn more about the health issues affecting this breed, and what you can do to help keep your Lab healthy, in addition to regular veterinary visits.

The Use of Supplements: In Support of a Healthier Labrador
Supplements are no longer an afterthought but an important element for your Labrador's nutrition and care. Animal Necessity recommends consulting your veterinarian regarding the types of supplements that could benefit your dog's physical health and mental well-being.
Some of the benefits supplements may provide for your Labrador include:
  • Helps keep your dog's coat healthy and shiny.
  • Boosts your dog's intake of vital nutrients missing in its diet.
  • Helps boost metabolism to burn more calories, while regulating blood sugar to reduce the urge to overeat.
  • Relief from chronic hip, joint, back, and muscle pain and inflammation.
  • Increase energy levels in support of an active and healthy lifestyle.
  • Regulate and enhance proper immune function.
  • Helps alleviate certain types of cancers, in addition to heart disease, diabetes, and cataracts caused by diabetes.

A Short History of the Labrador Retriever

Kind hearted, intelligent and extremely loyal, the Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog breed in the U.S. Labrador Retrievers are known for their keen sense of smell, ability to find downed birds, and speed on land and through the water. We think of Labs as 'Peter Pan' dogs - they never grow up! A happy, exuberant 1 year old Labrador is still happy and super-charged at, say, 6 years of age. The breed's roots go back to the early 1800's in Newfoundland, to a forerunner called the St. John's Water Dog. These dogs were eager to please and were strong swimmers with short dense water-repellent coats. They retrieved fish that fell off hooks and also retrieved nets and other fishing gear. British aristocracy took note of the breed's retrieving ability and imported them to England for hunting, developing what is now known as the Labrador Retriever. Soon after the British Kennel Club made the breed official in 1903, the breed made its way to the U.S.

Fun Facts about the Labrador Retriever
There are three acceptable colors in Labradors: black, yellow, and chocolate. Yellow Labs born with pale skin and pink noses are called "Dudleys" and are not accepted in breed registries.
Labradors have webbed toes and an otter-like tail that help make them powerful swimmers. Their coat is thick, short, and dense to repel water, making them very good shedders.
There are two recognized lines of Labrador Retrievers - the show line (broader head, more solidly-built) and the field line (more fine-boned, longer legs, and more high-energy).
Labradors are excellent working dogs for search and rescue, therapy, guide dogs for the blind, disabled-assistance, and in water rescue/life-saving.
Health Issues Labrador Retriever Owners Should Know About
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ALC) Rupture

This is a very common knee problem in Labradors. It requires expensive surgery ($3,000- $5,000 on average, often done by a board-certified veterinarian specializing in surgery) to correct, and usually affects both knees. In one study, 21% of all dogs undergoing surgery for ACL rupture were Labs or Lab mixes. The presence of a hindlimb lameness, especially in a young to middle-aged Labrador, must be considered ACL disease until proven otherwise - so seek immediate veterinary care for your dog if this occurs! Severe, chronic pain and arthritis results if surgery is not done as soon as possible. Even with surgery, these active dogs need joint health support to help keep their knees as healthy as possible.

Heart Disease: Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD)

Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) is an inherited birth defect causing a faulty heart valve. Severely affected dogs develop congestive heart failure (CHF). Outward signs of CHF include weight gain (due to fluid buildup in the belly) and/or fatigue. If you think that your Lab has become fat and lazy, you may be right--- but just in case, have your veterinarian examine your dog to check for a heart murmur.

Autosomal Recessive Muscular Dystrophy (ARMD)

Autosomal recessive muscular dystrophy (ARMD) is a recessively inherited disease that weakens muscles, making it hard for the dog to walk. It affects puppies and worsens with age, with 1 year old dogs being severely affected. About 10% of all Labradors are thought to be carriers of ARMD.

Patellar luxation and hip/elbow dysplasia

Patellar luxation is an abnormality where the patella (kneecap) dislocates out of its normal position; about 5% of Labs are affected. This condition affects leg mobility and can cause pain and chronic arthritis if not surgically corrected. Of Labradors tested, about 11% have hip dysplasia and 11% have elbow dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is not as common in Labs as it used to be, but is still a problem; the hip socket and/or the head of the femur ("ball") are poorly formed, not allowing a snug "ball and socket" fit, resulting in arthritis and pain. It is the most common cause of hip pain in dogs. Elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the elbow joint causing lameness and chronic pain.


Labradors are more prone to cancer than many other breeds. In one study looking at the cause of death in 265 Labradors, 31% had cancer. Of those dogs, the most common kind of cancer was sarcoma (tumors that form in bones and in connective tissue), such as osteosarcoma and fibrosarcoma. Labradors are also at higher risk to develop lymphosarcoma (cancer of white blood cells).

Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC)

This is a genetic disease especially common in field trial Labs. 30% to 40% of all Labs are carriers for EIC, and 3% to 13% of all Labs are affected with EIC. Affected dogs develop weakness and collapse after just 5-15 minutes of strenuous exercise, and possibly die. A recessive gene mutation results in malfunction of neurotransmitters in the nervous system; fortunately there is now a DNA test for EIC.

Care information for Your Labrador Retriever

Caring for your Labrador Retriever is not as challenging as with many other breeds, but even so, there are certain things you can do to make sure he stays happy and healthy so both of your lives are more fulfilling.

Labrador Retrievers love to exercise, which is a good thing because they tend to put on weight. It's your job to see that your dog gets regular exercise with extended walks and active playtime, such as retrieving a ball or chasing a Frisbee. They especially love the water, so if that's an option, it will make life even better for your Labrador. They are very intelligent and take to training well, which helps their overall disposition. However, Labs do have a tendency to exhaust themselves, so it is important for you to monitor their activity. An overly active Lab is at risk for ACL rupture, and (if genetically affected) EIC. Additionally, Labs with chronic joint disease will easily "overdo" themselves running, jumping, etc, but they likely will pay for this within the next 24 hours by having severe reactive joint pain.
Labrador Retrievers make great house dogs and thrive when they are with people, especially children. There is nothing a Lab likes better, than to be your shadow. Having a large backyard would be ideal, but as long as they are fed properly and exercised daily, weight gain is not a big concern. Labradors are not noisy and usually are not very territorial. They get along with other animals and for the most part, are friendly to strangers. For that reason, Labs do not make good guard dogs, but often will "sound the alarm" at a knock on your door. Labradors crave attention and companionship and can be disruptive if left alone for long periods.
Unlike other breeds, a Labrador Retriever does not require a great deal of grooming. However, they do shed a LOT and so brushing frequently and an occasional bath is in order. However, be careful not to overdo it as frequent baths can damage your Labrador's naturally waterproof coat. His floppy ears can also present problems. Check them regularly and use an ear-cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian to prevent infections. Also, trim the nails every week or two, as needed.

If your elderly or special-needs Lab is arthritic and/or has weak hind legs, there is another strategy that can help in addition to veterinary care, diet, and supplements. Besides keeping the nails trimmed short, consider placing special ToeGrips® rubber rings on the trimmed nails. These provide instant traction to stop dogs sliding on smooth floors or stairs.
As with most animals, Labrador Retrievers need a quality, balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals to support their size, activity level and to help reduce the risk of certain diseases. Foods with essential fatty acids are important for maintaining a Labrador's healthy coat and to help reduce shedding. But as they are a breed that never stops eating, veterinarians recommended that Labs be fed carefully and not be overfed as they can easily put on pounds without an active lifestyle. A diet rich in antioxidants can have long-term benefits, especially as dogs age.
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What People Are Saying About Supplements and Their Pets
Pet owners just like you are incorporating supplements into their animal's care more than ever before, and with exciting results.
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    - Lisa B.
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  • "Amos, my lively and lovable 8-year-old Vizsla, was diagnosed with diabetes and small cataracts already forming in both eyes. I was prescribed Ocu-GLO Rx™, which is rich in antioxidants like grapeseed extract, lutein and other nutrients that have demonstrated some success in reducing the formation of cataracts. Almost two years after his initial diagnosis - there has been no further development of his cataracts. Ocu-GLO Rx™ is an eye treat/vitamin that deserves wide exposure. I'm grateful to be among those who can speak personally for its benefits."
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