In comparison to other purebred dogs, Labradors generally have good health. Purebred dogs often inherit certain disorders due to over-breeding, since they are bred specifically to enhance certain desirable traits. The inherited disorders of Labradors are not nearly as serious as other purebreds (such as bulldogs, which can develop serious heart conditions), though they still may require frequent medical care. Most of these health problems can be prevented with good nutrition, a healthy exercise routine, and diligent attention to any changes in your Labrador’s behavior.
The most common inherited disorder for Labradors is Dysplasia of the hip, elbow, and knee joints. Dysplasia is a general term that refers to most developmental abnormalities that occur in the cartilage in certain joints. The majority of joint Dysplasia is related to OCD (osteochondrosis), which is a specific disease affecting the joint cartilage. The negative effects of OCD occur when normal cartilage growth becomes erratic, and may inexplicably be converted to “dead” tissue (also known as necrosis). The best and most effective treatment of Dysplasia is surgery, though the Labrador must undergo a significant recovery period with constant supervision.
EXERCISE INDUCED COLLAPSE
Another very common breed-specific health problem that has been recently recognized is EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse). This disorder has been documented in young adult Labrador Retrievers, as well as a few other similar breeds. When a Labrador endures from 5-20 minutes of strenuous exercise with extreme excitement, they may begin to pant heavily, which is a warning sign that they are about to have an episode of EIC. The Labrador will then collapse, with a marked weakness in one or several limbs, as well as difficulty breathing. This can be prevented by moderating a Labrador’s exercise routine, and being aware of any initial signs of EIC (such as loss of coordination, weakness, or heavy panting).
There are three main disorders involving eyesight that have a possible developmental frequency in Labradors. The first, and most common of the three, is a development of Cataracts. This is a gradual clouding of the crystalline lens, and if left untreated, can result in complete loss of eyesight. The early symptoms can usually be identified by a slight yellowing, or cloudiness apparent in the edges of the eye.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is also possible in Labrador breeds, which is a gradual loss of eyesight. This can be caused by a deficiency in Vitamin E, and can lead to secondary cataracts. There is no treatment for PRA, so it is extremely important to make sure your Labrador’s food blend includes an adequate supply of Vitamin E (as well as all other necessary vitamins).
The third, and slightly less serious eye disorder affecting Labradors is Retinal Dysplasia. This is a nonprogressive disease of the retina that causes minute folds in the retinal tissues. Retinal Dysplasia can be caused by virus infections, as well as Vitamin A deficiency. The visual symptoms usually involve streaks or small discolorations in the retina, as well as a slight loss of visual coordination. If left untreated, it can cause complete retinal detachment, which leads to permanent blindness.