Common Health Problems in Labrador Retrievers


A beautiful family dog that is a wonderful companion and a great guard dog, Labrador retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. However if you are planning to get one of those adorable, pudgy Labrador puppies, then it is advisable that you keep in mind the genetic and other Labrador health problems that this boisterous and hardworking breed is prone to suffer.


Canine Hip Dysplasia
This genetic skeletal Labrador retriever health problem results in the hip joints of the dogs being affected. Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthrosis and osteoarthrosis, canine hip dysplasia causes an abnormal development of the hip joints so that the femoral head (ball of the hip joint) does not fit into the pelvic socket. A shallow cup of the hip joint or changes in the hip joint "ball" are some of the characteristic signs of hip dysplasia. This causes pain and lameness in dogs. The malformation of the hip joints is also a primary factor in the development of arthritis problems in dogs.

What causes hip dysplasia in dogs? Well, this condition in dogs is caused due to genetic factors. Sometimes conditions such as being overweight, overexertion, ligament tears and injuries can cause hip dysplasia in Labradors. An abnormal gait, bunny hopping and a reluctance to climb stairs or exercise are some of the common symptoms of canine dysplasia. Read more on
hip dysplasia symptoms in dogs.

Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia results in the degeneration of the retina causing vision loss and even blindness in dogs. This is an inherited dog disease in breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Labrador retrievers. A microscopic retinoscopic examination can reveal the folds and rosettes within the outer retinal layers. Other eye problems in Labradors include juvenile cataracts and corneal dystrophy in dogs. An eye score by an ophthalmoscopic examination is an essential step towards diagnosing the eye problems in Labradors.

Canine Muscular Dystrophy
A progressive degeneration of the muscular tissues, canine muscular dystrophy results in muscular weakness, stiff gait and a tendency to avoid exercises. A muscle biopsy of the young puppies along with a blood test and electromyography can allows the veterinarian to diagnose the problem. Dogs suffering from muscular degeneration can suffer from problems like heart muscle disease.

Gastric Torsion in Dogs
Gastric torsion and bloat in Labrador retrievers results in the twisting and congestion of the stomach and its contents. This results in gas formation accompanied by rapid swelling of the abdomen. Excruciating pain and even death are the outcome of the untreated gastric torsion and dilation in dogs. Other than Labradors, deep chested breeds like Great Dane and Mastiffs are prone to this medical problem. Along with abdominal distension, the common signs of gastric torsion includes salivation and drooling, extreme restlessness, attempts to vomit and defecate and evidence of abdominal pain.

Elbow Dysplasia

The improper development of certain parts of the elbow joints results in uneven joint surface, inflammation, joint swelling, lameness and arthritis. The most common cause of elbow dysplasia are genetic factors. However certain hormonal and traumatic and nutritional factors can be blamed for the dog health problem. Joint stiffness, pain and painful arthritis are the most common symptoms of elbow dysplasia in dogs. Pain relief or anti inflammatory medications can help reduce the pain. However, treatment may involve a surgical correction.

Osteochondritis Dissecans
This disease of the cartilage layer of the joints, Osteochondritis dissecans is usually observed in young puppies and growing dogs of the large breed dogs. The most commonly affected parts are the elbow, shoulder and ankle joints in dogs. This can be painful for the dog resulting in limping, swelling and stiff gait. Since the joints are inflamed and swollen, you might observe the dog howling in pain, especially, when trying to extend a swollen joint. Sometimes injuries caused by jumping off high objects and obesity can result in this health problem in dogs.


Hip Dysplasia Symptoms in Dogs

The most commonly observed hip dysplasia symptoms in dogs is pain that can be so intense that it cripples their movement. Read this article to find out more on this painful disease that can affect your pet.

Hip dysplasia in dogs is one such disease that occurs as a result of abnormal development of the hip joint. Normally, the hip joint of a dog is a ball and socket kind of joint where the end of the thigh bone fits well into the socket of the hip. Hip dysplasia is one such dog health problem where the head of the thigh bone does not insert into the socket properly. As a result, the cartilage of the joint tends to wear out and cause a lot of stress to the affected joint. Gradually, the joint get badly damaged and leads to pain and inflammation. Hip dysplasia symptoms in dogs can be found more in male species than the female ones. Moreover, pure breeds have higher chances of getting hip dysplasia as compared to mixed breeds. 
The symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs can vary from mild to severe depending on how badly your pet has been affected by it. The first signs of hip dysplasia can be noticed in puppies who are as young as that of 5-6 months old. In general, the hip dysplasia symptoms in puppies are moderate. They include tendency to hop like a rabbit while running, stiffness in the limb while walking or after the regular exercise regime and difficulty in standing up. Gradually, the condition deteriorates over a period of time when the hip weakens further. Later on, as they grow up you may notice that they are not willing to walk even small distances. While playing they avoid to jump as their legs hurt. Usually, it is in the middle or later years they start walking and running with altered gait. Climbing stairs could be painful for them. They tend to avoid any such movements where full stretching of the rear legs may be required. These are serious form of hip dysplasia symptoms. Canine arthritis could be the possible reason for all these changes. In certain cases, the symptoms could be so severe that they will not be able to get up or walk without assistance. You can also refer to
dog leg pain.

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs Causes

Genetic factors are mainly responsible for causing hip dysplasia symptoms in dogs. Certain large
dog breeds like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers etc. are genetically more susceptible to hip dysplasia. Though it can happen to medium or small sized dogs as well but its quite rare. Along with that, there are other factors that can aggravate the problem further. Dog foods can play a major role in the development of hip dysplasia. Too much of calories in their diet can lead to dog obesity. This extra weight contribute towards faster degeneration of the hip joints of a dog. Rapid rate of growth of puppies in the period between the three to ten months of age can also cause this kind of abnormal hip development. Sometimes, overexercise at a young age can have adverse effects on the hip joints and lead to hip dysplasia.

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia

When you suspect that your dog is suffering from dysplasia, visit a veterinarian without any delay. The disease is diagnosed with the help of physical examination and x-ray. Both surgical as well as non surgical treatment options are available for treating hip dysplasia. In the non surgical method, medicines are given in order to reduce the pain and improve the mobility of the limbs. Swimming is also often recommended as an exercise as it does not put any additional pressure on the painful joint. Depending on the age and the severity of the condition, surgery could be suggested. There are a number of surgical procedures which are used to correct the problem. If it is detected at an early stage and the dog is less than 10 months of age, then the ball and socket of the affected joint can be realigned by surgical means. Another popular option is total replacement of the affected hip.

Since hip dysplasia is a genetic problem, you cannot do much to prevent it. However, you can suspend those activities that can aggravate the hip dysplasia symptoms, like rough play sliding on slick doors, too much of climbing stairs, etc. Take care that they do not put on too much of weight. Many a times, pet owners fail to identify the hip dysplasia symptoms in dogs and assume them to be normal signs of aging. Thus, the treatment gets delayed. Therefore, if your pet has genes of hip dysplasia, you have to be watchful and check out hip dysplasia symptoms in it.


By Bidisha Mukherjee
Published: 1/8/2010