Labrador Retriever Potential Health Problems

The Labrador Retriever has some major health problems, ranging from hip dysplasia, gastric torsion, retinal dysplasia, muscular dystrophy, to elbow dysplasia, and some minor concerns such as cataracts, Osteochondritis dissecans, and Progressive retinal atrophy. See the descriptions below.

Health guarantees: If you are looking for a Labrador puppy, it is very important to find a reputable Labrador Retriever breeder, one who cares about the breed and who has all breeding stock tested and cleared for various genetic problems before breeding. It is only by testing and breeding cleared specimens that these diseases will be brought under control. We suggest that you start your search with the breed clubs. Most clubs have a code of ethics and while it doesn’t guarantee a perfect Labrador puppy, it’s better than dealing with breeders who don’t know or care about such matters.

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD): is a skeletal problem, an abnormal development of the hip joint where the head of the femur does not fit snugly into the pelvic socket. It is characterized by a shallow acetabulum (the “cup” of the hip joint) and changes in the shape of the femoral head (the “ball” of the hip joint). These changes may occur due to excessive looseness in the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. When dogs exhibit symptoms of hip dysplasia they usually are in pain and lame on one or both rear legs. Severe arthritis can develop as a result of the malformation of the hip joint and this results in pain as the disease progresses. Effective arthritis treatment More information. See the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals OFA See the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program PennHIP You don’t have to wait until your dog exhibits symptoms. You can take steps now to minimize the chances your dog will suffer arthritic pain due to hip dysplasia. Treating your pet’s impending or existing arthritis.

Gastric Torsion – or Bloat (Gastric dilatation volvulus GDV): This condition is caused by a twisting of the stomach and thus trapping the stomach contents and gases resulting in a rapid swelling of the abdomen accompanied by pain and eventual death if untreated. It is a top priority emergency with immediate veterinarian action required. This is a predicament most common in large deep chested breeds. Anyone owning a deep chested breed, susceptible to bloat should be prepared by recording and posting the exact emergency procedures for the veterinary hospital they go to – who to call after hours, how to get to emergency clinics or alternative facilities and what payment arrangements those facilities will require.

Retinal Dysplasia: This condition is an abnormal development of the retina. A retinoscopic examination can usually reveal retina problems.

Muscular Dystrophy: Autosomal Recessive Muscular Dystrophy or ARMD. This condition is a progressive degeneration of skeletal muscles. A blood test, electromyography and muscular biopsies can definitively identify muscular dystrophy. ARMD is not usually fatal.

Elbow Dysplasia (ununited anconeal process): Due perhaps to improper development (different growth rates) of the three bones making up the elbow, the joint is lax or loose and in mildly affected dogs leads to painful arthritis. Whereas in severly affected dogs, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), fragmented medial coronoid processes and united anconeal processes can result from the stress in the joint. Treatments involve surgical correction if possible, or medical management using asprin and other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Cataracts: As with humans, dogs can get cataracts, but the presence of cataracts in young dogs, called juvenile cataracts, have a hereditary foundation. Cataracts are diagnosed by means of an ophthalmoscopic exam. If the dog is in good health, cataracts can be surgically removed with usually good results. More information.
Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD): is a degeneration of bone underlying the cartilage layer of joints. It is a condition often seen in young fast growing dogs of the larger breeds. X-rays of suspected joints are often inconclusive. OCD usually appears during the growth phase of a young dog, usually six to nine months of age. OCD can affect the shoulder, ankle or elbow joint. It is painful and the dog limps. Physical impacts, like jumping off high objects and being overweight are contributing factors.

Complete rest and limited playful activities for several weeks, often difficult with a young puppy, is effective treatment, or surgical removal of torn away cartilage pieces, is probably the fastest treatment. Controlling diet is important in fast growing breeds.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): is a family of diseases all involving the gradual deterioration of the retina. It is diagnosed by a retinoscopic exam or by means of an electroretinogram (ERG). Early in the disease, affected dogs become nightblind and lack the ability to see in dim light; later on daytime vision also fails. As their vision deteriorates, affected dogs adapt to their handicap very well, as long as their environment remains constant. Certain breeds are affected early in life, whereas in other breeds, PRA develops much later in onset.