Labradors: The Gentle Giant with a Heart of Gold

There are plenty of reasons why the Labrador is frequently classed as the most popular dog breed around. Not only are they affectionate, playful and devoted, they can be relied upon and are predictable. For families with children, this is an important attribute.

Labradors - Selfie time! A lady takes a selfie with her dog.

A large breed with a stocky body, the Labrador weighs from 29kg to 35kg and reaches heights of 62cm. While they are prone to being over-weight, every Lab has the potential to be lean and slim.

For many, the Labrador’s ability to get on with people, dogs and cats is one of their best attributes. However, it should not be assumed that all Labradors are social butterflies. We need to ensure they’re well socialised from a young age and have plenty of positive social interactions.

Health Conditions in Labradors

Despite their large size, many Labradors will live for eleven or twelve years. Sadly, many will have advanced arthritis by this stage and this can have a big impact on their quality of life. Read on to learn more about the health issues they can develop and what can be done to help them.

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. Abnormally developed joints cause chronic mobility issues and signs including lameness, reluctance to exercise and muscle wastage. Signs can begin in the Lab’s first year of life and worsen as they age. As the joints are not aligned as they should be, arthritis will develop. X-rays or CT scans will enable diagnosis. For some, surgical intervention can dramatically improve prognosis. For others, they are managed with ongoing pain relief and anti inflammatory medicine. It is also important that pressure is taken off joints by preventing obesity. Adjunctive therapies including canine massage and acupuncture should also be considered.
  • While being obese is not a disease in itself an obese Labrador is more prone to a number of diseases. These include arthritis, cancer, diabetes and elevated blood pressure. We should aim for our Labs to have a Body Condition Score of 4 or 5 out of 9. When Labs are kept slim their entire lives, they are proven to enjoy better health.
  • If the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, your Labrador may develops signs including chronic skin infections, sluggish behaviour and difficulty losing weight. Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with a blood test. Thankfully, this endocrine disease is easy to manage with daily medicine. However, the cost of medicine and ongoing check-ups and blood tests will add up through the years. 
  • For most Labs, their epilepsy starts before the age of five. They will have seizures for no known reason. It is important the vet rules out other causes of fits, which will entail a range of medical tests. A full work up can cost several thousand pounds, particularly if imaging of the central nervous system is required. Epileptic dogs can enjoy a good quality of life as long as their seizures are well controlled with medicine.
  • Atopic Skin Disease. Ongoing itchiness and repeated skin infections may be caused by atopy or allergies. Labs can react to a range of allergens including dust mites, foods, pollens and grasses. The diagnosis and management of atopic skin disease is notoriously expensive, with allergy testing and immunotherapy costing several thousand pounds.
  • These fatty tumours occur more commonly in over-weight labs. They will feel soft to the touch and will move around under the skin. They tend to grow slowly. Your vet may advise a fine needle aspirate to confirm he diagnosis.
  • The Labrador is prone to a number of different cancers including hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma and mast cell tumours.

Labradors are gentle giants with hearts of gold. They make excellent family pets and slot in well to most households. They can be prone to obesity, so owners must limit calories and take the time to ensure they are being well-exercised.

Looking for Labrador Insurance?

As with any pedigree or cross-breed, it’s always a good idea to have a dog insurance policy in place to help with unexpected vet fees.

If you’re introducing a Labrador puppy to your home, why now take a look at our four weeks’ free WalkawayCover* created especially for new pups aged 8 weeks to one year?

*Puppy must be between 8 weeks and 1 year old and is subject to a CVS health check. WalkawayCover covers illness and accidents instantly. Not all breeds of dog are eligible.

More pets = more fun!

Get your paws on a
5% multipet discount