Before we landed on what breed of dog we were going to get the family, my wife and I spent weeks considering all aspects of what we wanted from our new pup, and what the immediate and long term impacts would be with the breeds we chose. One consideration was lifespan. While we never know what may happen, we wanted to consider both the best and most likely scenarios and what that timing might look like.
Unfortunately, Labradors are prone to a number of health concerns that can shorten their lifespan. I wanted to share what we learned about how long Labradors live and what health concerns you can expect.
How long do Labradors live?
While Labradors aren’t the shortest-lived of breeds, they are certainly not one of the breeds that live the longest. According to the AKC website, on average, Labradors live between 10 and 12 years. The oldest recorded Labrador to have lived was a little over 27 years old, per Wikipedia.
There are many variables that go into how long any individual Lab may live, including weight, breeding, and overall health. Let’s dig into some more specifics that we came across in our research on typical life span.
What do Labs typically die from?
The most common causes of death for Labrador retrievers is musculoskeletal disorders and cancer. While most of the musculoskeletal disorders that Labrador suffer from are not fatal in and of themselves, they often create such severe and painful symptoms that owners choose to euthanize. Cancer has a high death toll whether owners choose to treat or not.
Chocolate Labs often have shorter lives than black and yellow Labs
A study suggests that chocolate Labradors have shorter life spans than black Labs or yellow Labs. It isn’t the color itself that is responsible, but the selective breeding utilized to arrive at more chocolate Labradors in litters.
Researches in Sydney and London studied over 33000 British Veterinary records and found that Labradors who have black or yellow coats live about 10% longer than chocolate Labradors. Black labradors are the dominant color and the historic color of Labradors, and they tend to be healthiest.
What health problems do Labs have?
Labradors have predispositions for 67 diseases, but some are much more common than others. Here are some of the most common conditions affecting Labradors.
While obesity may in itself not often be considered a disease, it does have significant effects on a Labrador’s quality of life and can intensify the symptoms of other diseases, especially musculoskeletal disorders, which are a common cause of death for Labradors.
Around 9% of Labrador suffer from obesity. Labrador retrievers are known for a tendency to eat more than they need to, possibly because of a genetic predisposition. This leads to significant orthopedic problems like elbow and hip dysplasia.
Otitis externa is inflammation of the external ear canal. It causes pain and makes ear infections likely. Research suggests that otitis externa is one of the most common diseases affecting Labradors, with over 10% of the population being affected.
The frequency of this condition is determined, in part, by the color of Labs. Around 12.8% of black Labradors suffer from this disease, while 17% of yellow dogs have it. A whopping 23.4% of chocolate colored dogs are affected by otitis externa.
It is possible that it is more common in Labradors because of the breed’s love of water and the frequency of swimming.
Degenerative joint disease
Around 5 ½% of all Labradors suffer from some type of degenerative joint disease. The most common type of degenerative joint disease affecting Labradors is hip dysplasia and arthritis.
As your dog ages, the cartilage around the joints deteriorates, allowing the bones to rub together and causing inflammation and pain. Some dogs even have the cartilage split away from the bone and lose some movement in the joint. Arthritis develops as the bones rub together over time. The disease is most common in obese dogs but can also occur in dogs who have a healthy weight.
Are Labs prone to cancer?
Labrador retrievers are particularly susceptible to cancer. Research has found that 70% of Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers carry a gene or genes that increase the probability that they will develop mast cell tumors.
Dogs who have two copies of the risk factor gene are three to four times more likely to develop a mast cell tumor. This means that as many as one-in-four dogs will be actively affected by cancer in their lifetime. Now that these genes have been recognized, responsible breeders are making an effort to eliminate their prevalence in their lines, but at this time it is still very likely for a Labrador to get cancer at some point in its life.
Oldest purebred Labrador
The oldest purebred Labrador on record was known as Adjutant. He lived to an age of 27 years and 3 months. He lived in Lincolnshire, in the UK. Adjutant was the sixth oldest known dog on record of any breed.
Tips to help prolong life
If you want your Labrador to live as long as possible, you’ll be glad to know that there are things that you can do to help extend their lifespan. Here are a few things to do before you get a Labrador and throughout your Labrador’s life.
Talk to breeders about history of cancer and joint disease
Both cancer and joint disease tend to run in Labradors, and research suggests that they are often inherited. If you find a breeder who screens their dogs for joint disease and only breeds dogs that are not symptomatic, you have a better chance of getting a dog who will not develop joint disease.
Ask breeders what the prevalence of cancer in their lines is. If you get a puppy who comes from several lines of dogs who did not suffer from cancer, your chances of having a dog who does not develop cancer are higher.
Do not have your dog neutered or spayed until they are finished growing
Research suggests that Golden Retrievers who are spayed or neutered earlier than a year in age have a higher prevalence for both cancer and joint concerns. Since Labradors and Golden Retrievers are similar breeds who often suffer from the same health concerns, this research may suggest that the same is true for Labradors.
Studies on various breeds of dogs have found that dogs who are neutered early have a slightly higher increase in the bone cancer osteosarcoma and in bladder and prostate cancer.
RELATED ARTICLE: Labrador Spaying & Neutering – When Is It Too Late?
Maintain your dog at an ideal weight
Labradors are prone to overeating and obesity, which puts more strain on joints and increases the probability of joint issues which may be painful or debilitating enough to demand euthanasia. Keeping dogs at an ideal weight throughout their life decreases the probability that they will develop serious joint concerns. When joint issues do come up, they are easier to manage in a dog at an ideal weight.
Provide your dog with joint supplements
Joint supplements such as chondroitin and glucosamine can positively affect your dog’s joints. These supplements have been used extensively in the veterinary community for many years and are considered very safe.
They are readily available both as treats and as capsules. Giving these supplements throughout your dog’s life can help them to develop strong cartilage and tendons which can support the joints and reduce the incidence of joint disorders developing. If your dog does develop joint disorders, supplements can ease the symptoms and reduce the progression of the disease.