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Recognizing Common Health Issues in Labrador Retrievers

Know how to recognize common health issues in Labrador Retrievers so you can get your Lab the right treatment quickly if she should get sick. Because there are so many Labrador Retrievers, breeders have a large gene pool to draw from. That translates into healthier dogs. In general, your Lab will probably stay pretty healthy throughout most of his life. However, any dog can fall prey to health problems.

These are some of the more common genetic disorders in Labrador Retrievers:

  • Hip dysplasia: This is the most common orthopedic problem in Labs. Hip dysplasia is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some dogs suffer no symptoms at all and others eventually experience severe pain and even lameness.

    Some Labs require no treatment, but if your Lab develops a more severe case, there are many excellent management treatments options.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): This degenerative eye disorder eventually results in blindness. There are few symptoms until the dog is almost completely blind; however, some dogs will show reluctance to go down stairs or go into dark areas (night blindness can be an initial stage of the disease). In some dogs, the eye lens looks more opaque or cloudy. There is no treatment for PRA; however, blind dogs can live a happy life, with a little extra care.

    PRA is genetic and there is a screening test that can identify the problem.

  • Epilepsy: If your Lab has epilepsy, that means she will have seizures. Epilepsy can be due to environmental or genetic factors and will probably show up relatively early. Seizures can be frightening for your Lab and for you. The most important thing to do is to keep your Lab from hurting herself.

    Talk to your vet about the best strategies for managing seizures.

Knowledgeable breeders do health checks and everything else they can to avoid genetic disorders. In fact, most good breeders guarantee the health of their puppies and should take a puppy back and refund your money if something is wrong with the puppy. However, if the problem isn't genetic, don't expect to get your money back.

To maintain the best odds for future health, you want the puppy to have a few simple screening tests.

  • Ask for evidence that both parents of the litter have had their hips x-rayed and are certified free of hip dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

  • You also want proof that both parents are registered with an organization called the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) to certify that their dogs are free from genetic eye problems.

  • Make sure you also have a record of which vaccinations the breeder has given your puppy.

  • The breeder should also already have the puppy on a worming program.

The best way to tell if something is wrong is to take your puppy from the breeder's place immediately to the veterinarian, and some breeders require that you do this within seventy-two hours of purchasing the puppy. Ask the vet if you should be watching for other problems that may show themselves later in your puppy's life.

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