Archive for July 29th, 2009

Problems That Affect the Labrador RetrieverUnfortunately, there are several health problems that affect many Labrador Retrievers. That doesn’t mean every Lab has these problems, but they do have a tendency to show up in the breed. It’s very important that when you choose your new dog, you discuss these health problems with the breeder. Ideally, they have tested all of their breeding animals before breeding. Your veterinarian should also be aware of these disorders, not just so they can be diagnosed, but also so they can keep up on the newest treatments.

Bloat

Bloat, or gastric torsion, is the acute dilation of the stomach, caused when the stomach fills with gas and air and, as a result, swells. This swelling prevents the dog from vomiting or passing gas. Consequently, the pressure builds, cutting off blood from the heart and to other parts of the body. This causes shock or heart failure, either of which can cause death. Bloat can also cause torsion, where the stomach turns on its long axis, again causing death.
The first symptoms of bloat are obvious. The dog will be pacing or panting, showing signs of distress. The dog’s sides will begin to distend. To be successful, treatment should begin at once – there is no time to waste. If the pressure is not immediately relieved, death can follow within an hour. Get your dog to the nearest veterinary emergency clinic.
To prevent bloat, do not allow your Lab to drink large quantities of water after exercising or after eating. Feed two smaller meals each day instead of one large meal, and limit exercise after eating until a couple of hours have passed. Feed a good-quality food, preferably one that does not expand significantly when wet and does not produce large quantities of gas.
To see how much your dog’s food expands, or to see how much gas the food produces, take a handful of the kibble and drop it in a bowl of warm water. After fifteen minutes, look at the food. Some foods will be wet but will not enlarge. This is good. Other foods will triple their size when wet. This can be dangerous if it happens in your dog’s stomach. Some foods will be producing gas bubbles, almost as if they were carbonated. Again, this can be bad news in your dog’s stomach.

Cancer

Unfortunately some Lab bloodlines seem to be prone to cancer. Cancer in dogs, just as in people, is not one disease but a variety of diseases. Although research is continuing, it is unknown how or why some cells go on a rampage and become cancerous.
When you examine your Lab each day, be aware of any lumps or bumps you might feel, especially as your dog is growing older. Your veterinarian can biopsy any suspicious lump, and if it is cancer, many times it can be removed. Early removal offers the best chance of success. Unfortunately, cancer is often fatal.

Cold Water Tail

It has been reported that after a day or two of heavy hunting, with the obvious excitement resulting in strong tail wagging by the dog, along with repeated exposure to cold water, the muscles at the base of the tail swell. This strange-sounding disorder really isn’t that uncommon, especially in the hunting Lab community. Experts are still looking at the condition to see if the muscles alone are involved or whether the swelling of the muscles presses on nerves.
In any case, when it occurs, the tail hangs limp and the dog appears to be in discomfort. With rest and anti-inflammatory medications, the dog recovers.

Dwarfism

There are two types of dwarfism seen in Labs. The first is associated with retinal dysplasia (see page 86). In this form of dwarfism, the dog may have vision problems or blindness from the retinal dysplasia and have skeletal problems as well.
The dog’s head is usually larger than normal and the legs are short and bowed outwards. The dog will have a Bulldog-type appearance.
The second type of dwarfism is thought to be caused by a decrease in growth hormones produced by the pituitary gland. As a result, the dog does not grow correctly. These dogs appear to be in proportion with no skeletal deformities, but just remain very small. In addition, the coat may be softer than it should be and woolly, and the dog may develop hair loss.
Any dogs showing any symptoms of dwarfism should be spayed or neutered, and the breeder needs to be informed so they can take another look at their breeding program.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is thought to be due to the incorrect development of the three bones that make up the elbow. The affected elbow can be painful, inhibit movement, and can develop arthritis.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy (a seizure disorder) can occur in Labrador Retrievers. Idiopathic epilepsy (the form of epilepsy that is not caused by a brain tumor, injury, or other obvious cause) tends to be inherited and usually appears between the ages of 1 and 3 years, although it may first appear up to about 7 years of age. The intensity of the seizures can vary, from mild twitches and a dazed look in the eyes to full convulsions. Managing epilepsy will require a close partnership with your veterinarian.

Exercise-Induced Collapse

This disorder usually appears in dogs between the ages of 7 months and 2 years. The dog can usually play just fine, but after about five to twenty minutes of heavy exercise or hard training (as with field training), she begins to appear stiff. The rear legs become weak and often collapse. In some cases, the forelegs also become weak and unable to support the dog’s weight. The dog may appear to be disoriented. Some dogs die.
This disorder is still being studied. Because littermates may all show signs of the disorder, it is currently thought to be inherited. Treatments vary, as do the dog’s ability to recover. If a Lab shows signs of this disorder during strenuous exercise, all exercise should stop immediately, and the dog should be taken to the veterinarian.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a failure of the head of the femur (thighbone) to fit into the acetabulum (hip socket). Hip dysplasia is not just caused by poorly formed or malpositioned bones; many researchers believe the muscles and tendons in the leg and hip may also play a part.
Hip dysplasia is considered a polygenic inherited disorder, which means many different genes may lead to the disease. Also, environmental factors may contribute to the development of hip dysplasia, including nutrition and exercise, although the part environmental factors play in the disease is highly debated among experts.
Hip dysplasia can cause a wide range of problems, from mild lameness to movement irregularities to crippling pain. Dogs with hip dysplasia must often limit their activities, may need corrective surgery, or may even need to be euthanized because of the pain.
Contrary to popular belief, hip dysplasia cannot be  diagnosed  by watching a dog run or by the way she lies down. It can only be diagnosed accurately by special X-ray. Once the X-ray is taken, it can be sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP), which reads, grades, and certifies the X-rays of dogs over the age of 2 years. Sound hips are rated excellent, good, or fair, and the dog’s owner receives a certificate with the rating. A dysplastic dog will be rated as mild, moderate, or severe. Any dog who is found to be dysplastic should be removed from any breeding program and spayed or neutered.

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