Problems That Affect the Labrador Retriever (part 2)Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland produces hormones that govern or affect a number of bodily functions. A dog with hypothyroid is producing fewer hormones than she should. She may show symptoms ranging from infertility to dry, dull coat, flaky skin, runny eyes, or even difficulty walking. Thyroid problems can be diagnosed with a blood test, and medication can usually relieve the symptoms fairly rapidly. In most cases, the dog will have to remain on the medication for life.

Lick Granuloma

A lick granuloma is an injury the dog does to herself. She begins to lick at a spot on one of her legs – usually a front leg around the ankle, but it may also be a rear leg right above the paw—and she continues licking, producing a wet, weepy sore that often becomes infected. This compulsive behavior has been associated with boredom and separation anxiety. Curing the problem often requires the help of a veterinarian and a behaviorist.


This disorder is caused by a lack of peristaltic function in the esophagus. In other words, the muscular contractions of the esophagus that move food down into the stomach are not happening as they should. Food then builds up in the esophagus, causing it to stretch, until the food empties into the stomach by sheer pressure, or the dog vomits the food back up.
Experts feel this is an inherited problem, and dogs with the condition should be spayed or neutered. Treatment includes feeding the dog several small meals throughout the day from a raised (shoulder-height) platform.

Muscle Myopathy

This disorder usually appears in puppies between 3 and 6 months of age. The puppies will be less inclined to play and will be sore when touched. The muscles gradually waste away until the dog looks lean and lanky instead of stocky. Heat and cold both seem to cause more discomfort, as does strenuous exercise.
This is an inherited disorder. Dogs developing it should be spayed or neutered, as should the parents of the dog who developed it. There is no cure or treatment.


A dog who weighs more than she should can develop diabetes, hypothyroidism, and back, shoulder, and other skeletal problems. Although the breed does tend to gain weight easily, obesity is caused by too many calories and not enough exercise.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD occurs most often in young, fast-growing puppies of larger breeds, including Labs. The bone underlying the cartilage in joints breaks down, causing the puppy pain. It can happen in the elbow, shoulder, or ankle. Contributing factors include obesity, repetitive motions (such as running long distances), or jumping off high places or jumping over high jumps.


This disease causes lameness and pain in young, rapidly growing puppies, usually between the ages of 6 and 14 months, although it is occasionally seen up to 18 months of age. The lameness usually affects one leg at a time and can sporadically move from one leg to another. Some veterinarians prescribe aspirin to relieve the pain, and most suggest the dog be kept quiet. Often, this problem clears up on its own.
Many experts feel the tendency to develop this disorder is inherited, but it can also be made worse by feeding a diet that is not balanced—perhaps too high in carbohydrates or too much protein without enough carbohydrates. The debate continues, so talk to your dog’s breeder or veterinarian about diet and panosteitis.

PRA and Other Eye Disorders

Labs are, unfortunately, at risk for several eye disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and retinal dysplasia. With PRA there is a progressive deterioration of the retina. Gradually the dog becomes blind. This is thought to be inherited, and all dogs who develop symptoms should be removed from a breeding program. Unfortunately, this problem usually shows up between 4 to 6 years of age, so some affected dogs may have already been used for breeding.
Cataracts cause cloudiness in the lens of the eye, and severe cataracts can cause blindness. Cataracts that develop early in the dog’s life are almost always inherited, while those that appear in dogs who are 10 years of age or older are usually due to old age. Some cataracts can be removed, so talk to your veterinarian when signs of cloudiness first appear.
Retinal dysplasia is an abnormal development of the retina. In mild cases the vision is only slightly affected, but in more severe cases the dog is blind. This disease is often associated with Labs who carry the genes for dwarfism.

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