As a large dog breed, there are certain health conditions that the Labrador retriever is more prone to developing than other breeds, due to both their size, and genetic or hereditary traits that cause a predisposition to particular problems.
One of these is arthritis, and a significant number of older dogs of the breed begin to show the signs of arthritis as they age, and this can have a significant impact on their mobility, comfort and quality of living. There is no DNA test or health screening protocol in place to predict arthritis in later life, and if the condition does affect your dog, it cannot be reversed or cured.
However, being aware of the risk factors for arthritis in Labrador retrievers can help owners to take steps to keep their dogs healthy and avoid the onset of the condition, as well as helping to keep the dog comfortable and mobile for as long as possible.
In this article, we will look at arthritis in the Labrador retriever in more detail, including the risk factors for the condition, how to take steps to prevent arthritis developing, and what can be done to manage it. Read on to learn more.
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the dog’s joints and bones, and that tends to develop in mature and elderly dogs, although in some cases, younger dogs may display symptoms too.
How much and how badly it affects any given Labrador can vary, with some dogs suffering from only minor or transient symptoms that do not have a significant impact on them as a whole, while others may have very acute arthritis that flares up regularly, and can be painful and debilitating to the dog, as well as affecting their quality of life and movement.
Not all or even most Labradors will develop arthritis-but the condition is fairly prevalent within the breed as a whole, and the older that the dog gets, the more likely it is to develop. There are various reasons behind why the Labrador breed seems to get more of its fair share of arthritis, and some of these come down to conformation and hereditary issues, whilst others relate to the dog’s lifestyle-in most cases, it is a combination of all of these factors that cause arthritis to develop.
The fact that the Labrador is a large breed of dog is one of the reasons, because the larger the dog and their joints and bones, the more pressure is placed on them over the course of their life. Additionally, Labradors are famously food obsessed, and can very easily become overweight-which places more pressure on the joints, lowers their general fitness, and increases the risks.
Labrador retrievers are naturally a high-energy breed that need a lot of exercise and that tend to be very active and playful-and providing your dog with enough exercise to keep them fit and meet their needs is an important part of keeping their joints and muscles healthy. However, because Labradors like to run, jump and play and are otherwise very athletic, the risks of injuries that can lead to arthritis later in life, wear and tear on the joints, and jarring the bones all have a part to play.
Also, the Labrador retriever breed is one that has high risk factors for hereditary hip and elbow dysplasia, and even if this is corrected while the dog is young, increases the risks of arthritis later on.
Closely related dogs that suffer from arthritis, particularly those that developed symptoms before they reached old age, also increase the risk factors for their relatives developing the condition themselves.
It is not possible to medically prevent or reverse arthritis, but choosing a Labrador retriever bred from healthy stock that had hip and elbow scores and other recommended health tests performed prior to breeding can help to lower the risk factors for any given dog.
Lifestyle plays a huge part in it too-both in terms of reducing the chances of arthritis developing, and making the condition more manageable if it does develop. Feed your Labrador a healthy, complete diet and keep a close eye on their weight-avoid letting your dog become overweight, and work quickly to correct this if they are piling on the pounds.
It is also important to provide enough exercise for your dog to both keep their weight down and to improve their flexibility and suppleness, which helps to prevent arthritis from developing or worsening. However, take care with high impact exercise and vigorous exercise to ensure that your dog does not injure themselves, jar their bones and joints, or overexert themselves. Young Labradors are prone to this, and it can lead to problems further down the line.
If your dog develops arthritis, there are a range of different ways of managing the condition and reducing the frequency and severity of flare-ups. Weight management is vital, and your vet may recommend a range of supportive therapies to improve your dog’s range of movement and comfort too, including massage and hydrotherapy.
Certain types of supplements may be prescribed to support bone and joint health, and your dog should have a comfortable, supportive bed (potentially an orthopaedic one) and be kept away from draughts and sleeping or sitting for long periods of time in cold places, as this can worsen flare-ups.
For dogs going through a bad flare-up or if their condition is very acute, steroidal medications and painkillers, and well as other meds to reduce inflammation and swelling may be prescribed too.
Managing arthritis in the Labrador retriever is an ongoing process, which will mean regular consults with the vet to reassess progress and fine-tune the management protocol as necessary to keep the dog comfortable and mobile.