Labrador Lifespan: How Long Do Labrador Retrievers Live?

Labrador Retriever Life Expectancy, how long do Labradors live
How long do Labradors live, old yellow lab

We all want our Labrador Retrievers to live a long, healthy life. Here we discuss the average labrador lifespan, and let you know from a veterinary perspective what you can do to increase your dog’s odds of a long life.

Labrador Retrievers are one of the most loved dogs in the United States. The breed is a medium-large type dog which is lovable, goofy, sociable and affectionate. When you have a Labrador Retriever, you would want to try to keep them alive and healthy as long as you can.

What is the Usual Labrador Lifespan?

On average, Labrador Retrievers live 10-12 years. Black and Yellow Labradors live an average of 1 to 1.5 years longer than Chocolate Labradors.

Remember, 10-12 years is just the average, your dog could live much longer! Labrador Retrievers are great dogs, and of course their people want them to live longer. With all the things that could go wrong, being educated on how to prolong the life of your Labrador Retriever is extremely helpful.

Labrador Retrievers Life Expectancy

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “The Labrador Retriever’s earliest origins are found across our northern border, in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. If that sounds a bit confusing to geography buffs, that’s because it is: Yes, the Labrador Territory after which the breed is named is actually northwest of the island of Newfoundland”.  The breed was then further developed in the UK in the 1830’s.

Labrador Retrievers are loyal animals that like to be around their owners. Plus with their amazing ability to retrieve underwater, they were originally excellent companions to fishermen often diving for fish escaping from nets. Visitors from the UK noted their amazing ability to deep dive brought them back and began breeding them. When the dogs arrived back in North America the breed gained popularity quickly.

Issues That Affect Labrador Lifespan

Labrador Retriever Life Expectancy, how long do Labradors live

Several different things can effect the life expectancy for a Labrador Retriever. Most of these are genetic or health issues. In fact, the book “Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats” lists the Labrador Retriever as predisposed to 67 conditions. However, many of these disease are very rare or were only seen in very specific bloodlines and are not common in today’s dogs.

The more common genetic health issues that have been passed down include hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, heart disease, cancer, hypothyroidism, skin disease, ear infections, gastrointestinal illness, and urinary diseases.

The most common causes of death in Labrador retrievers are musculoskeletal disorders and cancer.

The most common general disorders affecting Labrador retrievers are obesity, ear and joint conditions. Any of these conditions, especially obesity, could have an effect on longevity.

Coat Color’s Effect on Labrador Lifespan

According to a 2018 scientific study published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, Chocolate coat color is associated with a shorter labrador lifespan than yellow or black coat color. The median age for chocolate labs in this study was 10.7 years vs 12.1 years for yellow and black labs.

Cancer In Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers are more susceptible to cancer. This decreases the Labrador Lifespan. Cancer can appear in several different forms for Labrador Retrievers and manifests at different times in their lives.

To learn more about cancer in Labrador Retrievers check out our recent article. We go more in depth on the subject there.

Cancer Odds

According to PetMD, Labrador Retrievers are one of the 9 breeds with the highest rates of cancer. It is the one of the leading causes of death in Labrador Retrievers. Labs get many different types of cancer, but there are three that are more common.

The following types of cancer are the most common found in Labrador Retrievers:

  1. Hemangiosarcoma: Cancer in dogs that presents from the cells in the blood vessels.
  2. Mast Cell Tumors: Cancer derived from a type of immune cell called “mast cells”. These tumors typically occur as lumps or masses in the skin.
  3. Lymphoma: Type of cancer in dogs that presents from where the lymphoid tissues are located, such as bone marrow: thymus, lymph nodes, or spleen.

Why Are Labrador Retrievers Prone To Cancer?

So, why are Labrador Retrievers prone to all these different types of cancer? There are several reasons for this question. Studies are being done on the actual question as this article is being written. However, we do have to wait for years before the data can truly tell us all the answers.

Genetics

One way that Labrador Retrievers get cancer is genetic. Labrador Retrievers have genetic issues that stem from breeding and their genes being passed down from generation to generation.

Due to those already pre-existing conditions being bred into the Labrador Retriever, they are prone to cancer at a higher rate.

Environment

Another way that Labrador Retrievers are more prone to cancer is because of the environment in which we live. Some things can not only give Labrador Retrievers cancer, but can also cause cancer in their people as well. Some of these environmental causes are the second hand smoke, sun, environmental toxins, or radiation.

Prolonging the Labrador Lifespan

How long do Labradors live, increasing lifespan

There are ways that Labrador Retriever owners can help the life expectancy of their dog. Some suggestions are obvious, while others may never have crossed your mind.

Exercise

Labrador Retrievers are active dogs. Exercise plays an important role in their lives. A Labrador puppy needs about 5min of exercise per month that they have been alive. An adult Labrador needs anywhere from 1 to 2 hours of exercise per day depending on the dog. More active working dogs would need closer to 2 hours.

Exercise will help their body remain healthy, and help them to avoid obesity, an all too common problem in many dogs.

Avoid Obesity, Keep your Labrador Trim

Lean Labradors can live much longer than overweight or obese Labradors. One study investigating Labrador Lifespan, determined that Labradors kept lean with a calorie restricted diet lived longer. 90% of these dogs lived longer than the typical 12 years of age and 28% lived to be more than 15.5 years. Several other studies have shown similar results, lean is very important.

Labradors are already predisposed to joint disease, in fact in one study in the UK musculoskeletal disease was the leading cause of death. Keeping your labrador at a healthy trim weight can reduce stress on their joints and lower the risk of joint disease.

Limit Exposure to Known Carcinogens

One thing you can do is limit the amount of exposure to environmental toxins that are known to cause cancer as much as you can. There are so many different things that can cause cancer in this world, but the ones that Labrador Retriever owners should focus on are below.

Second Hand Smoke

Secondhand smoking around Labrador Retrievers is harmful to their bodies in the same way it harms people. Secondhand smoke could increase their risk of lung or other forms of cancer.

Pesticides

Pesticides are known exposure problems for cancer not only in humans, but Labrador Retrievers as well. Pesticides are the chemicals that are put on (usually sprayed) plants to limit the bug exposure to that particular plant. Pesticides have been long implicated as dangerous to breathe in and also to be ingested.

Herbicides

Herbicides are another exposure problem for cancer in Labrador Retrievers. Herbicides are the chemicals that are put on plants to kill them. These have been used for years in people’s gardens as well as in fields where produce is being grown. Herbicides are again harmful to not only humans, but also Labrador Retrievers.

Stress Reduction

Reducing the stress in your Labrador Retriever will allow their bodies to be more relaxed and operate properly. Think about when you are stressed and the havoc that stress does to your body. It is the same in Labrador Retrievers.

When a Labrador Retriever is stressed, the hormones and body chemistry can be thrown off. This can allow the dog to be vulnerable to illness. Also, stress could cause more heart issues in Labrador Retrievers.

Some tips for stress reduction are: training your Labrador Retriever how to be calm, as well as teaching them that being alone is okay. Most of the Labrador Retriever’s stress does stem from separation anxiety. Helping relieve that stress can keep your Labrador Retriever healthier and live longer. 

Health Precautions

How long do Labradors live, health

We recommend that Labrador Retrievers have annual check-ups at their Veterinarian’s office. During these visits, your veterinarian will check for cancer, illness, and infections. This could help with early detection. Spaying your female dog will also greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer (mammary tumors).

Another recommendation is to give your Labrador Retriever supplements and vitamins that will help their bodies stay healthy. These suggestions should come directly from a trained professional on Labrador Retrievers, such as your veterinarian.

Brushing your dog’s teeth and hair can help with keeping your Labrador Retriever healthy. Making sure your Labrador Retriever’s teeth are not having plaque issues could prevent any gum diseases or tooth infections. Brushing their hair is recommended to keep their skin conditions at bay.

Conclusion on Labrador Lifespan

Not all news about Labrador Retriever health is bad. There are also many studies being done to help reduce the risks of cancer and other life ending issues that our dogs may face.

Our knowledge of the life expectancy of a Labrador Retriever has grown over the years and with recent studies. This allows us to take more precautions and adjust how we raise our dogs. Be sure to do your part in helping to increase your Labrador’s life.

To help with the costs of veterinary bills, especially in your older dog, be sure to check out our list of Recommended Pet Insurance Providers to get a FREE quote!

Dr. Anne Traas

Anne Traas, DVM, MS, DACT is a veterinarian and the President of Labrador Retriever Society. She is a specialist in canine reproduction. In her day job, she is a leader in a small biotech where she and a team of vets and scientists are working to develop new medications for pets.

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