Wouldn’t it be amazing if our beloved dogs could live as long as we do? If you’re a Labrador parent, you probably feel the same way about your cherished dog.
So how long do Labs live? And is there anything you can do to encourage a longer life in your amazing dog?
Labradors typically have a lifespan of 10-14 years, with about 10-12 years considered the average range. This can vary somewhat depending on the Labrador’s color, breeding, and individual health conditions.
Labrador Retrievers are large-breed dogs, and larger breeds don’t typically live as long as some of their smaller-breed counterparts.
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However, the median life expectancy among all types of dogs is around 10.3 years, so Labs are in line with average dog life expectancies overall.
Labs also have a much longer life expectancy than other types of large-breed dogs, such as Dobermans and Great Danes.
So let’s investigate what things you can do to encourage good health in your Lab and maximize their potential for a longer life.
How Long Do Labs Live? The Typical Labrador Lifespan
Average Labrador Life Expectancy
The typical Labrador lifespan is between 10-14 years of age when considering all colors and types of Labrador Retriever together.
However, chocolate Labradors have a slightly shorter expected lifespan of 10.7 years, which can be possibly related to some of the health issues that chocolate Labs are more prone to having other colors of Labradors.
In 2018, a study was published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology looking at over 33,000 Labradors in the United Kingdom and evaluating issues such as lifespan, health, and genetic influences.
The researchers found that chocolate Labs had a 10% shorter expected lifespan than their yellow or black Labrador counterparts. This data confirmed what many had previously suspected about different lifespan expectations among different colors of Labradors.
So why would chocolate Labs have a shorter lifespan than yellow Labs or black Labs? A 10% difference in lifespan is significant, considering the expected lifespan to start with.
Much of this can be attributed to genetic issues and breeding problems, which are more common in chocolate Labs than other colors of Labradors. The chocolate color in Labradors is a recessive trait, meaning that both parent Labradors have to have the gene to produce that color in their offspring.
Because it is harder to find both dogs with the recessive gene, many times chocolate Labradors have fallen victim to very poor breeding standards and in-breeding. This can pass along many types of health issues that other dogs (from good breeding practices) would not have, including the other colors of Labradors.
That’s why we strongly suggest you do extensive research when choosing a Labrador breeder, and we have a guide to help you know what to look for and what to ask to find a great breeder.
It’s so important to choose a good breeder to minimize the chance that you’re going to have a Lab that struggles throughout life with terrible health conditions passed on through poor breeding practices.
We’ve personally experience this from an unethical breeder (who we believed to be reputable, and wasn’t) and it’s heartbreaking to see your beloved Lab struggle with chronic health conditions. It’s also hard to watch your adored Labrador have a shortened lifespan due to health issues that could have been prevented through a more ethical breeder.
What are these health conditions that can affect a Labrador’s lifespan? Let’s take a look at some of those issues that can impact how long Labs live next.
Health Issues That Can Affect How Long Labradors Live
Even with ethical and responsible Labrador breeding, there are several health conditions that Labradors are more likely to suffer from that can affect the length of their lives. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
This is a lifestyle issue and one that is a common problem for Labrador owners.
Labs love their food! They also generally love YOUR food, too! It can be hard to minimize obesity and overweight issues in Labradors, but we’ll give you some tips on this in the section below.
Joint Problems Including with Hips, Shoulder, and Elbows
Joint issues such as these are frequently seen in large-breed dogs. This can include dysplasia of the hips, as well as joint problems in elbows and shoulders for Labradors.
Excellent breeders will certify the hips, elbows, and other joints of your dog when you’re considering getting a puppy from them.
Your vet may also give you suggestions about supplements they may recommend, or whether they suggest using a food that includes products such as glucosamine for your Lab’s joints.
This is a topic that recently has begun to get more discussion and coverage in the Labrador world in the past few years.
Exercise-induced collapse (EIC) is a genetic condition (inherited) that causes a Labrador’s back legs to become weak, wobble, and fail to hold weight. It usually occurs after about 15-20 minutes of strenuous exercise, such as fetch, running, or field hunting.
It’s tragic to see a dog’s back legs fail on them, and we’ve personally had a Labrador with this condition. We had to be careful not to give her too much activity, fetch, or exercise. And when her EIC would flair up, we would have to carry her, which may or may not even be possible for some dog owners.
The University of Minnesota has been conducting research involving EIC in Labs for the past decade. This is a condition that a reputable breeder can test for in their dogs before you get a puppy from them.
Allergies (especially in chocolate Labradors)
Allergies can be either a minor inconvenience or a huge problem.
One of the Labs of Labrador Wise had such severe and debilitating allergies that he lost most of the fur on his belly and tail and eventually had to have his tail amputated.
Allergies can cause frequent infections in your Lab’s skin, due to constant scratching, biting, and chewing of hot spots, including paws.
Allergies can also require expensive monthly medications costing you hundreds of dollars per month, as well as treatments, testing, and even surgery costing you even more (as in our case).
It’s tragic to watch your amazing Labrador struggle with the loss of fur and the constant misery that allergies can bring.
Bloat is a medical emergency in dogs and can occur when a dog eats too quickly, causing their stomach to “flip.” This cuts off circulation to other vital organs, creates toxins in the body, and can stop their heart.
You can try to avoid bloat by having your dog eat their meals in a slower fashion, which is why we love this dog bowl for our Labradors. It helps our hungry, food-obsessed Labradors slow down while eating, and helps avoid the chance of bloat occurring.
(If you suspect bloat in your dog for whatever reason, please immediately call your vet).
Surgery Due to Swallowing Dangerous Items
Labs are known for being a very “mouthy” breed that likes to carry things and occasionally swallow them. If you have a Lab in your home, chances are you already know what we’re talking about!
Sometimes what they ingest cannot be removed easily by the vet and requires surgery. This can be traumatic for both you and the dog, as well as extremely expensive.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
This is an eye disease that can occur in many types of dogs and is seen occasionally in Labradors. It’s a degenerative disease causing eventual blindness in your dog. You can read more on it from the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists here.
Seizures can occur in dogs, including Labradors, and may be displayed as your dog freezing up (unable to move for several minutes) or as your dog falling down on the ground and trembling.
We’ve experienced Labrador seizures in one of the dogs of Labrador Wise, and our Labrador exhibited the second set of symptoms (falling down and trembling for several minutes). It’s very stressful to witness in your dog when it occurs.
Heartworm Disease (Common in the Southern US)
These are serious and significant health issues that can a toll on the general overall health of your dog and how long your Labrador could live.
Heartworm disease is carried by mosquitos most prevalent throughout the southern United States but can occur anywhere in the country. Its treatment is very traumatic and stressful for a dog to experience, and it can be very hard on your Lab’s body to go through the treatment.
We adopted a rescue Labrador who was heartworm positive, and the treatment was very challenging for him to go through. He had to remain quiet, calm, and with NO ACTIVITY FOR 90 DAYS.
Labrador owners, can you imagine how hard it is to keep your Lab calm and without activity for that length of time? Most Labs can’t go a day without getting out their excess energy!
Take a look at our article on heartworm in Labradors for more about its causes and what you can do about trying to prevent it from happening to your dog.
Make sure you talk with your vet about ways to keep your dog safe from heartworm disease occurring in your dog.
So in asking, “How long do Labs live?,” it’s critical that we go over some breeding issues that can contribute to these health problems and affect the length of the Labrador lifespan.
Breeding Issues That Can Contribute to Health Problems in Labradors
As we noted above, some of these conditions such as hip/elbow/shoulder problems, exercise-induced collapse, and retinal atrophy are conditions that can be inherited.
That’s why it’s so critical you make sure the breeder you’re using is testing for these conditions and certifying through a veterinarian that your puppy is not likely to have them.
Some of these health conditions are again more likely to occur from the result of bad breeding, which is again why we strongly encourage you to really do your research on finding a great breeder.
It will save you a great deal of stress, money, and heartache if you make the best choice possible in the beginning. It will also allow you and the dog you choose to enjoy a healthy life for a longer time together.
So are there things you can do today to start helping your dog improve their chances for a longer life? Let’s take a look.
Ways You Can Encourage a Longer Lifespan in Your Lab
Choose the Right Breeder From the Start
Breeder health issues will be less likely to occur if you’re using an ethical and reputable breeder who is focused on healthy dogs and upholding the standards of the Labrador breed.
We have more information on how to find a good breeder in this article because it’s so important that you ask the right questions and know what to look for from the start.
Keep Your Dog Active & Not Overweight
Proper daily exercise and activity are so important for your Lab’s health. Physical workouts are the best way to encourage your Lab to stay healthy and live a longer and better life.
Daily walks, games of fetch, and lots of play will not only tire out your Lab and make them easier to train and manage in your home but will encourage them to be as healthy as they can and prevent them from becoming (or staying) overweight.
Preventing obesity in your dog can be critical to improving pet health and helping influence how long Labs live.
Feed Them a Good Quality Food
Feeding your dog a really good quality food is another way to maintain good health and minimize health problems in your Labrador.
Maintaining the right feeding amounts and giving your dog a balanced and appropriate food for their life stage is a good way to also help keep their weight in a healthy range and prevent obesity.
Be careful to follow the feeding chart guidelines that each dog food manufacturer provides because the amounts can sometimes be different for different types of food.
For more information on how to find the best food for your dog, see our article here on How to Find the Right Dog Food.
Get Regular Wellness Checks & Veterinarian Care
Your veterinarian is the best resource for the health and care of your Labrador. Talk with them about ways to keep your Lab healthy, and prevent conditions like obesity and heartworm disease from occurring in your dog.
Keep your dog on the right schedule for wellness checks as recommended by your veterinarian (usually once to twice per year). These wellness checks can sometimes catch health conditions early and allow them to be treated to prevent them from becoming a further, more serious problem.
This can contribute to a better life expectancy and a longer lifespan for your Lab.
Wrap-Up: How Long Do Labs Live?
While we wish our dogs could live as long as we do, the typical Labrador will be your beloved friend and family member for about 10-14 years. In some cases, medical or health conditions will contribute to that average range being different for some types of Labs, especially chocolate Labs.
We hope for the longest life possible for your beloved Labrador. By taking the steps we’ve covered above, you can encourage your dog to live the longest life possible and enjoy many memories with you!