Labrador pups should not be brought home before they are 7–10 weeks old. Their life expectancy is generally 10 to 12 years, and it is a healthy breed with relatively few major problems. Notable issues related to health and well-being include:
Labs are somewhat prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, especially the larger dogs, though not as much as some other breeds. Hip scores are recommended before breeding and often joint supplements are recommended.
Labs also suffer from the risk of knee problems. A luxating patella is a common occurrence in the knee where the leg is often bow shaped.
Eye problems are also possible in some Labs, particularly progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia. Dogs which are intended to be bred should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist for an eye score.
Hereditary myopathy, a rare inherited disorder that causes a deficiency in type II muscle fibre.
There is a small incidence of other conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and deafness in labs, either congenitally or later in life.
Labradors often suffer from exercise induced collapse, a syndrome that causes hyperthermia, weakness, collapse, and disorientation after short bouts of exercise.
Labs are sometimes prone to ear infection, because their floppy ears trap warm moist air. Labs who spend a lot of time in water, are additionally prone to infection. This is easy to control, but needs regular checking to ensure that a problem is not building up unseen. A healthy Labrador ear should look clean and light pink (almost white) inside. Darker pink (or inflamed red), or brownish deposits, are a symptom of ear infection. The usual treatment is regular cleaning daily or twice daily (being careful not to force dirt into the sensitive inner ear) and sometimes medication (ear drops) for major cases. As a preventative measure, some owners clip the hair carefully around the ear and under the flap, to encourage better air flow. Labradors also get cases of allergic reactions to food or other environmental factors.
Labradors can easily become overweight, due to their enjoyment of treats, hearty appetites, and endearing behaviour towards people. Lack of activity is also a contributing factor. A healthy Labrador should keep a very slight hourglass waist and be fit and light, rather than fat or heavy-set. Excessive weight is strongly implicated as a risk factor in the later development of hip dysplasia or other joint problems and diabetes, and also can contribute to general reduced health when older. Osteoarthritis is common in older, especially overweight, Labradors. A 14 year study covering 48 dogs by food manufacturer Purina showed that labs fed to maintain a lean body shape outlived those fed freely, by around two years, emphasizing the importance of not over-feeding.