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Labrador - breed information and advice

The UK’s favourite breed has come a long way from its hard-working Canadian roots, but today’s Labrador still makes a reliable working dog because the breed is active, eager and easy to train. They adore getting wet and are naturally efficient swimmers, but their double coat is soon dried with a good shake. For a good-natured family pet, the Labrador is a sensible choice.

Breed information


Size: Large

Coat: The Labrador’s short, smooth coat is easy to maintain with a weekly groom

Exercise: 2+ hours a day for adult dogs

Life span: 10+ years

Breed group: Labradors are gundogs, bred to flush out, locate or retrieve game shot down by hunters. They are usually highly trainable, keen to please and have a balanced, pleasant temperament.

Skin conditions

The skin is the largest organ of a dog’s body and a number of disorders can affect it. Like other dogs, Labradors can suffer from allergies that lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation). Allergies can be caused by many different items, including things that are inhaled (such as pollen or dust mites), items that are eaten (for example, wheat), items that the dog comes into contact with (for example, washing powders), or bites from parasites such as fleas. Another skin problem, pyoderma (meaning ‘infection of the skin’) is usually caused by bacteria, fungi (‘ringworm’) or yeasts. Skin disorders can be managed using various treatments, usually required long-term, which means the dog can get on with enjoying life.


Skin conditions are the fifth most common illnesses we see in Labradors

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Lumps and bumps

Like all dogs, Labradors can develop masses (lumps and bumps) in the layers of fat, skin and muscle that cover their bodies. These might be warts, cysts, abscesses, lipomas or tumours, such as mast cell tumours. Mast cells are normal skin cells that help dogs respond to trauma and damage by releasing histamine. However, these cells can sometimes replicate into a serious type of tumour called a mast cell tumour. They vary widely in size and shape, but most take the form of a solitary lump within the skin. Lipomas are benign (non-cancerous), slow-growing fatty lumps. Generally, treatment depends on the size, location and exact nature of the lump, but almost always involves surgical removal.


We paid £3,123 to treat Inca the Labrador for mast cell tumours in 2016

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Hip and elbow dysplasia

Larger breeds like the Labrador can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. This develops when the bones that form the hip or elbow joint develop abnormalities in the cartilage that lines the surface of the joint or structures around it. This leads to the development of arthritis, which shows as stiffness (especially after lying down), and a reluctance to exercise or go up and down stairs. Long-term treatment or surgery will be required to keep the dog active.


In our experience, Labradors are twice as likely to need treatment for joint problems than all dogs we insure

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Cruciate ligament rupture

All breeds of dog are susceptible to cruciate ligament damage. A dog’s cruciate ligaments cross inside the knee joint and hold it stable. These ligaments can fray and rupture, leading to a lack of stability in the knee. Rupture can occur as a result of a physical injury, such as landing awkwardly when running and jumping. It can also happen more gradually, where the ligament slowly degenerates and weakens over time, particularly if the dog is overweight. Treatment usually takes the form of surgery to stabilise the knee joint.


We paid £3,817 to treat Todd the Labrador for cruciate ligament damage in 2016

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Gastrointestinal disorders

Labradors, like all dogs, can suffer from problems affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI tract is a long, winding tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus, with various twists and turns along the way. Conditions such as gastroenteritis or an obstruction within the bowel (due the dog to eating stones, cloth or string, for example) commonly cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Because of their big appetites, Labradors are particularly prone to eating things they shouldn’t, in which case veterinary advice should be quickly sought. Surgical removal of obstructions usually means a dog will go on to lead a normal life.


In our experience, gastrointestinal disorders are the second most common illnesses in Labradors

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