Original Question: I'm considering buying a Yellow Lab but I'm concerned about the list of health issues with the breed. Bloat really scares me as does the epilepsy and eye problems, etc. How prevalent are these things? Do you see them often? My son has epilepsy and this dog is for him so I'm hoping he can learn seizure recognition like our last Bichon. - Sam
Thanks for your question.
I think it’s fantastic that you’re thinking about this and I don’t think enough potential pet owners really investigate breed specific problems. So first off, I’ll mention that any purebred dog is more likely to have health issues than a mixed breed dog. There are many discussion boards of veterinarians that confirm we agree anecdotally that the healthier dogs we see are mixed breed dogs.
Every purebred dog will have genetic disorders listed as potential problems. What’s interesting to me is that there are breeders that will claim their line of dogs do not get those problems. I find this really irresponsible. The good breeders will list the breed-specific genetic problems that could happen and although they have tried to breed it out of the line there is absolutely no way to guarantee it. So if you like this breed because of its personality traits that would be the reason to select it. It would be my strong recommendation to go to a shelter or local Humane Society and look at rescuing a mixed breed dog. This has the added benefit of also starting off this relationship by saving a life. I think it brings a whole other level of enjoyment and significance to the relationship. We have an in-depth video discussing the benefits of adopting a pet that I would encourage you to have a look.
The Lab health issues you listed are problems we see, however, the seizures and ocular problems are lower on the list of possibilities. The potential ocular problems have no well-documented treatment but in the unlikely and unfortunate event of developing epilepsy, there are good medical options to control this. The typical Labrador Retriever health issues we see is hip dysplasia and musculoskeletal problems. There is a genetic propensity in the breed for issues like hip dysplasia that can’t be controlled but by keeping your dog at an ideal weight and not overfeeding it, you can reduce some of the causes of hip dysplasia. The risk of bloating can be eliminated by performing a procedure called a gastropexy when the dog is spayed or neutered that I would ask your veterinarian about. Gastropexy in dogs is where you stitch the side of the stomach to the inside body wall which essentially anchors the stomach so that it can’t flip over on itself. This is a preventative procedure and is typically performed at the time of spaying or neutering when your dog will already be under general anaesthesia.
I hope some of this helps answer your questions and reduces your fears.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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