Thursday, March 28, 2013

3 Important Things to Know about Labrador Retrievers

By Linda Cole

Labrador Retrievers have claimed the top spot on the American Kennel Club's list of most popular dogs for the last 22 years. They are also among the most intelligent breeds, coming in at number seven. If you're looking for a great family pet that gets along well with other dogs and cats, the Lab is a good choice. However, there are three important things to know about sharing your home with a Lab.

Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC)

Labs love to play and run. Some become so wrapped up in what they're doing they don't slow down, even when they get tired. They can become so exhausted that they collapse. Overly excited or stressed out dogs are also at risk of collapsing. This is an inherited genetic disorder common in Labs with signs beginning to show up between the ages of five months to three years. Both sexes and all coat colors can be affected, but it seems to be more prominent in black Labs bred for field trials.

EIC was first detected in the 1990s, but this condition is on the rise and showing up in dogs that are otherwise perfectly healthy and fit for rigorous exercise. Collapse can happen within 5 to 20 minutes after beginning strenuous activities. High temperatures and humidity also play a role.

Symptoms can be mild to severe, and EIC can be life-threatening. Symptoms include: an unsteady/rocking gait, weak back legs, dragging the back legs, falling over while running, inability to move his head or legs after exercising, an abnormal movement of the feet while walking or running, front legs are stiff after collapsing, and high body temperature. Most dogs remain alert during a collapse and don't experience any pain. Some dogs, however, may show confusion and appear disoriented. Recovery time is five to twenty-five minutes.

A DNA test is the only way to determine if your Lab has this inherited condition. Dogs with the mutated gene should not be used in a breeding program. The best way to treat EIC is to avoid activities that caused your dog to collapse. Stop this activity at the first sign of weakness and reduce your dog’s temperature by giving him a drink of water or spray him down with cool water.

EIC has also been found in Old English Sheepdogs, Cocker Spaniels, Curly Coated Retrievers, Boykin Spaniels, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Pembroke Welsh Corgis and German Wire-haired Pointers.

Supervise Around Water

Labradors were bred to retrieve game from land and water, but that doesn't mean an inexperienced dog or puppy knows what to do in the water. He needs to be taught how to act in water and how to safely get out. Labs have a tendency to play hard and don't know when it's time to quit. If a pup has just one bad experience, like falling into a swimming pool or other body of water and not being able to get out, it can make him fearful of all water. He is also at risk of drowning. Because Labs are comfortable in water, they don't pay attention to currents or stagnant water, so it's important to make sure the water is safe for your dog to be in. You don't want your dog to get caught in a strong current that could carry him out to sea or down a river. If you wouldn't go into a body of water, don't let your dog go in.

As long as the weather isn't too cool, Lab pups as young as six weeks can be slowly introduced to the water. Start a pup out in a small pond that's easy for you to wade out into when your dog begins to show an interest in water, and allow him to set his own pace to feel comfortable in it.


A healthy diet is as important for our pets as it is for us, and Labrador Retrievers need exercise and a proper diet to keep their weight under control. The ideal weight for Labs is 55 to 75 pounds. An obese dog has a greater chance of developing heart or liver disease, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, diabetes, back or joint pain, hip dysplasia, skin problems, an intolerance to heat, and the possibility of a shorter life expectancy.

If your Lab has experienced EIC in the past, you can still make sure he gets moderate exercise with daily walks or playing fetch in the backyard. Because Labs love food and have a good appetite, it can be easy to over feed them. Providing a premium quality dog food like CANIDAE All Life Stages is a good way to keep your dog at his desired weight because it takes less food to satisfy him. The CANIDAE Platinum formula is made especially for senior and overweight dogs.

Top photo by Sini Merikallio
Bottom photo by OakleyOriginals

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. It's too bad you have choosen to highlight a health condition that in truth, very few Labradors would be affected by this. The title of this blog is poorly choosen and I would have expected a more upbeat content than the voice of doom content.

    1. may be very few lab are affected.......but some are its important post....!!!!

  2. I think this is an important post especially for a blog that focuses on being a responsible pet owner. The great things about Labs are well know, but people often think great dogs are just born that way. I saw this post not as a negative one towards the breed but as a necessary one to let potential owners know of things to look for.


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