Published: 14 Jul 2021 | Last Updated: 09 Aug 2021 09:23:19

A new study from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has revealed an overall picture on the healthiness of Labrador Retrievers in the UK, showing that arthritis is a particular concern for the breed.

The study, led by the RVC’s VetCompass™ programme, compared the health of a random sample of 1,462 Labrador Retrievers with 20,786 non-Labrador Retrievers, compiling a list of the 35 most common disorders across both groups of dogs, including arthritis, ear infection and obesity.

From a general health perspective, the findings show that overall, Labrador Retrievers have a higher risk of 12/35 (34.3%) disorders and lower risk of 7/35 (20.0%) disorders. There were 16/35 (45.7%) disorders with no difference in risk detected in. This research is important as it helps to provide owners with valuable guidance about what health issues to look out for in order to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

By focusing specifically on the most common disorders, the researchers were able to concentrate on problems that these dogs are most frequently affected by

Additional key findings include:

  • Labrador Retrievers have significantly increased risk of arthritis (x 2.8), lipoma (fatty mass) (x 2.5), kennel cough (x 2.3), laceration (x 2.2), stiffness (x 2.1), papilloma (x 1.7), moist dermatitis (x 1.7), obesity (x 1.6), lameness (x 1.6), post-operative wound (x 1.6), ear infection (x 1.5) and diarrhoea (x 1.4).
  • Labrador Retrievers have reduced risk of patellar luxation (x 0.2), heart murmur (x 0.2), flea infestation (x 0.2), retained deciduous tooth (x 0.3), dental disease (x 0.4), aggression (x 0.4) and anal sac impaction (x 0.7).

The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog breed in the UK for many years, but until now, there has been limited reliable evidence on their general health compared with other dogs.

This new study shows that Labrador Retrievers are a unique breed with a quite different disorder profile to other breeds. Owners can now better understand the unique strengths and weaknesses of their dogs and therefore give them the best care possible. It provides owners and breeders with a list of disorders with higher risk that they can monitor for in their dogs, allowing them seek veterinary support as early as possible in order to address potential problems.

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club, said:

“It is important for research, such as this study funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, to be carried out so that both Labrador breeders and owners can ensure these popular dogs are healthy, happy, well-cared for and well-bred. This data enables us to continue to monitor and improve the breed’s health and provide the many responsible breeders with the tools they need to do the same.

“There are estimated to be well over one million Labradors in the UK, and whilst it’s important to remember that this study is just a small percentage of these dogs that have visited a vet, it remains a valuable addition to our Kennel Club breed-specific research base which protects Labrador health, both now and in the future.”

Camilla Pegram, VetCompass™ Epidemiologist at the RVC, and author of the paper, said:

“Labrador Retrievers are the most popular dog breed in the UK and are therefore commonly seen by veterinarians in practice. As a result, disorders are often perceived to be more common in Labrador Retrievers than other dog breeds, when this might actually be due to their relative popularity. To account for this, we compared the risk in Labrador Retrievers to the risk in all other dogs for a range of common disorders, to reliably identify disorders to which they are predisposed or protected.”

Dr Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer, Companion Animal Epidemiology, at the RVC, and co-author of the paper, said:

“As we move into the knowledge economy where information has become the new oil or gold, we can now empower owners to care better for their dogs by sharing knowledge freely. The results of this VetCompass study provide owners of Labrador Retrievers with key information to spot diseases earlier in their dogs. Truly, sharing is caring. “

Research reference

The full paper is available from Scientific Reports:

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact:

About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London. It was the first in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in line with the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2021.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • In 2017, the RVC received a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest rating a university can receive.
  • A research led institution with 79% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

You may also be interested in:

Top of page