When you have a dog, that dog becomes a part of your family. As a part of your family, you want to be able to spend as much time as possible with your Labrador, but unfortunately their lifespans are not quite as long as ours. So how long can you expect your Labrador to live?
(image of a Labrador)
No breed of dog can be expected to live as long as a human, and sadly, Labradors are no exception to this rule. Whilst they might have long and happy lives, what we consider long for a dog is very different to what we’d expect for ourselves.
Realising that you’ll most likely outlive your canine best friend can be a hard pill to swallow, but what’s most important is that we give them the best possible life for however many years they’ve got. Time works differently for dogs too, so what is only ten years to us feels like much longer to your Labrador, and that’s a comforting thought.
With all that said, it’s worth noting that the quality of the years you spend with your dog is much more important than the quantity. Bearing that in mind though, there are several factors that can affect the average life expectancy of a Labrador, and looking out for these factors can give you a better idea of what to expect.
What’s the Average Lifespan for a Labrador?
Assuming your Labrador is healthy, well looked after, and generally happy, they can be expected to live for at least 10 years and even as long as 15 or 16 on some rare occasions. The typical range tends to be in the 10-14 years ballpark.
While this might seem like such an insignificant fraction of our own lifespans, we should feel blessed to be able to spend even that much time with these furry companions that are loyal and affectionate to the very end.
Yellow, Black, Chocolate – What’s the Difference?
Is there any difference in life expectancy between the different colours of Labradors? Some studies suggest that there could be.
(image of all three coloured Labradors next to each other)
Whilst black and yellow Labradors are though to be able to live for similar lifespans, chocolate labs seem to have slightly shorter life expectancies. The reasons behind this are most likely down to genetics as the chocolate colour is a recessive gene.
This means that in order to produce a chocolate-coloured puppy, both parent Labradors have to have the gene that carries the code for that colour. This in turn, means that chocolate Labradors result from smaller gene pools than black and yellow labs.
Coming from a smaller gene pool means exposure to a higher proportion of problematic genes, meaning there is more chance for a chocolate Labrador to develop undesirable health conditions than there would be for their yellow and black counterparts.
Of course, this is no reason not to adopt a chocolate lab, but it does bring up some interesting questions about breeding, as chocolate is actually a very desirable Labrador colour. There is a lot of pressure on breeders to produce chocolate Labradors when in reality, chocolate labs are sadly at a genetic disadvantage.
What Factors Affect the Lifespan of a Labrador?
There are a number of different influences that can affect how old your Labrador lives to, and even though there aren’t any factors that will increase your dog’s longevity beyond its reasonable limit, there are signs you can look out for to ensure your lab is as healthy as possible.
Genetics and Size
As we’ve touched on briefly above, genetics is one of the most important factors in determining a dog’s lifespan. We’ve seen how chocolate labs live slightly shorter lives due to genetics, but the Labrador breed as a whole has some genetic factors to contend with.
Firstly, small dogs generally outlive larger breeds by quite a few years. For example, a Yorkshire Terrier’s average lifespan is between 13 and 16 years, a good couple of years longer than that of a Labrador. Chihuahuas frequently outlive even Yorkshire Terriers, having an average lifespan of between 12 and 20 years!
(image of a Labrador next to a small breed of dog)
This general trend contradicts inter-species relationships of size and longevity as we often see larger species (eg elephants) living much longer than smaller species (eg mice) due to larger mammals having slower metabolisms. Having a slower metabolism essentially means that less energy is expended on aging.
Coming back to large dogs vs small dogs, there doesn’t seem to be much scientific consensus on why smaller dogs live longer than larger ones but some possible reasons include:
- Larger dog breeds develop from puppy to adult more quickly than smaller breeds, putting them at higher risk of abnormal cell growth and resulting cancers.
- Larger dogs may be affected by age-related illnesses more easily than smaller dogs.
- Larger dogs are more genetically geared to handle harsher conditions (more strenuous exercise and “jobs”, harsher terrain and weather conditions etc) which could put them at increased risk of injury and disease.
Regardless of the reasons why, the fact remains that medium to large dogs are not likely to live as long as smaller breeds.
Genetic Predisposition to Diseases
Unfortunately, Labradors are prone to certain health conditions due to their genetics. Whilst it is not completely certain that your Labrador will develop such a disease, the breed as a whole is genetically predisposed to certain issues including:
- Hip dysplasia – stiffness, spasticity, or displacement of the hip joint which in severe cases can lead to arthritis, pain, and paralysis.
- Centronuclear Myopathy – a hereditary disease that causes undue loss of muscle tone and control.
- Obesity – you may already be aware that Labradors are very genetically prone to easy weight gain, often resulting in obesity.
- Cancers – there are many types of cancers that affect all kinds of dogs, but sadly Labradors are slightly more likely to die from cancer than other breeds are.
While there may not be much you can do to protect your Labrador from getting certain illnesses, there are different scans and medical procedures that can help to identify these illnesses quickly, as well as determine how likely the risk of contracting them is. If you notice your lab acting different, not eating, or moving unusually, make an appointment with your vet as soon as you can.
(image of a Labrador at the vet)
You can help your dog to avoid obesity by ensuring they are fed a healthy and balanced diet, as well as an appropriate volume of food. Regular exercise is also vitally important.
Something like hip dysplasia might not be completely avoidable but you can take steps to lessen the risk of issues for your dog. Monitor physical activity to ensure your lab isn’t doing anything overly strenuous, and make sure they don’t try to jump off things that are too high.
Labradors, and other pedigree breeds, have more genetic links with disease to deal with than crosses and mongrels too. This is because dogs with parents of different breeds, or parents that are also mongrels, come from a wider gene pool which gives them greater resistance to diseases and other health concerns.
Just like humans can suffer with mental health issues, dogs can too. When a human is depressed or anxious for a prolonged period, they may start developing physical symptoms that can end up making them quite ill.
The same is true for dogs. Labradors have a sweet and gentle temperament from the time they are puppies all the way to old-age, and it’s something we love about them as companions.
Unfortunately, however, if a Labrador is placed under stressful conditions for too long, this can lead to feelings of anxiety and fear. Aside from the fact that it’s just not nice for a dog to feel scared, fear and anxiety can actually have an impact on a Labrador’s lifespan.
( image of a Labrador looking sad/scared)
Regularly being put in a situation that triggers a fear response can make Labradors more susceptible to exhaustion and disease. Hopefully, this isn’t something you’d need to worry about with your lab, but it is worth bearing in mind anyway.
Ways to Increase Your Lab’s Lifespan or Support Their General Health
While it won’t always be possible to save your Labrador from diseases, injuries, and other issues, there are some steps you can take to ensure they are the healthiest and happiest they can be. Physical and mental health are some of the most important cornerstones for a long life anyway.
Make sure your Labrador gets daily exercise and fresh air. It is important that Labradors are not overworked as this could result in joint and skeletal issues, but it’s equally important that they exercise to build muscle, stay fit, and work off pent-up energy.
Daily walks and lots of playing will keep your dog mentally healthy as well as physically, helping them to hopefully live longer. An added bonus is that exercising together will help you strengthen your bond with your lab.
(image of a person jogging or walking with a Labrador)
As we’ve already covered, feeding your Labrador a healthy and balanced diet is paramount in ensuring their overall health. Keep treats to a minimum or switch to using nutrient-rich vegetables as treats rather than things containing animal fats and bones.
The other thing to remember where diet is concerned is to feed your Labrador only the amount of food that they NEED. Overfeeding is so easy with labs as they are renowned overeaters, and will likely gorge themselves if given the chance. Small, regular meals are sometimes the best way to go to avoid allowing your Labrador to put on too much weight.
Neutering or Spaying Your Labrador
Apart from the fact that neutering your male dog will reduce anxiety, aggression, and overzealousness in terms of energy, it can also help to extend your dog’s life. Neutering removes the dog’s testicles which eliminates the possibility of them getting testicular cancer and will also stop them leaving home to look for a mate, minimising the risk of traffic accidents.
Similarly, spaying your female dog removes the uterus and ovaries which means they are no longer able to get uterine or ovarian cancers. It will also stop your dog from getting pregnant which comes with its own list of risks and concerns.
Aside from all these health and longevity benefits of spaying and neutering, it is also the most responsible decision you can make as a pet owner – there are so many puppies and dogs out there looking for homes, the last thing the world needs is more puppies.
At the End of the Day
Your dog will live as long as it lives. There are some things you can do to support your Labrador’s overall health and happiness, but genetics are difficult to contend with and there’s only so much you can do.
You might live longer than your Labrador, but don’t let the fear of losing them stop you from enjoying your time with them. Labs are some of the sweetest, most affectionate, and loyal dogs out there so any time you have will be precious!
For more information on the pros and cons of having a Labrador, click here.