Every caring and responsible owner wishes for their dog to be as healthy as possible.
Luckily for us, caring for a Labrador Retriever isn’t as demanding as it is for many other breeds. Well-bred Labradors are relatively low maintenance, fit and healthy dogs.
But your Labradors continuing health and well-being does depend entirely on you.
A nutritious diet, regular exercise, grooming, preventive measures, and regular visits to the vet are the real key to maintaining a high level of wellness and good health.
All these actions are your responsibility and solely under your control.
What you’ll want to do is gain a little knowledge of how to take care of your Labrador's health and hygiene, and set up daily, weekly, quarterly and annual routines.
Daily routines will be diet control, exercise, and physical inspections. Weekly routines will be grooming, ears, eyes, teeth, and nail care.
Quarterly routines could be shared between visits to the vet, a canine dentist, and bathing. And the annual routine will be vaccinations.
Just remember that prevention is always better than cure, so doing your best to prevent any illness and catching problems at the earliest possible stage is the goal to aim for.
The following are all areas where you only need a little knowledge to effectively take care of your Labrador well.
And if you cannot dedicate this time and effort, then in the nicest possible way, you might be better suited to a pet with less demanding care requirements such as goldfish.
Things To Consider For Your Home and Garden For The Safety of Your Labs
Labradors are a lively and inquisitive breed, especially during their first three years so you need to keep dangerous household items out of their reach.
You might even need to keep your Lab away from entire areas of your home and garden where access to dangerous objects can’t be easily controlled. You need to:
- Remove sharp objects they may walk over / lay on / rub against / chew etc.
- Conceal electrical wiring…we all know of their infamous love for chewing. Sharp teeth and electricity do not mix!
- Don’t leave food wrappers and trash lying around. A Labrador can easily choke on wrappings or trash that may be swallowed along with edible scraps.
- Use child-proofing catches on cupboards and drawers containing household chemicals, such as bleach and anti-freeze. Labs are smart and opening cupboards and drawers soon become easy for them.
- Be mindful of the toxicity of certain plants – Over 100 plants have been identified as toxic to dogs, so be sure to research any plant before bringing it into your home.
- Fence of any ponds or pools in your yard. Labs love water, but when your Lab’s unsupervised, these can present a real danger if your Labrador struggles to get out.
These are just a few points to consider around your home and garden, there are many more. Just try to put yourself in your Labrador's shoes and take a good look at his environment as he would see it. Try to see how he could get into trouble and take measures to prevent it.
9 Dog Health Care Tips
- The Basics of Labrador Grooming
Grooming coat care and brushing, it's looking after every part of your Labrador and a time during which you familiarize yourself with your dog's look and feel so you’re able to spot any changes that might signify health problems.
It’s also quality time spent bonding with your dog and strengthening your relationship.
- Basic Labrador Coat Care and Bathing
Labradors are a short-haired breed that doesn’t need much brushing for most of the year. But during the molting season, you’ll want to brush them regularly to remove shed hair if you want to limit the amount that covers, well, every surface of your home.
Brushing also helps to shake loose dirt out of and spread the natural oils throughout their coat for that desirable, healthy glossy look we know and love.
When it comes to bathing, Labradors have natural oils in their coat that provide waterproofing and it’s highly recommended you don’t bathe them too often to preserve this natural property.
Frequent baths will strip their oils, leaving them prone to wet and cold in winter, causing dry skin and making their coat look dull and not shiny.
Bathe them only if they’re particularly dirty and smelly or on a schedule of just 3 or 4 times per year.
- Keeping Nails Trim
Most Labradors will need a nail trim every 2 to 3 months, although some may never need it.
Regularly walking your dog on hard ground, especially sidewalks and roads, will have a natural filing effect and keep your dog's claws in order.
You should pay your dog's paws regular attention, inspect them often, and don’t let them overgrow. If you can hear them rapping on your kitchen floor, it’s definitely time to get the clippers out!
Personally, I’ve always taken my dogs to the vet for nail clipping, but you can do it at home yourself.
Just please ask your vet for instruction first so you know how to do it properly and don’t cut them too short. This can make them sore and bleed.
And please, use proper dog nail trimmers made especially for the task, don’t hack away with human nail clippers.
- Ear Care
What with a Labrador's slightly drooping ears and their love of water, the inside of their ears can sometimes retain too much moisture, causing bacteria to build up and infections to form. You should check your Labradors ears regularly to make sure they aren’t red, inflamed, or have a high build-up of wax.
- Dental Care
This is possibly one of the most neglected areas of pet dogs' health, we really should pay more attention to it.
Just some of the problems a Labrador may have with its teeth are gum disease, loose teeth, cracked or broken teeth, root abscesses, and a build-up of tartar. These can be very uncomfortable for your dog and can lead to further problems if neglected.
Therefore, you need to inspect their teeth regularly, take measures to clean their teeth, and even visit a professional canine dentist every 6 months or annually for a thorough check-up and any necessary treatments. Treat their teeth like you would your own.
- Dealing with Parasites
Controlling fleas, ticks and other parasites is essential for keeping your Labrador healthy.
Immediate problems include extreme irritation and skin sores, but extreme infestations can lead to more dangerous problems including Lyme disease and tapeworms.
If you stick to a regular grooming schedule (as you should!) checking for external parasites is an easy task.
Simply brush your hand against the lie of your Labrador's fur and watch for any small moving dots and check for any clearly visible ticks.
There are many safe and effective over-the-counter flea control products, many of which contain formulations to prevent ticks at the same time.
I recommend you get one of these for your Lab because once a flea infestation takes hold, they’re hard to get rid of and the preventive medicines really are very safe nowadays.
Finally, depending on where you live in the world, you may need to put your Labrador on medication for heartworm.
Where mosquitoes are a problem, they can pass on heartworm and this can be fatal. Even the medicine for heartworm makes your dog very ill so prevention is definitely better than cure!
- Regular Visits to the Vet
You’ll want to make sure your Labrador has regular visits to a vet, not only when they’re showing signs of an illness.
A vet will perform a full health check and could discover things with their knowledge and specialist tools that aren’t immediately visible to the untrained or unskilled eye, such as a heart problem or diabetes.
A number of potentially fatal diseases Labradors are prone to can be prevented by vaccination. Diseases such as distemper, rabies, hepatitis, and parvovirus to name just a few.
Your puppy will have had his first shots at five or six weeks before you got to take him home, and he will need a few further shots over a period of up to 18 weeks.
A rabies shot usually follows at 6 months of age or so. After this, your adult Labrador will need just a single booster each year to stay protected.
- Nutrition and Diet
It goes without saying (although I’ll say it) that you’ll need to provide your Labrador with food and water daily. But you shouldn’t allow your Lab to ‘free eat’ anything whenever he feels.
Obesity is a very common problem in the breed because Labradors just LOVE to eat. If you hand out too many treats and feed him twice daily, there’s a very real chance your Lab could become overweight.
Like all living animals, your Labrador has particular nutritional requirements and the cheapest tinned dog food or ‘human foods’ just aren’t good enough.
Dogs need a balance of vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins different from that of a human, and feeding them on human leftovers can lead to malnutrition, as can a diet based on cheap filler packed dog food.
I’m not saying to ban giving all scraps, just make it an occasional treat.
You should perform a little research to find and use a recognized healthy brand of dog food that will cater to your Labrador's needs.
To help with this, please see our articles that list 4 of the best foods for Labrador puppies (opens in new window) or the best dog foods for adult Labradors (opens in new window) …yours really will thrive on these handpicked, quality foods!
Additionally, the best thing you can do is set up a feeding schedule for your dog, twice per day is recommended, and be mindful of any extra treats. Your Lab should always be well fed but not over-fed.
Another thing to consider is that puppies and adult dogs have different dietary requirements so you’ll need to feed your puppy differently from your adult dog.
It’s not just a question of quantity, the nutritional needs of a puppy and adult dog differ and their food needs to cater for this.
Finally, water…Your Labrador should have access to water 24/7/365 and the water must be regularly changed and kept clean.
If your dog is off their food, drinks way too much, or way too little for a period of time more than 36 hours, you should call your vet as this is almost surely a sign of an underlying problem.