Many people ask, “how many years do Labrador retrievers live?” To determine the answer to this question, let's take a look at the average life expectancy of a Labrador retriever.
The average life expectancy of a Labrador retriever is 12 to 13 years. The average lifespan of a Labrador retriever is usually the same as the lifespan of a human being.
Although a recent study suggests that chocolate Labs live shorter lives, at 10.7 years than black and yellow Labradors.
There are many factors that influence the life span in Labs. These include diet, healthcare and management, and inherited diseases.
Read on to look at these factors, and how you can influence them.
So we’ve answered how long do labs live on average. But this isn’t a guaranteed Labrador lifespan for every dog.
Some Labradors live a good deal longer than twelve. But some unfortunately don’t even make it to ten.
So what controls how long your Labrador will live?
And how can you influence your dog’s life span so you can spend the best and happiest years together?
Factors That Affect Labrador Retriever Life Span
There are two key categories of factors that influence your Labrador’s life expectancy. And the life span of any dog.
- One is the genetic information your dog has inherited from his parents.
- The other is the events that happen to your dog during the course of his life. Through puppyhood to old age. Things like accidents, injury, and disease
Life Span Of A Labrador
Life span statistics for dogs are often wildly inaccurate and based on outdated information.
But luckily we no longer need to guess. We can give you accurate Labrador life span information, as we now have data from scientific studies.
In the UK, two surveys were carried out in 2004 and 2013.
The earlier study showed the median age of death in over 500 Labradors was 12.25. The later study gave a median age at death in a group of over 400 dogs as 12.5 years.
A bigger and more recent study published in 2018 looked at over 30,000 Labradors. This one found median longevity of 12 years in Labradors overall.
So the average Labrador lifespan seems to work out at around 12 years.
But there is some good news. There is evidence that the Labrador lifespan might be increasing.
One recent study, although it only looked at 39 dogs, suggested that the average could be getting closer to 14 years. So maybe our original answer to the question “how long do Labradors live?” is changing!
The longest-lived Labrador we can find official confirmation for was over 19 years old. And you’ll find plenty of reports in the comments section below of readers’ Labradors living over 15 years.
So, can you help your dog to reach these high numbers?
Let’s look first at the genes that control how your dog looks and behaves. And which set broad limits to the life span of your Labrador.
Genes Of A Labrador
Every purebred Labrador inherits a number of Labrador characteristics that he will share with all other pedigree Labradors.
These genes don’t just control his coat color, the shape of his ears, and the length of his tail. They also control aspects of his temperament and susceptibility to disease.
To some extent Labradors are lucky. They inherit a basically sound conformation or body shape.
They don’t have very long spines or short legs that can cause back problems. Their bodies are nicely proportioned and designed for athletic ability – running and jumping.
Labradors have not been bred with shortened faces that can cause breathing problems or small skulls that can damage their brains.
Nor do they have excessive skin or a massive amount of fur. This is great because a good body structure makes a dog naturally healthier than a dog with poor conformation.
Labrador Temperament and Life Span
Genes also control some aspects of a dog’s behavior. And his ability to carry out certain tasks, like running and hunting, or fetching things.
Temperament, including a tendency to fearfulness, is influenced by genes. But it is also strongly influenced by the environment. One study showed that fear and anxiety have a negative effect on the life span of pet dogs.
And some dogs are euthanased for aggression or behavior problems. So temperament is also a factor to consider when looking at life span.
Some dogs inherit a number of favorable genes that improve their chances of good health – reduced risk of cancer for example. They then pass these favorable genes on to their puppies.
How Inherited Diseases Affect Labrador Retriever Life Span
While Labradors are relatively healthy, there are diseases in the breed that can influence how long a Labrador will live. It will also affect how healthy each dog will be during that lifetime.
For some of these diseases, hip dysplasia for example, and CNM, we have tests that can (and should) be carried out on adult dogs before they are used for breeding.
To find out which tests your puppy's parents should have undergone, check out our health screening article here.
For other diseases, some cancers, for example, we don’t have tests. We just know that in some cases, Labradors may be more susceptible than some other breeds of dog.
A 2004 study showed that 31% of Labradors die of cancer. Which is slightly higher than the rate of cancer in dogs overall.
Lifespan and Inbreeding
Like all pedigree dog breeds, there are certain genetic diseases that have become established within the Labrador breed. This is due to breeding between dogs that are closely related.
The average coefficient of inbreeding for Labradors is 6.5%. This is higher than the level (5%) at which we start to see the adverse effects of inbreeding in dogs.
Another factor influencing longevity in dogs is size. This is another area where Labrador is slightly disadvantaged.
Will Size Affects Labrador Life Span?
Little dogs live longer than big dogs. This is one of the quirks of nature that we don’t entirely understand.
Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule. But in general, the longevity of dogs is quite strongly linked to body size.
This is the reverse of what we often find when we compare large species of mammals. The elephant for example, with smaller species – such as the mouse.
When we look at individuals within a single species, in this case, the domestic dog, being larger seems to be a disadvantage.
As a medium to large dog, size is, therefore, a limiting factor in the lifespan of your Labrador. In short, the average Labrador is probably never going to live as long as the average toy poodle.
You can find out more about your Labrador’s growth and size in this article.
If you are interested in different longevity of different breeds there is quite a bit of data on the Kennel Club website.
How long do Labradors live if they’re purebred?
The outer limits of your dog’s potential life are also limited to a certain extent simply by the fact he is a pedigree dog.
A study published in The Veterinary Journal in 2013 showed that mongrels live on average 1.2 years longer than purebred dogs.
This doesn’t mean that your Boxador will definitely outlive your neighbor’s pedigree Lab. It’s all about averages.
Labrador Retriever Life Span and Color
For a long time, it was believed that coat color had no influence on Labrador's life expectancy.
With the exception of color dilution alopecia in silver Labradors, it was thought that inherited diseases were not linked to any particular color or type of Labrador.
A recent study of over thirty-three thousand dogs has thrown that assumption into doubt.
It shows us that black Lab life expectancy and yellow Lab life expectancy is around 12.1 years.
While chocolate Labs life expectancy is quite a bit shorter at 10.7 years.
We don’t know exactly why this is yet. But the Chocolates in that study were more prone to ear and skin problems. This included self-inflicted “hot spots” as a reaction to irritants like fleas.
And we don’t know if the two main Labrador ‘types’ differ. So we can’t tell you if English Lab life expectancy differs from American Labs.
The study was a very big sample of dogs. So it is likely that the results represent the wider Lab population as a whole.
Will My Lab Live long enough?
Apart from your ability to be selective over the parents of your puppy, genetic factors are largely outside your control.
But as your Labrador grows and matures, there will be life events that happen to him that may influence his life expectancy.
Some of these are events that you can control like:
- Accidents & Roaming
Accidents & Roaming - Many dogs die each year in accidents. And many of those could have been avoided.
Accidents are far more common in dogs that are allowed to spend time outdoors unsupervised.
Fencing your property (or a small part of it) securely will help to prevent your dog from roaming. Plus, training him to come quickly when you call will help you to bring him to you in an emergency.
Neutering - At one time is was believed that neutering increased life expectancy.
One of the reasons that some older studies show a higher death rate for dogs that have been neutered is because if dogs are not properly controlled. Those that have the urge to mate will roam further from home and have more accidents.
Recent studies have however linked neutering to some serious health issues including joint disease and cancer. Both leading causes of illness and death in Labs.
The neutering issue is not clear-cut any longer. We recommend you read our extensive information on neutering before having a male dog castrated or a female dog spayed.
These two principles – training and control – will help to ensure your dog lives out his allotted years to the full.
A recall is fundamental for most Labrador's safety. So make sure that you take the time to teach him to come when he is called. Whatever distractions may be surrounding him.
Vaccination - In some parts of the world there are still many serious diseases that kill unvaccinated dogs and puppies on a regular basis.
Serious infections and diseases have the potential to kill your dog. But they also have the potential to make him generally less healthy should he survive them.
So, where you live, and whether or not you vaccinate your dog may also affect his longevity.
Probably the biggest single influence though, that you can control with regard to both your dog’s longevity and his enjoyment of life, is his bodyweight.
Overfeeding - Obesity is increasingly common in dogs generally and in Labradors in particular. It is a direct result of overfeeding.
Labradors are greedy and friendly dogs that are very good at persuading people to hand over the treats and to refill that food bowl.
Added to this, many Labrador parents find it hard to judge how much their dog should have to eat. And whether or not he is overweight.
Some individual Labradors live a good deal longer.
Train, socialize and supervise your dog and make sure he is properly fed and well-exercised throughout his natural life.
With loving care, a visible waistline, and a little luck, your friend could live into his teens and be with you for many years to come.