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From VetChef vets and nutritionists

Labrador Retrievers

Always near the top of the most popular dog breeds, this intelligent and energetic dog makes a great family companion. Originating in the 1500's in Canada, not as you might expect, in Labrador, but on the nearby island of Newfoundland, they were used by the local fishermen to retrieve nets from the freezing cold water.

They have a playful and easy-going temperament which makes them easy to train and ideal for first-time pet parents. Their normal life span is 10-12 years. They have a short, smooth coat which needs grooming regularly as they tend to shed, and they need plenty of mental and physical stimulation.

But like all dogs they are also prone to certain health issues.


According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, the dogs working off the coast of Canada, generations ago, developed a genetic variation which encouraged them to increase their calorie consumption, so they could cope with the heavy work. This variation has been passed down through the years to some of today's generation of Labradors.

Of course, today's Labs don't have to deal with such extremes, so they are much more likely to put on weight. That's not to say that all Labs are going to be obese. Only about one fifth will have this variant.

But whether they are genetically predisposed to weight gain or not, a nutritionally balanced diet and appropriate exercise regime is necessary for your dog to maintain optimal health. This is something that you as pet parents can have absolute control over. A diet to include fresh fruit and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and apples will help them to feel full. And if you can't resist their pleading eyes, these are great for treats as well. VetChef's FREE My VetChef app can help you formulate just the right diet for your Labrador based on their individual energy level - click here to get started.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Another common condition in Labs which can also be exacerbated by obesity is hip and elbow dysplasia. If you notice your dog finding it difficult to stand, or climb the stairs, or reluctant to run; if he develops a swaying gait or a hind-end 'bunny hop' then he could have hip dysplasia. If you notice some lameness in your dog's forelimb, this could be elbow dysplasia. This is a congenital condition causing growth abnormalities in the skeleton. With hip dysplasia the ball and socket joint doesn't fit or develop properly, and it rubs or grinds together.

This can be very painful for your dog and very difficult for pet parents to watch.

Preventative measures are key to managing this condition. Providing your dog with an appropriate nutritional diet will help to minimise the pain and discomfort from hip and elbow dysplasia. Coloured fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation. These include blueberries, kale, strawberries, cucumber, celery, banana, and carrots. If you have a puppy, ensure they are fed a balanced diet while they are growing to reduce the chances of problems later in life. VetChef's recipe calculator can devise bespoke recipes for your dog's particular needs.


Also known as GDV (gastric dilation volvulus), this problem usually occurs in dogs with deep, narrow chests. So, your Lab is more at risk than other breeds. When a dog bloats, the stomach twists on itself and fills with gas. This twisting cuts off the blood supply to the stomach. If not treated immediately, this can be fatal. Your dog may become restless, start to retch, and heave, although usually not much will come up. This is an emergency situation, so you must get your dog to a veterinarian immediately.


Over the years wear and tear can produce inflammation of your Lab's joints leading to arthritis. If you know someone with this condition, they will tell you just how painful it can be. Your dog can't tell you this, so you need to watch for any signs which can include:

• Stiffness, lameness, limping

• Difficulty standing up

• Reluctance to run and jump

• Weight gain

• Pain when touched

• Difficulty posturing to urinate and defaecate

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent or delay the onset of arthritis. A major one is weight control. If he's walking around with his dish in his mouth telling you he's hungry, give him some treats of fruit and vegetables. This will help fill him up without piling on the calories. If he already has some arthritis, the antioxidants will help reduce inflammation.

If you'd like a range of bespoke recipes specifically tailored to meet your Labrador's nutritional requirements, sign up for a FREE account at My VetChef.

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