Understanding and Addressing Common Health Issues in Senior Labs

Suzie Cyrenne
Authored by Suzie Cyrenne
Suzie is a Certified Homeopath and Co-Founder of Zumalka
, specializing in natural and holistic remedies for pets.
- Sep 6, 2023

Senior dogs like aging Labrador Retrievers are vulnerable to unexpected health conditions that can hamper them from having a long and healthy life. These issues can range from having excess weight and dog dementia to developing kidney disease and even congestive heart failure in some cases.

If you're anything like most pet parents, chances are you're looking to give your much older pooch the health and happiness he deserves during his golden years. Proper senior dog care starts now and it's just what this blog post is aimed at. Failing to keep these common health problems in check may mean very serious consequences for your canine family member sooner or later.


Aging Labrador Retrievers Are Prone to Health Problems

senior lab on outdoors

Like other dog breeds, much older Labs suffer from wellness issues when they reach a certain age. This is primarily attributed to a weakening immune system as well as some other key factors like the environment, reduced activity levels, dog food, changes in the body's hormone production and genetic characteristics.

These health concerns can get in the picture as dogs age and may even result in very significant negative effects on the overall quality of life of your senior pet. And if we're being honest, these wellness issues can potentially lead to fatal consequences if not properly dealt with as soon as possible.

What's really interesting is that these common health problems can be prevented by just taking note of some important tips. Before we move on to the next part of our discussion, though, we'd just like to emphasize that these tips are not just for Labrador owners, but can also be applied to older dogs belonging to other breeds.

Now let's check out the common wellness issues that aging Labrador Retrievers are at risk of...


Common Health Problems That Can Affect Your Much Older Labrador Retriever

Senior Lab out for a walk

As we've pointed out earlier, an old dog can be prone to a number of health problems when he reaches his golden years. The following are the most common Labrador health issues that your much older dog can suffer from if you're not keeping a close eye on his overall wellness:



Akin to most dogs in their senior years, your aging Lab's metabolic rate and nutrient absorption will remarkably slow down. Besides having an effect on your pet's digestive function, the change in metabolism will also make it much more challenging for his body to break down fat. This will add a few extra pounds to his healthy weight sooner or later resulting in obesity.

Additionally, other than a shift from their healthy weight, much older dogs that are suffering from obesity also have a higher risk of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Not keeping obesity in check can even lead to congestive heart failure.


Loss of lean muscle mass

One of the things that may be affected in a senior dog's life is normal movement and regular exercise. Most dogs in their golden years tend to have their workouts significantly reduced or even completely removed by their pet parents in some instances. This can potentially set off muscle atrophy or the loss of lean muscle mass.


Joint problems

When it comes to health conditions in older dogs, joint problems are no doubt one of the mainstays. As your pooch ages, the natural lubrication in his joints will tend to decrease and cause friction. If not taken care of immediately, this can lead to bouts of pain and discomfort as well as degenerative joint disease like osteoarthritis in the long run. Pain medication may already be required in some older dogs.

Moreover, joint issues resulting from genetic issues and abnormal growth may also become more prominent during your dog's senior years. These include hip dysplasia, luxating patella and elbow dysplasia. It's not uncommon for these hereditary joint problems to require physical therapy.


Respiratory difficulties

Senior dogs will often have problems with their organs during their golden years. The lungs are easily affected and may result in increased respiratory effort before you know it. Apart from affecting your aging Lab's ability to engage in games and other pastimes, health conditions concerning his respiratory system may also make it tricky for him to do his everyday routines.


Hair loss and coat dullness

As we've emphasized earlier, the bodies of senior dogs will undergo some problems with their ability to absorb nutrients. Not taking in adequate amounts of fat and protein can cause hair dullness and eventual thinning or even bald patches on your dog's coat. And while we're on the subject, this is one of the biggest reasons why keeping a close eye on the regular diet of your dog is a must.


Organ failure

We're pretty sure that you've already heard of an aging Labrador Retriever being afflicted with organ issues like heart and liver disease. Additionally, cases of kidney disease and heart disease can also be triggered due to an endocrine disorder in a golden-aged dog. A blood test is often conducted to verify the existence and severity of these issues.


Issues with vision

Senior dogs become highly at risk of experiencing eye health problems like progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This can ultimately lead to progressive rod cone degeneration if not taken care of the right way. Common symptoms of vision problems in much older dogs include constant squinting, difficulties dealing with space and depth, as well as constantly bumping into things like pieces of furniture.


Ear infections and hearing loss

Ear infections—Labradors in their advanced ages are just prone to these wellness problems. What's really scary about the whole thing is that your much older dog can even suffer from partial or total hearing loss if these are neglected. Sudden redness and bad odor coming from the affected ears are early signs of ear infections not just in aging Labs, but also among other pets.


Cognitive dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is one of the most common health problems a senior Labrador can be prone to. Not having a balanced diet is considered a possible cause of this condition. Indicators of CCD may include unexpected changes in mood and behavior, which can also be observed in cases of anxiety and extreme levels of stress.


Mast cell tumors

Senior Labs are also vulnerable to certain types of tumors that can get in the picture without a warning. Although there is still no clear cause of what really sets off a mast cell tumor until now, researchers share that genes may play a key factor. This is one of the crucial reasons why you should only deal with responsible breeders when it comes to dogs.


Early Detection Can Be A Challenge in Common Labrador Health Issues

senior lab at the dog park

Sure your senior Lab may already be quite prone to heart disease and idiopathic epilepsy, but detecting health problems in aging dogs can be rather tricky. This is because your pooch has quite a high pain tolerance and will tend to skulk and hide instead of showing you that he is sick.

Experts believe that this behavior can be traced back to their early wolf ancestors where showing signs of weakness means fatal consequences for a member of a pack. Amazingly, even golden-aged dogs adapt quickly to a particular health problem and find ways to live with them in an inconspicuous manner.

For the next part of our discussion, let's have a rundown of the common indicators to look out for when it comes to health issues in senior Labrador Retrievers...


Common Signs That Your Senior Labrador Retriever May Be Suffering From Health Concerns

Senior Lab lying on the carpet

While we previously learned that detecting symptoms of disease and illness in aging Labs can be a bit challenging, it is not completely impossible at all. There are actually key things to keep an eye out for and we will walk you through what these are below:


Sudden change in behavior and eating habits

If your canine companion is anything like most senior dogs, he will still have a healthy appetite. In case you notice that his food intake is not as vigorous as before, it is either he doesn't like the dog food you're serving or he may not be feeling well. Alternatively, there could also be something wrong if his food intake increases without warning.


Unexplained weight loss or weight gain

Although it is expected that an aging dog will experience a bit of weight loss due to the changes in his body, it does not follow that the same should be drastic and very extreme. If the shift in weight happens too quickly or is seemingly abnormal in nature, it's highly likely that it is caused by some underlying health problem.


Erratic bowel movement and urination

It is not uncommon for a senior dog will have some "bathroom accidents" here and there. However, this should not be a regular occurrence, or else something is already not quite right. If you notice that your much older pooch is experiencing an erratic bowel movement or urination, reach out to your pet homeopathy expert or vet as soon as you can.

It's possible that the muscles controlling the bladder or anal sphincter are extremely weakened in this scenario. Another probability is that your pet may have a persistently swollen or twisted stomach that is causing the problem.


Weakness and difficulty breathing

While your much older fur baby is not expected to have the same energy levels compared to when he was still a puppy or a juvenile dog, he shouldn't be weak or having trouble breathing most of the time either.

This issue can potentially lead to exercise intolerance or exercise-induced collapse in the long run if not corrected. It is crucial to take note that these can be fatal in nature, especially if there are already underlying conditions present.


Stiffness and mobility issues

Movement difficulty is often caused by age-related joint problems like arthritis as well as the lack of sufficient synovial fluid or lubrication in the joints. If these symptoms persist, contact your vet as soon as you can to prevent things from getting worse. Additionally, your senior dog can also experience the adverse effects of hereditary joint conditions like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia during this time of his life.


Excessive thirst or hunger

If you've been with your Labrador Retriever for quite some time now, chances are you're already familiar with his diet regimen. If he's eating too much food or drinking water way beyond usual, it is highly likely that there's a problem. One disease you need to look out for is diabetes, which can be determined through a quick blood-testing procedure.


Helping Senior Dogs Keep Clear From Health Issues

Senior Lab in the woods

Unlike what a lot of people mistakenly think, keeping wellness problems in senior dogs in check is not that complicated. Regardless of your schedule or your pet's daily routine, it's pretty much doable. We've actually made a quick checklist for you to check out in just a bit.

However, we'd just like to stress that achieving this needs a lot of effort, patience and commitment. In this part of our discussion, we will go over the risks that your senior Labrador will be exposed to if his health issues are neglected...


Risks of Not Addressing Health Conditions As Early As Possible

Senior Lab chewing on a cob of corn

But before we go over the ways to properly manage your senior Lab's overall health and wellness, here are just some key risks to take note of with regard to any underlying condition your pet may have:


Progression of an illness or disease

We'd like to make this the very first item on our list since a lot of dog parents seem to overlook this one. If an underlying health problem is neglected, the only logical thing that will happen next is that it will just become worse. For example, a case of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) can lead to blindness in the affected eye sooner or later.


Constant pain and discomfort

Although we've emphasized that dogs have a high pain tolerance, there will come a time when your pet won't be able to cope with the pain and discomfort by himself. His overall quality of life will just be miserable. Again, we'd like to stress the importance of choosing a reputable breeder right from the very beginning since a lot of wellness issues can be traced back to irresponsible breeding practices.


Possibility of complications

What's really alarming about wellness problems in senior Labrador Retrievers is that these can quickly escalate to even more serious health conditions if not properly dealt with in the soonest time. Mere nicks and wounds can give rise to infections and a neglected existing illness can encourage the development of another one before you know it.


The potential spread of disease

This is extremely important for pet owners who have more than one dog—particularly if there is a senior pooch involved—in their households. A sick dog can easily transmit disease or illness to other dogs the least you expect it. And given the weakened immunity that aging Labs have, he is highly vulnerable in this situation.


Very high stress levels and anxiety

While a lot of dog parents focus on the physical side of things when it comes to sickness in their fur babies, wellness problems can also affect your golden-aged pet mentally in a significant way. Besides making your senior Lab prone to lots of stress, it's also highly likely that he will be at risk of anxiety along the way.


Reduced life expectancy

It is crucial to keep in mind that senior Labs need the best care and attention during their golden years. High vulnerability to disease and illness can easily reduce the lifespan of your aging dog. This even applies to the hardiest of canine breeds. Remember that Labrador Retrievers usually have a maximum lifespan of ten (10) to twelve (12) years. Your pooch deserves no less than all of them—if not more.


Properly Managing Health Problems In Older Dogs: A Quick Checklist

Senior Lab on a deck with his dog parent

Below are the things you should consider when it comes to managing the overall health and wellness of your golden-aged canine companion. Apart from aging Labrador Retrievers, these tips can also be applied to senior dogs in other breeds:


#1. The right nutrition counts a lot.

Your senior dog gets his nutrition from the food he eats. This is why having the right diet regimen is a must to keep your aging pooch healthy and happy. Be meticulous with the portions and frequency.


#2. Low-impact exercises are the way to go.

Low-impact exercises like swimming and walking can still give your senior Lab the physical activity he needs without getting him too tired in the process. Always monitor your pet's body language as you go along.


#3. Take care of the mental side of things, too.

Senior Labradors love to get their mind in action. You can do this by using puzzle toys and games that encourage them to think. A simple game of hide-and-seek will already get you on the right track.


#4. Don't ignore the little things.

Always be wary of any changes in your aging pet's routine like his diet, activities, behavior, and mood. Drastic changes can mean wellness problems most of the time. Nipping these in the bud is a must.


#5. Consult a vet or pet wellness expert regularly.

While we advocate for keeping senior dogs happy and healthy through natural means, scheduling regular visits to the vet must also be on your pet care checklist.


#6. Have the right stuff in your home pet care kit.

Emergencies can happen without a warning. Having Zumalka's EMERGENCY KIT will help you get the peace of mind you need when dealing with these unexpected situations.


About the author

Suzie Cyrenne
Suzie Cyrenne


Suzie Cyrenne has dedicated more than 20 years of her life in making and improving natural animal health solutions in the global setting.

Being the co-founder of Zumalka, Suzie is a forerunner in enhancing the lives of pets through natural and homeopathic options using the knowledge she has gained from the Classical Homeopathy School in Quebec.

Through the guidance of her mother-in-law and fellow natural health expert, Denyse Lessard, Suzie constantly devotes herself to create premium pet products that are aimed at dealing with the root causes of wellness problems and not just their symptoms.

Besides immersing herself in books, personal development and visiting new places, Suzie also enjoys keeping herself in tiptop shape by snowboarding and taking daily hikes with her husband and Zumalka co-founder, Matt Lessard, and their Golden-Doodle, Westin.

Find out more about Suzie when you click HERE.

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