How to add years to your Labrador Retriever’s lifespan

Labrador Retrievers are America’s best pal. Top of the American Kennel Club’s most popular breeds lists for close to 30 years.

These gun dogs are a medium to large dog breed, and despite their size, can do well in apartments if given the right lifestyle.

Labrador Retriever sitting in the outdoor patio full of red leaves
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They are sweet, loving, obedient and a great choice for first-time owners with an active lifestyle. Labradors are also popular with families with children.

How long do Labradors live?

The average Labrador lives about 10 – 12 years.

Average lifespans aren’t a guarantee of how long your purebred Lab will live, because you have to take into consideration any illnesses or accidents which may befall your dog. 

In a new study done with 39 Labradors, it was found that the median age at death is 14 when kept in excellent physical condition

All things considered, it isn’t surprising to see older Labradors thriving and making it to 15 or more. 

Who is officially the oldest Lab?

The oldest Labrador lived to be 27 years and 3 months. Adjutant is the 5th oldest dog to have ever lived, according to Guinness World Records.

He hails from Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom and lived between August 1936 – November 1963. 

Records suggest that he was a Black Labrador who was used in the field and died from old age.

Labrador age in human years and dog years

The belief that 1 dog year is equivalent to 7 human years is a myth. You have to take into consideration the size of the breed and its health and behavior.

There’s no magic number that automatically makes your dog “old”. Some dogs don’t slow down until they are more than 7, while others might show signs of getting on the years before then.

Since their expiration date is around 10 – 12 years, you can consider anything beyond 6 years old to be a Labrador’s golden years.

For a better idea of what is the human equivalent of your dog’s age, perhaps this can help: 

Based on Pedigree’s Dog Age Calculator

Age in Human Years Age in Dog Years
1 (puppy) 12
2 (adult dog) 19
3 (adult dog) 26
4 (adult dog) 33
5 (adult dog) 40
6 (senior dog) 47
7 (senior dog) 54
8 (senior dog) 61
9 (senior dog) 68
10 (senior dog) 75
11 (senior dog) 82
12 (senior dog) 89
13 (senior dog) 96
14 (senior dog) 103
15 (senior dog) 110
16 (senior dog) 117
17 (senior dog) 124
18 (senior dog) 131
19 (senior dog) 138
20 (senior dog) 145

Most common signs of aging in Labrador Retrievers

Focus on your dog’s behavior because how they act will give you a better indicator of aging. Elderly dogs will move slower and have less energy.

Labrador Retriever riding in a beach cart
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They won’t be as enthusiastic as they once were to go on walks. You might notice them taking more naps and toilet breaks than usual. 

Some dogs gain weight in their advanced age and slow metabolism, but others might lose weight due to dental problems and a loss of appetite. You may have to adjust their diets accordingly.

What do Labs usually die from?

Many young dogs die prematurely due to accidents and exposure to fatal viruses such as rabies, distemper, or parvovirus to name a few. 

For a number of Labradors in adulthood, it’s musculoskeletal disorders and cancers that claim the most lives.

While elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia or arthritis aren’t life-threatening, it causes such excruciating pain that most owners choose to put down their pets.

While Labrador Retrievers are less prone to cancer than their Golden Retriever cousins, Rotties, or even Poodles, they do have an elevated risk.

It is further aggravated by poor breeding practices, obesity, and bad lifestyle habits or exposure to carcinogens. Pesticides and secondhand smoke can affect dogs too. 

Diets that include sugar can also heighten their risk for cancer. In today’s dog food, there are plenty of filler carbohydrates which create the perfect environment for cancer to take root and grow. 

Labrador Retriever puppy eating food
A Lab puppy eating his dog food

Human food is also a problem, so instead of table scraps, reach for a yummy carrot instead. Whole foods have fewer chemicals and preservatives. They are a healthier alternative to doggie treats too.

Check out our best dog food guide on what other veggies or fruits your dogs can have as a treat. 

The good news is that most cancers are treatable and the key is catching them early.

If you notice any symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, discolored skin, lumps, or sudden weight loss, it is worth getting him checked out.

How do you know when your Labrador is dying?

Labradors often do not recover from health problems in their advanced age. This is usually what sends them off but owners sometimes turn to euthanasia in order to end their buddy’s suffering.

But what does dying of old age look like? Some dogs get restless, others get lethargic. Any change in behavior could be an indication of impending death. 

They might stop eating, drinking, or moving around. Sometimes, they might even forget their potty training and have accidents around the house. 

Most owners instinctively know when it’s their dog’s time but sometimes dogs can pass suddenly in their sleep.

What controls a Labrador Retriever’s lifespan?

Just like humans, it all boils down to lifestyle and genetics. Labradors have certain health issues that can be passed down from parent to pup.

For instance, the dilute chocolate coat gene that causes de-pigmentation can also cause color dilution alopecia that can cause balding and dry skin.

Furthermore, understanding the various health conditions that plague the breed can better prepare you to deal with them. 

Chocolate Labs have shorter lifespans

Chocolate Labrador Retriever lying near the Christmas tree
Image source

As canine genetics and epidemiology continue to improve, we learn new things about the breed, such as how coat color can affect their longevity.

This was first discovered by Professor Paul McGreevy at the University of Sydney.

The life expectancy for Chocolate Labradors is significantly shorter than other colored Labs, passing on around 10.7 years, which is 1.8 – 1.3 shorter than Yellow Labradors or Black Labs.

They also have a higher proportion of genes that are predisposed to developing skin conditions such as hot spots and ear infections. 

This has little to do with the actual color, but the breeding practices instead.

Since Chocolate Labrador Retrievers are a rarity in nature, the resulting reduced gene pool for the chocolate color might have contributed to this unfortunate phenomenon.

Inadequate care kills

Illnesses and injury play a part in determining how long your Lab will live. That’s why it’s important to vaccinate your puppy and offer them proper care, which includes adequate stimulation.

Boredom can be fatal. A bored dog will try to entertain himself. This could include chewing on furniture and ingesting foreign substances and objects by accident which could cause intestinal blockage.

While it might be fun to read headlines concerning a swallowed sock, it can quickly turn fatal.

If your dog is bored, he might also try to escape, which opens up a whole new world of dangers.

Depending on where you live, your dog might get hit by a car while chasing a small animal, shot for trespassing, or bitten by a venomous creature

Aside from that, boredom can increase stress levels, and what better way to induce cancer than to suffer from chronic stress?

A trimmer waistline points to a longer life

Obesity is prevalent in this popular dog breed, but neutered male Labs have a higher tendency to be overweight. Neutering was the go-to solution for overpopulation and it was thought to prevent cancer.

Obese Labrador Retriever portrait
An obese Labrador Retriever dog

Unfortunately, according to new research, neutering can actually do more harm than good.

Due to the lack or change of hormones, young dogs will grow bigger and might cause joint problems. There’s also been a link between neutering and cancer

Sure, fixing your dog can prevent fights and wandering males or unwanted litters, but so can responsible ownership.

Keeping your dogs indoors when it’s mating season will keep them safe. Giving them proper nutrition can also elongate their lifespan by as many as two years

How can I make my Labrador live longer?

While a big part of how long your Labrador will live depends on its parents, but there are a few things you can do to ensure that they stay healthy. 

Caring for a Lab puppy

When you bring your new puppy home, it’s best not to leave your Labrador puppy unsupervised until he’s mastered recall.

Providing your young pup with obedience training is one of the kindest things you can do for your small friend. A simple recall can be the difference between life or death.

Owner carrying White Labrador puppy

Try to keep him in a secure location away from traffic. This can prevent unfortunate accidents. Crate-training can also save you the trouble of puppy-proofing your home. 

Exercise might be important, but puppies should not be doing anything strenuous until they are at least 2 years old.

This is because excessive exercise can overexert their developing bodies and also cause joint problems when they are older.

Caring for an Adult Labrador

Black Labrador Retriever in the snow

Give your dog a good workout and balanced meals on a daily basis and stay on top of their shots. Keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary and most importantly, enjoy his company

Remember that dogs have fleeting lives and you should spend as much time with him as you can while he’s still fit and able.

Labs would be more than happy to go on adventures with you. Take a look at Zazu at Yosemite!

Caring for an Old Labrador

When your Labrador starts showing signs of slowing down, you take some steps to ensure their comfort, such as raising their bowls off the floor to make for easy eating.

You can also add carpets to slippery areas or ramps to improve accessibility. 

There are special beds for elderly dogs that suffer from incontinence. You can find them on Amazon or at your local pet store.

It will also help alleviate any joint pains your Lab might experience. Add blankets to their sleeping areas as older dogs might be more susceptible to the cold.

Labrador Retriever lying on the ground full of autumn leaves
Elderly Black Labrador dog

How does the Labrador lifespan compare to other breeds?

For some reason, smaller breeds are more likely to have a longer life.

Some believe that it’s because large breed puppies go through a growth spurt in their first year and exhaust the regenerative properties of their cells, or that big breed dogs simply age quicker.

There are studies to suggest that it’s because bigger dogs have a slower metabolism, which prevents them from expelling free radicals and other toxins that can cause problems to their health. 

Regardless, Lab mixes are relatively long-lived, making it to 19 or even 29. According to certain studies, mongrels or mixed breed dogs have slightly longer lifespans than this particular breed of dog.

Quality of life more important than longevity

Labrador Retriever sitting on the park
Image source

At the end of the day, you want your best friend to live a comfortable and fulfilling life. They cannot do that if they are in agony.

That’s why purchasing your puppy from a reputable breeder is so important.

The genes your puppy inherits will decide what kind of disease he is predisposed to. A good breeder will never breed Labradors with poor health, which ensures healthier pups. 

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