Labrador: A man’s best friend

We are all familiar with the hackneyed phrase, “dog is a man’s best friend” and if there is any breed which proves that fact, it is the Labrador retriever. Originally used for retrieving fishing nets, this breed is also called a Labrador retriever or a Lab. They have been nominated as the most popular breed by the registered ownership in United States, United Kingdom and Canada. 

Labradors are expert swimmers and have web like feet to assist in swimming. They are popular for their ability to assist the disabled and elderly and are also used by the bomb squad, police and other investigative bureaus for their excellent sense of smell and detection. In spite of all these amazing qualities, Labradors are still considered as the best house dog because of its extremely friendly and even-tempered nature. They love to play and are very good with children making them a popular choice as a family dog.

The Labrador is a relatively healthy dog and is also easily trainable. But unlike other dogs, it has a few unique qualities which should be kept in mind when getting a Labrador as a pet. Here are a few tips and caring suggestions to be kept in mind when caring for a Labrador.

Training and discipline: Labradors tend to be overtly friendly, boisterous and naughty when they are puppies and till they are grown to about three years of age. Till then, it will be very difficult to control your pup unless you give him training at a young age. Labradors are notorious for chewing things and need special training to grow out of the habit. They also tend to become lazy when they are confined inside the house and they should be indulged in a lot of physical activities to maintain their health. They are also infamous for their begging nature when they see food and unless they are trained out of the habit, they can pester you persistently for food. When trained properly, this breed of dogs can become excellent life-savers and care-givers. In fact there have been many instances where Labs have saved their masters lives during crisis and threats. It is best to enroll your puppy into an obedience class if you are unable to train him yourself.

Labrador and health issues: 

Labrador is a fairly healthy breed with very few issues and has an average living age of 10-12 years when they are properly cared for. Below are some of the most common health problems that are associated with Labs.
Hip dysplasia: This problem is becoming alarmingly common in Labs and is attributed to indiscriminate breeding. Hip dysplasia is a disorder which is hereditary and can be prevented by not buying pups from unauthorized breeders. It also needs joint supplements to prevent the symptoms from developing. In its most severe condition hip dysplasia can lead to lameness and also severe joint pain. Signs include less activity, stiffness after activities and exercises and reluctance to run and climb stairs etc. If you see any symptoms related to this disease, the vet should immediately be consulted.

Diabetes: Labradors are also prone to becoming inflicted with diabetes mellitus. In such condition, the dog’s body will produce less or no insulin at all which will make it difficult to convert carbohydrates to energy. It results in an escalation in the blood sugar levels in the dog’s body. Symptoms include frequent thirst, urination and hunger. Diabetes should not be left unchecked and untreated as it can cause severe problems to your dog’s health including damage to organs and heart failure. Proper diet and medicine will control the problem to a certain extent.

Eye care: Some eye ailments that are common to Labs are progressive retinal atrophy, cataract, corneal dystrophy, retinal dysplasia etc. All these might lead to serious problems including blindness and any symptoms like redness of the eye, white glassy eye, discharge from the eye etc should be immediately brought to the vet’s attention. Any crust discharge after they wake up from sleep is quite normal and can be taken care of by wiping with a damp cloth. You should also keep a constant check to see that the eyes are clear and bright.

Dental care:

The teeth and gums of dogs also need care just like humans and even though the care might be slightly different, brushing applies to both. Your Lab’s teeth should be daily brushed using only a dog toothpaste and brush. You should also provide hard chews to your Lab to maintain the health of his teeth. You can also ask your vet to do a regular check-up of his teeth and gums and bring any concerns to his notice. There are also some special chews available in the market which will promote good breath and take care of tartar and cavity in your 
Lab’s dentures. 

Skin care: Labradors are very prone to skin allergies and fall prey to a number of skin ailments very frequently. These problems can occur from a number of sources including food, allergens from plants and trees, fleas, ticks, pollutants etc. All these together or alone can lead to a lot of allergic reactions in your Labrador and prove to be very irritating for him. Symptoms will be seen by constant itching, rashes on the parts where itching occurs, shaking of the head and scratching of the ears etc. Unfortunately it is very difficult for a vet to identify at once what has led to the allergy but there are ways to lessen the itching condition by putting your dog on a special diet and medicines till the source is identified. You can help by keeping an eye on his food source, avoiding plants and trees when going for walks, using flea treatments and powders, giving him a soothing bath with a shampoo recommended by the vet etc.

It is very important to remember that dogs are living things which need special care and attention. If you are unable to take care of a dog, it is best not to get one. Remember, your dog cannot speak, which makes it more vulnerable and more in need of your attention.