Labrador Retrievers – Physical Characteristics, Personality Traits, Fun Facts, Health Condition + More

Labrador retriever with leash is waiting for walk.

Physical Characteristics of Labrador Retrievers

Temperament: easy-going, gentle, loving, intelligent, agile 

Bred for: water retrieving 

Weight Range: Male: 65-80 lbs/Female: 55-70 lbs

Height at Withers: Male: 23 inches/ Female: 22 inches 

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years

Classification: sporting

Need for attention: medium 

Energy level: average 

Exercise requirements: 40 minutes/day

Tendency to snore: low

Tendency to drool: low

Tendency to bark: low

Tendency to dig: low

Coat type: double weatherproof coat, short, flat and dense

Coat color: black, yellow and chocolate

Overall grooming needs: low-moderate

Conformation: otter-like tail, broad head, medium-sized hazel eyes, broad chest, level topline, naturally floppy ears 

Labrador retriever with mouth open, tongue out happily laying in the grass

History of the Labrador Retriever

Newfoundland and Labrador is an eastern province in Canada. It’s one province, but has separate physiographic regions. Labrador, the larger mainland area is located north and the smaller island of Newfoundland is located south. The Labrador Retriever originated in the Newfoundland region, which creates a lot of confusion because of the breed’s name. 

It is believed that the breed’s ancestry dates back as early as the 1500s. Around this time, local fishermen were breeding small water dogs with Newfoundlands and called them the St. John’s dog after the province’s capital. The St.John’s dogs assisted fishermen reel in fishing lines and retrieve fish that had escaped from their nets. 

In the 19th Century, foreigners impressed with the Labradors retrieving skills, work ethic and gentle nature brought a few home to England to serve as retrievers for hunting. These imported dogs led to the development of the modern day breed we have all come to know and love. British statesman, James Harris, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury was credited with naming the breed. He referred to the St.Johns dogs as Labradors in a letter he wrote to his friend in the 1880s. He wrote “We always called mine Labrador dogs, and I have kept the breed as pure as I could from the first I had from Poole (Harbor), at that time carrying on a brisk trade with Newfoundland. The real breed may be known by their having a close coat which turns the water off like oil, above all, a tail like an otter.” 

The Malsbury family’s love for Labradors is thought to have saved the breed from extinction. In the late 1800’s, the Labrador population significantly decreased in Newfoundland due to government restrictions and tax laws. By law, families were only allowed to own one dog and families who owned a female were taxed higher, which led to female puppies being culled from litters. However, in England the breed’s popularity was growing. The Kennel Club in England recognized the breed in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917. Around this time, Labrador Retrievers were being shipped from England to the United States to establish the breed. 

The Labrador’s popularity continued to rise in both the United States and England as their gentle, affectionate demeanor combined with their intelligence and obedience made them great working dogs. They performed military and police work, served as seeing eye dogs for the blind, and assisted in search and rescue missions. While a lot of Labradors were used as working dogs more of them served solely as companion dogs for families. Labrador Retrievers have been the most popular breed of dog in the United States and England for over the past two decades. 

Map of Newfoundland and Labrador
Labrador during search and rescue training

Personality Traits of Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers are excellent hunters and provide help with search and rescue missions. They excel in all forms of dog competitions: show, field, agility, and obedience. The breed’s popularity really began to take off after World War II, and in 1991, the Labrador Retriever became the most popular dog breed registered with the American Kennel Club–and they’ve held that distinction ever since. They are also top of the list in Canada and England.

Labradors have an amazing sense of smell and an athletic build. They are very intelligent and easy to train. Their physical characteristics combined with their loyalty, agility and obedience makes them the perfect candidate for activities like hunting and drug and bomb detection. They are gentle, loving, hardworking and eager to please which is why they are the breed of choice to provide assistance to those with disabilities. They are also commonly used as therapy dogs, as well as going to hospitals and senior centers to bring joy and comfort to the elderly and sick. They are also the most common breed utilized for seeing eye dogs in the United States. 

Labradors have a calm demeanor and affectionate nature, which makes them an excellent family companion. They are great with infants and children, strangers and other dogs. For this reason, Labradors are not useful guard dogs because of their friendly nature toward others. Labradors also tolerate being left alone quite well as long as they receive regular exercise and enrichment making them an excellent choice of breed for families with a busy lifestyle. Labradors are not considered good apartment dogs because they are very energetic and require regular exercise. However, they can adapt to apartment living if they receive enrichment and regularly exercise. Labradors do shed, however, it can be easily managed through daily brushing. 

The activity levels of Labradors vary depending on the individual dog. Some are very energetic while others are more laid back, nevertheless they all require adequate exercise to be happy and healthy. They are prone to obesity, which is a risk factor for diabetes. Engaging in activities such as playing catch or throwing a stick into the water are great ways to have fun with your Labrador while they get exercise. 

Labrador Retriever standing by the lake
Labrador seeing eye dog beside blind owner with a cane sitting on a bench

Fun Facts about Labrador Retrievers

1. Armstrong, the First Dog to Recognize a Diabetic Episode

The first dog to be a diabetic alert dog was a Labrador Retriever. One night, a 12 month old guide dog in training woke his trainer, Mark Reufenacht, who was experiencing a diabetic hypoglycemic episode while he slept. The actions taken by the guide dog saved Reufenacht’s life. He believed he probably had a seizure during his sleep which triggered the dog to alert him.This incident encouraged Reufenacht to investigate whether he could train dogs to detect chemicals associated with hypoglycemia in a human’s scent. Reufenacht decided to train Armstrong, a yellow Labrador Retriever who was supposed to be a guide dog, to detect life-threatening drops in blood sugar. Armstrong became the first dog to recognize a diabetic episode and he is found in the Guinness World Records 2015.

2. The Oldest Living Labrador

Bella, a Labrador cross from London, England, was believed to be the oldest labrador that ever lived. Her owner, David Richardson adopted Bella from the RSPCA in 1982 when she was 3 years old. Bella died in 2009 at the age of 29 years old. Unfortunately, she is not in the Guinness World Book because they did not have the appropriate documentation.

3. Silver Labrador Retrievers

Although the AKC only recognizes three colors of Labrador Retrievers (black, chocolate and yellow), there are silver Labradors as well. Silver Labradors are chocolate with a dilution gene that causes their coat to be lighter and appear silver. A similar gene may be present in black and yellow labs, however, the difference in color is not as dramatic. Many breeders are actively advocating to have silver Labrador recognized by the AKC.

A Silver Labrador Retriever

Health Conditions

Labrador Retrievers like all dog breeds, are predisposed to certain health conditions. Before breeding, Labrador Retrievers should be screened by veterinary professionals for known hereditary health conditions, including elbow and hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, pulmonic stenosis, and exercise intolerance and collapse (EIC).

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a multifactorial joint disease. There’s an abnormal development of the hip joint resulting in a loose fit between the head of the femur and the pelvic socket, which is known as joint laxity. This developmental abnormality causes progressive degenerative changes to the joint. Clinical symptoms range from mild to severe and are typically noticed around 1-2 years of age. Symptoms include: reduced range of motion, stiffness, pain, lameness, limping or “bunny-hopping”, difficulty or reluctance to rise, jump, walk, run or climb up stairs. 

Hip dysplasia is diagnosed based on x-rays, clinical symptoms and history. There are medical and surgical treatment options available. Medical treatment may include: exercise restriction, weight management, anti-inflammatory medication, glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, joint fluid modifiers and physical therapy. There are several surgeries performed to correct hip dysplasia, however the most common are hip replacement surgery and a femoral head osteotomy (FHO). A total hip replacement surgery involves removing and replacing the ball and socket with implants. A femoral head osteotomy removes the head of the femur and the socket remains empty. With time, scar tissue forms between the socket and the femur which provides cushioning. 

Normal hip joints on radiograph
Normal Hip Joints
Bilateral hip dysplasia on radiograph
Bilateral Hip Dysplasia
Artificial Hip Replacement on Radiograph
Artificial Hip Replacement

Hypothyroidism

While any dog can develop hypothyroidism, Labrador Retrievers have a higher rate of incidence. Hypothyroidism is an endocrine disorder that results from a decreased production of thyroid hormones that mainly influence metabolism. It typically occurs in middle-aged dogs. Hypothyroidism cannot be cured, but can be controlled with daily medication, specifically levothyroxine. 

Symptoms include:

  • weight gain without a change in appetite
  • lethargy
  • poor coat condition
  • excessive shedding
  • darkening of the skin
  • cold intolerance/heat seeking behavior (sitting near fire-place, wanting under the blankets, etc.)

Bloat and Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus

Gastric dilatation, more commonly known as bloat can progress to a life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). Large, deep-chested dogs are most at risk, although it can occur in small breeds too. Gastric dilation (bloat) occurs when the stomach distends and fills with gas. In some cases, the distended gas-filled stomach twists, not only preventing outflow of fluid and food from the stomach, but also cutting off circulation to the heart, stomach and spleen. A dog with GDV will die without emergency surgery. Timing is crucial, the longer the volvulus is present, the poorer the prognosis due to tissue damage. Surgery is required to return the stomach to the normal position, remove any dead (necrotic) tissue and prevent recurrence. Typically, gastric decompression and  IV fluids help stabilize the patient in preparation for anesthesia. Following stabilization, a gastropexy is typically performed to return the stomach to its correct position as well as tacking the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent recurrence. Mortality rate ranges between 15 to 38% depending on severity of damage.

Symptoms include: unable to sit or lie down, nervous pacing, unproductive retching, round distended abdomen, whining, difficulty breathing, increased salivation (hypersalivation), rapid heart rate and restlessness. Large breed dogs with a high incidence of GDV are recommended to eat frequent small meals throughout the day. Additionally, tacking procedures are performed for higher risk dogs as a preventive measure. 

The cause of GDV is not fully understood, but risk factors that have been associated with this condition include: 

  • Conformation- large, deep chested breeds (increased chest depth to width ratio)
  • Eating Schedule – one large meal/day
  • Age – older = increased risk
  • Genetics – first degree relatives 
Dog with bloat on radiograph
Bloat

Allergies

Labrador Retrievers are prone to allergies, most commonly atopy, “environmental allergies” to dust, pollen, fleas, mites, grass, etc. Unlike humans who display several respiratory symptoms to environmental allergens, pets with atopy mainly develop itchy skin and commonly acquire secondary ear infections. Occasionally, the breed will suffer from food allergies. Common food allergens include: beef, rice, wheat and corn.

Symptoms include…

  • scratching
  • rubbing
  • rash
  • reddened skin
  • hair loss
  • recurring ear and skin infections
  • gastrointestinal upset: diarrhea and vomiting (more common with food allergies)
Labrador sitting in the grass
Seasonal Allergies

Cataracts

Cataracts are a hereditary eye condition that causes the lens of the eye to change from clear to opaque resulting in impaired vision. The endocrine disorder, diabetes mellitus increases the risk of developing cataracts. There are four classifications of cataracts based on maturation or “severity”, which include: incipient, immature, mature and hypermature. Development and progression of cataracts varies with some occurring early on or later in life. Cataract surgery is often recommended, especially in young dogs to restore vision, however, it is an expensive surgery that can only be performed by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist. The surgery is performed with delicate instruments under an operating microscope. A tiny incision is made in the eye and the lens is emulsified with ultrasonic frequency and aspirated from the eye. An artificial lens may or may not be used depending on the condition of the lens capsule. It’s important to know and be prepared that the aftercare protocol is very demanding. Frequent application of several different medicated eye drops is required for months following surgery. Following the exact protocol is extremely important as it aids in proper healing and ultimately affects the overall success of the procedure. 

Labrador with cataracts
Cataracts

Idiopathic Seizures

Labrador Retrievers are at an increased risk of developing idiopathic epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures. The exact cause of this disorder is unknown, but normally results from a sudden change of electrical activity in the brain. It’s most likely to occur at times of excitement or while falling asleep and waking up. It cannot be cured but is managed with anticonvulsant medication. Symptoms include: uncontrollable repetitive jerky movements, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, tongue chewing/bleeding from trauma, foaming at the mouth, involuntary urinating and defecating. If this occurs, remove from potential environmental harm, like stairs and immediately seek medical treatment. Episodes of seizing do not always end quickly and may continue without medical attention.

Play Video

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive retinal atrophy is a hereditary eye condition that causes progressive vision loss due to destruction of the photoreceptor cells, rods and cones, within the retina. Before breeding, Labrador Retrievers are one of several breeds that requires a certified eye exam by a board certified ophthalmologist in order to detect early signs of this disease. While there is currently no cure or treatment for PRA, it is a non-painful eye condition. Signs of PRA are all related to vision loss, including bumping into objects, walking slower than usual, hesitating to jump on furniture, etc. Complete vision loss typically occurs over a period of a couple years. Animals rely on their other senses much more than humans do and are able to adapt much quicker to being blind. 

Image of the anatomy of the eye

Laryngeal Paralysis

The larynx aka the “voicebox” is an organ made up of cartilage and muscle that is located in between the trachea and pharynx. The larynx has various functions mainly involved in breathing and production of sound, especially pitch and tone. On inspiration, the arytenoid cartilage folds move away from each other allowing air to pass into the trachea or “windpipe.” When eating, the arytenoid cartilage folds come together to prevent food from entering the trachea. Laryngeal paralysis prevents the cartilage folds from abducting causing an obstructed air pathway. Laryngeal paralysis tends to occur most frequently in medium to large sized middle to older age dogs. Most cases of laryngeal paralysis are idiopathic meaning the cause is unknown, however it can be caused by degenerative polyneuropathy which causes generalized nerve dysfunction. Other possible causes include: trauma, tumors or endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. 

The most indicative clinical symptom of laryngeal paralysis is a high-pitched sound on inspiration. Other clinical symptoms include: respiratory distress, coughing, fatigue, abnormal pitch or tone of bark, and coughing or gagging when drinking or eating. Laryngeal paralysis is typically diagnosed via a sedated examination of the larynx via a laryngoscope. Doxapram may be administered IV to stimulate breathing if the sedation is thought to be decreasing the laryngeal reflex. In addition, imaging, such as radiographs, a CT scan or an ultrasound may be recommended. A blood and urine sample may be taken and tested to rule out any metabolic abnormalities.

In mild cases, laryngeal paralysis may be treated through medical management with Doxepin, an anti-anxiety medication and/or anti inflammatories and antibiotics. Supportive care involves avoiding excessive/strenuous exercise especially in hot and humid conditions, maintaining a healthy weight and using a harness, no collars. More severe cases require surgery. The most common surgery performed is called arytenoid lateralization or a “tieback” which involves suturing one cartilage fold back to open up the airway while minimizing risk of aspiration and pneumonia.  

Ear Inflammation and Infection

Otitis is the medical term for inflammation of the ear. It can be caused by yeast, bacteria, parasites and allergies. Ear infections may be composed of more than one causative agent or secondary to an underlying condition.

There are three regions of the ear which are the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear is made up of the pinna (the part of the ear you see) and the vertical and horizontal ear canal. The middle ear includes the eardrum, the eustachian tube (connects middle ear with nose), the bulla (circular air-filled space) and three small bones known as the malleus, incus and stapes. The inner ear contains the cochlea (hearing structure) and the vestibular system (balance structure). 

Dogs and cats that have a weakened immune system or an allergic skin disease are more susceptible to infection. Dogs with large floppy ears, such as Beagles and Basset Hounds are predisposed to ear infections because of reduced ventilation. Also, increased moisture in the ear that can result from swimming or bathing can increase risk of infection. Chronic ear inflammation and infection can cause the skin to thicken which narrows the ear canal further reducing ventilation. 

Otitis interna (inflammation of the inner ear) usually develops from an external ear infection or a foreign object that damages the eardrum. Otitis externa can temporarily or permanently affect hearing and balance. Middle ear and inner ear inflammation may also affect sympathetic innervation of the face resulting in nystagmus (involuntary repetitive eye movements), facial nerve paralysis, pupil constriction, eyelid drooping and protrusion of the third eyelid on the same side of the ear infection. Clinical symptoms of otitis media/interna may also be caused from a tumor or polyp. 

Clinical symptoms will vary depending on the pathology, but the list of all potential presenting symptoms of ear infections include:

  • redness and swelling
  • itching (rubbing, scratching)
  • blistering
  • alopecia (from scratching)
  • head shaking
  • discharge/pus
  • facial nerve paralysis
  • pupil constriction, eyelid drooping, protrusion of the third eyelid, sinking of eyeball into socket
  • nystagmus (involuntary repetitive eye movements)
  • inability to balance, poor coordination, head tilt to the affected side
  • anxiety and distress
  • loss of hearing
dog ear with discharge and inflammation

Treatment will largely depend on the causative agent. If an underlying disease is suspected, a further workup will be required. Treatment may consist of ear drops or systemic medications that fight off yeast, bacteria, and/or parasites. Oral or ear drops containing steroids may be prescribed in conjunction to decrease inflammation. If allergies are suspected, treatment will involve antihistamines, immunosuppressants and anti-itch medications. The ear should be frequently cleaned and flushed of any discharge and debris if present. If a tumor or polyp is observed on imagining, further diagnostic testing and surgical removal may be the only treatment option. In addition, surgical treatment may be required for chronic ear infections unresponsive to other less invasive medical treatments.

Pulmonic Stenosis

Pulmonic stenosis is a congenital heart disease, which means that it is present at the time of birth. The pulmonary valve has two responsibilities. It opens to allow blood to move from the right ventricle, through the pulmonary artery to the lungs and prevents blood from flowing backwards. A stenotic (thickened) valve creates a much more narrow opening for blood to pass through. Depending on severity, mild to severe blood flow obstruction occurs. Symptoms of this condition vary depending on severity. Dogs with a mild form may display no symptoms and live a long healthy life. Dogs with moderate to severe forms will typically display exercise intolerance, syncopal episodes (collapse), arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat), or heart failure. 

Pulmonary stenosis may be suspected on auscultation of the heart by a veterinarian during a physical examination, however diagnostic tools include: electrocardiogram, echocardiogram (ultrasound of heart) and chest radiographs. Treatment for moderate to severe pulmonary stenosis includes a surgical procedure called a balloon valvuloplasty, which essentially inflates a balloon in the valve creating a wider opening for blood to pass through. Pulmonary stenosis is a specialized surgery performed by a board certified cardiologist. Not all dogs are eligible candidates for surgery and the success rate of those who receive surgery varies. Beta blockers, a drug used to decrease the heart’s workload by reducing force of contraction and slowing the heart rate may be prescribed without or in addition to surgical treatment. 

image of a heart with pulmonary stenosis

Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM)

Centronuclear myopathy (CNM) is a genetic disease seen in Labrador Retrievers, which causes a decrease in muscle function. It’s the most common hereditary muscular disease that affects Labradors. An estimated 13% of Labradors in the United States are carriers of the recessive gene. Unlike degenerative myelopathy which occurs later on in life, symptoms of this disease appear at around 2 to 5 months of age. Symptoms include: fatigue, difficulty eating, loss of muscle tone and control, choppy gait, and severe exercise intolerance which appears worse in cold conditions. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this disease. This disease does not shorten a dog’s lifespan, but reduces their quality of life. 

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD is the abnormal growth of cartilage at the end of the bone. This usually occurs in the shoulder, elbow, and knee. The growth of cartilage in these joints can cause lameness. OCD is the result of many factors such as diet, genetics, growth rate, trauma, hormone imbalance, and joint formation. OCD most commonly affects larger breeds including Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Newfoundlands.  OCD is genetically linked, animals with OCD should not be bred. OCD can be detected as early as 4 to 7 months and is diagnosed most often with an x-ray. Surgery is the treatment of choice for OCD whereby the cartilage is removed from the joint to allow for scar-type cartilage to form, however, surgical outcomes are different depending on the affected joint. OCD in the shoulder is most effectively treated through surgery. 75% of patients do not show any signs of lameness after surgery. Surgery is only indicated in the knee if there is a large piece of cartilage. Lameness will usually not be fully resolved in these cases. Surgical treatment of OCD of the ankle usually results in some improvements right after the surgery, however, an abnormal gait will still be present after the animal has fully recovered.

Late stage OCD - flap lesion in the femoral head
Late stage OCD - flap lesion in the femoral head

Exercise Intolerance and Collapse (EIC)

Exercise intolerance and collapse (EIC) is an autosomal recessive genetic muscular disorder that affects Labrador Retrievers. Dogs who are otherwise healthy may spontaneously collapse after just a few minutes of strenuous exercise. Episodes of collapse range in severity and duration, with most episodes lasting anywhere between 5 and 25 minutes. EIC can be life threatening, but most dogs affected will gradually return to normal with no apparent lasting symptoms. Clinical symptoms of EIC episode include: muscle weakness, lack of coordination, dragging of the hind limbs, inability to move and elevated temperature. EIC is the most common condition related to exercise induced collapse in young, healthy Labrador Retrievers. Around 30 to 40% of Labradors are carriers of the recessive gene and 3 to 13% have the condition. Treatment requires immediately stopping exercise at the first sign of an EIC episode as well as identifying and removing triggers. 

Limber Tail

Limber tail is a condition that causes the tail to become limp from a muscle sprain. You may hear this condition referred to as cold-water tail, broken wag, swimmer’s tail, frozen tail, and sprung tail. Swimming is the most common cause of limber tail because the tail is used consistently to balance and steer. It can also occur from exposure to cold weather or climate changes, excessive exercise and prolonged crate confinement. This condition is also known to affect hounds at the beginning of the hunting season due to the extended use of their tail without proper conditioning. Treatment requires adequate rest to give the overworked muscles time to heal. Antiinflammatories and muscle relaxers may be prescribed to ease the pain medication and aid in recovery depending on the severity of the condition. Ice packs or heating pads may be recommended to reduce swelling and inflammation. 

Symptoms include…

  • Completely limp tail, from base to tip
  • Partially limp tail
  • Absence of wagging
  • Discomfort or pain, especially if you try to touch or move it
  • Lethargy
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Licking or chewing at the tail
  • Raised fur along the top of the tail
Dog with Limber Tail Syndrome
Limber Tail Syndrome

Cancer - Lymphoma

Labrador Retrievers have an increased risk of developing an aggressive form of cancer called lymphoma. Lymphoma is caused by the abnormal development of the white blood cells called lymphocytes, specifically the B or T cells. It most commonly develops in the lymphoid tissue within the lymph nodes, thymus, bone marrow and spleen. There are three different forms of lymphoma, but approximately 85% of dogs affected are diagnosed with multicentric, which is a systemic form. Lymphoma is typically diagnosed with a fine needle aspirate of the lymph nodes. An early symptom of lymphoma is rapid enlargement of lymph nodes, however, most other clinical symptoms appear once the cancer has spread to other organs. Symptoms include: lethargy, weight loss, decreased appetite, fever, dehydration and vomiting. Chemotherapy is effective at slowing down the progression of lymphoma, but is not curative. The average survival time of dogs treated with chemotherapy is 6 months to 1 year compared to less than 3 months without treatment.

enlarged left submandibular lymph node
Enlarged left submandibular lymph node

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus is an endocrine disorder that results from defects in insulin secretion and/or efficacy, which inhibits the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. The two main categories include: insulin deficiency, type I and insulin resistance, type II. Type I diabetes results from an immune-mediated destruction of beta cells within the pancreas leading to a complete insulin deficiency. Type II diabetes results from an insulin resistance (decreased effectiveness), defects in insulin secretion and/or glucagon secretion. Left untreated, diabetes can be life-threatening!

Clinical symptoms include: polyuria/polydipsia (PU/PD) – increased urination and thirst, polyphagia (increased hunger/eating), weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, anorexia, lethargy and weakness, chronic/reoccurring infections (ex: urinary tract infections), high blood pressure (hypertension), cataracts, seizures and coma.

There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be regulated through diet, insulin injections and monitoring blood sugar levels. The goal of regulation is to maintain relatively normal blood sugar levels. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are life-threatening conditions. Dogs typically are diagnosed with type I diabetes and will require daily insulin injections. Listed below are the different types of insulin available for dogs. Frequent monitoring is important! If you have a type I diabetic pet, I recommend buying a glucometer and taking and recording readings before and after meals. It is a very simple procedure to do at home and will improve the veterinarians overall ability to regulate your pet. 

  • Humulin R – concentration: U-100
  • Humulin N (NPH) – concentration: U-100
  • Vetsulin (Lente) – concentration: U-40
Tenting the Skin Technique
Tenting the Skin Technique

Insulin Administration

  • Unless otherwise instructed by your veterinarian, you’ll administer insulin after feeding (administering it before can cause low blood sugar known as hypoglycemia).
  • Insulin should be refrigerated. It typically expires in about 28 days; if the insulin is discolored or there are precipitates present, discard and do not use.
  • Before drawing up the dose, resuspend by gently rolling the bottle back and forth in the palm of your hands. Do not shake unless directed otherwise.
  • Clean rubber stopper with rubbing alcohol wipe, turn upside down and draw up prescribed dose with sterile syringe (make sure to use the appropriate syringe for the insulin concentration type, either U-40 or U-100)
  • Inject insulin subcutaneously (just under the skin) in a low-fat area, such as scruff (loose area of skin on back of neck) or shoulder region. Pinch skin together to create a fold and insert needle in the center. Once in, gently pull back on the plunger and check for blood. If there is blood in the syringe, it means you have hit a blood vessel and will need to reposition the needle. Before administering, make sure to check that the needle has not pierced through the other side of the skin fold. Once ready, push down on the plunger, remove needle and safely discard of syringe in a sharps or biohazard container. 

Labrador Retriever Rescues in the United States

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