The Labrador Retriever is a breed of dog that is not prone to all sorts of health problems and in general is easy to care for and easy to keep healthy.  The temperament and conformation makes it a no-nonsense breed that could easily be kept disease free by using common sense and sound habits.  By following a few basic rules when raising, feeding and handling a Labrador, it may be the easiest and most rewarding commitment you will ever make.

We know of a number of health conditions where both incidental/accidental (like diet, bad habits, environmental conditions or trauma) and hereditary factors seem to play a role.  It is impossible however, whether any condition is caused purely incidental/accidental factors or is purely hereditary. Because we simply don't know, special precautionary measures should be taken to obtain as much information about our dogs as possible both by looking at the incidence of these conditions in the ancestry on the pedigree and by test screening dogs to make sure that we don't increase the risk of breeding affected dogs. 

In Labradors, the following seems to have at least some degree of a hereditary component and has to be taken in consideration when breeding (please note this list is not exhaustive, just listing those seen most commonly in Labradors):

Skeletal problems:

Eye problems:

Excercise Induced Collapse (EIC) can be tested for by a Genetics Laboratory, and a dog's status as Clean, Carrier or Affected be certified; for a dog to be affected by EIC, both parents must have been at least carriers of the mutant gene causing EIC;


Cleft Palates

Monorchidism (only one testicle)


The negative side

To consider the extent of hereditary problems in our breed could have the result that no one may even want to own a Labrador, let alone breed Labrador Retrievers.  The above list of putative hereditary conditions is by no means complete and several other tests have been developed, some of which in this breeder's humble opinion, does not really have serious impact on a dog's quality of life. It would be extremely hard to find a pedigree without dogs in the ancestry having been affected by one or more of these conditions.  Furthermore, pedigrees tell us only who the ancestors were, and where it is recorded in the pedigree, also the HD and ED score of those ancestors. We can usually only see the full test results (HD, ED scores, PRA and EIC Test results) of the Sire and Dam when made available by the breeder, but there is no record of the health status of affected close family members whose names are not on the pedigree or may never have had any tests done because they were not used for breeding, but had we known about their status for any condition, we may have been able to identify potential risk and stayed clear from lines that were affected.  Not ever having ALL of the information, makes it impossible to breed puppies that can be guaranteed as 100% free from all hereditary conditions.  The aim would be to make informed decisions when selecting a sire and dam when one decides to breed, for as much as is possible, but despite our best efforts to establish potential health risks in our breeding stock, one can never be 100% sure that the information we have is 100% correct and complete. 

Despite vast progress and many achievements in the field of health screening, science has not even touched the understanding of genetic mechanisms at work in many conditions.  Where there is a recognizable pattern, like for example the inheritance of the colour gene, geneticists were able to explain and accurately predict outcome.  Conditions like some of the skeletal problems, eye problems and epilepsy in Labradors can be traced in families, but there is no pattern that could be used to predict how the genetics work.  Because of human nature information is not recorded, hidden on purpose and the problems have become so diffuse in all lines that one can hardly find a family line without one or the other hereditary condition.  This is where there is a lot of room for wrong assumptions, gossip, bad faith, misconstrued facts and the baby can literally be thrown out with the bathwater.

Our approach and motivation for it

To trace the origin of these so called hereditary problems we can at best look at the breeding practices applied by breeders in history and those applied at present.  Like most other breeds, during the early developmental stages of the Labrador Retriever a lot of in-breeding was done to establish a breed type.  In-breeding is when dogs that are very closely related, eg litter mates or parents and offspring are bred.  Dogs carrying the good qualities wanted for the breed were bred very closely to ensure that the offspring would carry those virtues.  Unfortunately, with the virtues, the undesirable health risks were also doubled up on genetically and today we have both the benefit and the hazards of early breeding practices.  In those early days, very little attention was given to health risks when dogs were bred to establish a trait considered to be of benefit to the working ability of a breed.  Affected dogs were sometimes bred specifically because of the presence of one trait was considered to be indicative of another.  Breeders could not scan, screen or virtually try to filter through a dog’s biology like we do today in an attempt to avoid defects in the offspring.  Dogs were selected for breeding on type and ability, whether they were related or not and nobody sued anybody else because they sold them a dog affected by some adverse condition.  The result we have today is a wonderful breed with fantastic intelligence and temperament that far exceeds the health problems.  Despite all the in-breeding our dogs are still what we want from them.  Nothing is new or worse – we only have a few scientific tools to detect now what was previously hidden

If we want to purify the breed from all putative hereditary conditions we may end up with a breed that doesn’t look like or act like the breed we learned to love.  The breeding practices of the history are still used today to preserve breed type and temperament and therefore we will always have the health risks that accompany the virtues.  The advantage we have today is that information is much more readily available and medical technology has advanced to give us screening tests for a few of these conditions. 

In our kennel we have the belief that paramount in our breeding program should be the temperament and type of the breed.  In the preservation of the breed, we believe it is the temperament and the type that makes a Labrador Retriever what it is, not the perfect hips, elbows or eyes.  Wrong temperament and type in a dog are therefore deemed as disqualifying factors in our breeding program, but to keep correct temperament and type, we deem it sometimes necessary to breed with dogs where the known risk of getting a health problem in the offspring is higher.  Health risk can only be measured in part – for as far as we possibly can, we use those scientific tools to test a dog for those conditions that are listed above.  A dog mildly affected by a putative hereditary condition may therefore be used in our breeding programme, but then ONLY to a partner where we are sure there are no traces in that dog or its immediate ancestry of the same condition.  This will not be done if the risk exceeds the benefit of the breeding, e.g; an affected dog must have the correct type and temperament firstly before it will be considered to breed from; if it is affected in one way, for example mildly dysplastic hips or shoulders, it will only be bred to another dog that has absolutely clean hips/elbows.  It should however not even be necessary to say - two dogs both affected by or both with close family affected by the same putative hereditary health problem, will never be bred to each other.  To enable us to make informed decisions all breeding stock in our kennel are tested for potentially hereditary conditions.

The overwhelming benefit for us to this strategy is that one can see temperament and type, also hereditary, and what you see is what you get.  Risk and benefit of matching each breeding pair is considered carefully when we plan to breed two dogs - and benefit should always far exceed risk.  


Health Considerations and Breeding Policy

Adamasdor Labrador Retrievers