The Labrador Retriever is America's most popular dog breed, one known for its placid temperament and loving nature. The breed began, however, as tough, hardworking waterdogs in the cold wilds of Newfoundland, Canada where it was bred to serve as a fisherman's mate.
Why a dog from Newfoundland came to be associated with Labrador instead is something no one is quite sure about, but what is known is that after having being impressed with their talents visiting Englishmen took the dogs back to Britain with them in the early 1800s and then later brought them to the US and they headed there as immigrants themselves.
The Labrador makes a great addition to the family. but as a medium to large size pup when full grown - on average somewhere between 55 and 80 pounds - they do need plenty of space to roam, especially if, given half a chance, they will be more than happy to demonstrate their inbred retrieval skills and play for hours.
Usually sturdy, healthy dogs there are some health problems that often affect Labrador Retrievers with a greater frequency than their peers. Knowing what those are can help prepare pet parents for what to expect, including getting an idea of what the future financial burdens they may have to meet to treat these conditions, and even whether purchasing pet insurance as a safeguard might be a good idea.
As an older breed many of the genetic health problems that the Labrador Retrievers were once prone to have effectively been bred out of the line, but their physical makeup and habits tends to leave them more prone to certain health problems than some other pups, including all the following:
For a human the term bloat is usually used when they are dealing with excess water weight, an annoying, but usually very harmless prospect. In a dog the term means something very different however. Bloat is the common name for Gastric Dilatation Volvulus and it can be fatal if not treated by a medical professional immediately.
Bloat is an abnormal twisting of the stomach that occurs when it fills with too much gas that becomes trapped. As the stomach twists it may trap blood vessels that are essential in providing the blood supply to the rest of a pup's body. This can lead to something called stomach death and the resulting release of toxins can quickly kill even the healthiest pup.
Prompt emergency medical treatment may save the pup, but pet parents should be prepared for the fact that the cost of this treatment could run as high as $7-8,000.
Whether you have ever really thought about it or not the fact is that dogs do have elbows. Their elbows are made up of a long bone in the upper forelimb called the humerus and the ulna and radius below.
Elbow Dysplasia is the name for a condition that occurs when this joint fails to fit as it should, and the result can be lameness and eventually arthritis. Sometimes the condition is the result of genetic disposition but it can also develop as a pup grows older and larger as a result of their walking gait or excess weight.
While Elbow Dysplasia was once hard to treat, with pain management often being the only option, these days effective treatments, including surgery, are available, although said surgery can be expensive, with costs running at between $1,000 and $4,000 depending on the scope of the surgery needed to correct the problem. Having a pet insurance plan can, however, help offset those costs.
One of the things that owners love most about their pet Labs is their big ears. Those big furry ears are adorable, but they can also leave a Lab pup more susceptible to ear infections, some of which, if left untreated can lead to permanent hearing loss as they usually completely cover the ear canal, creating a warm space that bacteria can quickly thrive in, leading to painful infections that, if left untreated can damage your pup's hearing.
The good news is that these infections can be treated with antibiotics and can often be prevented with improved ear hygiene. The cost of the medication can be an unexpected expense but the investment pays off in most cases.
The health problems we have just looked at may or may not ever affect your precious pup, they just happen to be some of the most common to affect the Labrador retriever as a breed. But like any kid, human or fur, pups can develop an illness, or get injured, at any time. And if and when that happens the upset of dealing with a sick or injured pup and be worsened by the thought of the vet bills that will be coming, some of which can become very expensive very quickly.
Humans are used to purchasing health insurance for themselves to avoid unexpected medical bills, and now pet parents can do the same for their dogs via pet health insurance. An increasing number of companies are offering such policies and, realizing the benefits, an increasing number of pet parents are purchasing them.
If considering a pet insurance plan, every pet parent will have two big questions they need answered; how much will it cost and what will pet insurance cover? These are questions we are going to begin answering next.
As you will discover once you begin to shop for pet health insurance there are plenty of options out there to choose from. Even within a single company you will find coverage offered at several different levels and at a number of different price points.
However, to give you a rough idea of the costs involved we requested pet insurance quotes for two rather different Labrador Retrievers we are acquainted with as examples.
Sophie is a fun and lively ten-month-old Labrador female who, so far is proving to be a very healthy pup. Her costs, as quoted by one of the largest pet insurance providers, break down as follows:
We also know Sophie's father, Charlie, who at 7 years old is now considered a senior dog, although he does not act like it all. His pet insurance costs are quite different to those of his daughter's though:
These figures are offered as examples, and they are from a single pet health insurance provider. The results you obtain when requesting quotes for your precious pup will be different as they will depend on factors like age, current health, pre-existing conditions and which company - and level of coverage you choose. But they do provide a small snapshot of the kinds of costs you are likely to face if you choose to purchase pet insurance.
The amount of the deductible you choose to carry will, as you can see make a difference as well. Just as is the case with human health insurance, or something like vehicle insurance, the general rule of thumb is that the higher the deductible, the less you will pay in monthly premiums and higher deductible pet insurance plans also usually come along with higher levels of coverage once they kick in.
Just as important as the cost of the various pet health insurance choices you will have to choose from is what these policies cover. Sometimes you will find that while one policy is just a few dollars more than another it provides more in the way of coverages, so making sure you read all the 'fine print' when comparison shopping is a must.
There are health insurance policies which are designed to really only provide coverage for emergency situations. We say 'only' but this coverage can be hugely valuable, as if your fur kid is in a position that they need immediate attention from a vet it is reassuring to know that you will be able to provide it for them with ease.
This type of pet health insurance can be especially helpful if a health emergency occurs out of office hours and your regular vet is not available, as many emergency vets require that bills be covered immediately, either by insurance or in cash, which can come as quite a shock at what is already naturally going to be a very difficult time.
Other pet health insurance options, usually those with a higher deductible, offer a little more coverage for general health check ups and expenses, including things like vaccinations and basic health checks. These policies are often the best choice for senior dogs like Charlie, who, although very healthy and lively right now is likely to begin to develop age related health issues in the future.
For those who want even more coverage from a pet health insurance plan - and are willing to pay a higher premium to get it - there are even pet insurance plans that cover services like physiotherapy, chiropractor visits, acupuncture and more. While some of these alternative therapies remain slightly controversial in some circles, there are many pet parents who feel that they have significantly improved life for their pup, so may be well worth considering.
As important as understanding what the various pet insurance plans cover is making sure you know what they do not. Most plans do not offer coverage for pre-existing health conditions and many will offer limited coverage - if any - for health conditions considered to be purely genetic.
The way you will be reimbursed for your pup's medical expenses is important to be clear about as well. Some insurance plans will reimburse a vet directly, but often at a level a little lower than the bill - commonly 80-90% - leaving you to cover the remaining balance.
Others will require you to pay all bills up front and then submit them for full reimbursement. Which option is best is a matter of personal choice, but it is important that you know what to expect!
As it is a relatively new concept, there are lots of pet parents out there who are still on the fence about pet health insurance. And that is fine, it is not something that is for everyone. The most important thing however is that if you are considering purchasing pet health insurance, you take the time to carefully research your options so you can make the best, most informed decision possible and get just the right pet health insurance coverage for your Labrador Retriever.