Common Health Problems of Golden Retrievers

If you have been thinking of adopting or getting a Golden Retriever puppy, you might have to do a bit of research before making the final decision. This breed is prone to developing a variety of medical conditions, the majority of which are due to genetic predispositions.

In the past, breeders didn’t pay any attention to what health problems affected the dogs used for breeding. This is how some breeds ended up with diseases that are genetically transmitted. It is, in fact, almost impossible these days to find a perfectly healthy Golden Retriever and use him or her for breeding.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common health issues that can affect this breed. Just a heads-up – you need to be prepared to handle a lot of emotional stress if you want to be a Golden Retriever owner.

Skin Problems

Golden Retrievers are at a higher risk of developing a condition called atopic dermatitis, which is similar to an allergy, but its cause is idiopathic. Seeing how they are covered in a lot of hair, the skin of Golden Retrievers has a harder time breathing, which means that it becomes the perfect environment for plenty of bacteria and fungi to thrive in.

Golden Retrievers are also susceptible to lipomas under the skin, sebaceous cysts, and also granulomas. Many can have a localized reaction to an injection, for example, especially to a vaccine. They are simply more sensitive than other breeds, which means that you constantly have to be on the lookout for something on their skin.

Make sure that you prevent some of these issues by making sure that your Fido doesn’t have any fleas or ticks, has a clean coat, and is properly groomed regularly.

Genetically Transmitted Diseases

You’re probably wondering just which hereditary medical conditions this breed can develop since we have mentioned this right at the beginning of the post. Well, most of the health problems that are transmitted genetically are orthopedic. Hip and elbow dysplasia are hereditary, and we will discuss them in depth below.

But there are other hereditary diseases that Golden Retrievers can be affected by, and most of them affect their vision. Many Golden Retrievers lose their sight as they age, and are also more exposed to eye pathologies compared to other breeds.

In fact, eye problems are extremely common in this breed, to the point that they have their own ocular condition — Golden Retriever Pigment Uveitis. In some of the most severe cases, the eyes can suffer from such inflammation that they might both have to be surgically removed. Needless to say, if you notice any change in your dog’s eyes, take him or her to the vet as soon as possible.

Golden Retrievers can also develop other eye problems, such as PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), cataracts, conjunctivitis, and others.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

There’s no doubt that these two conditions are among the most common ones to affect Golden Retrievers. While hip dysplasia is a condition that’s hereditary in many other breeds (including German Shepherds), it mostly affects large to giant breeds.

The disease consists of a physical malformation of the hip socket. The signs that you can notice in a dog suffering from it range from lameness and limping to pain and arthritis. Unfortunately, it can be quite painful, but it can be resolved surgically, in many cases. The operation can cost a lot of money, though, so make sure that you have pet insurance if you are a Golden Retriever parent.

As for elbow dysplasia, it is very similar to hip dysplasia, but it affects another joint. Because of the prevalence of both of these conditions in this breed, it is recommended that Golden Retrievers are screened for them twice a year beginning with the age of 6 months with X-rays.

Unfortunately, if the pooch develops it before the age of 6 months, there is almost no way of treating it until he or she is 1-year-old. Many veterinarians might refuse to operate a pup whose growing process hasn’t ended yet.

Picture of a Golden Retriever in the forest

Respiratory and Cardiac Conditions

Similarly to other large breeds, Golden Retrievers are predisposed to an array of medical conditions that affect the heart and the lungs, but also the circulation. Many dogs end up developing SAS (which stands for subvalvular aortic stenosis, which in plain terms means that the main vessel that carries the blood from the heart to the whole body narrows).

Because this narrowing makes it harder for the heart to function properly, many Golden Retrievers will develop cardiac insufficiency, which can be quite hard to manage. If the heart isn’t pumping blood properly, it doesn’t reach the micro-vessels in the lung, so the dog can also develop respiratory failure.


Around 66% of male and 56% of female Golden Retrievers are estimated to die because of a malignant tumor. Therefore, cancer is more likely to affect this breed than others. Some of the typical kinds of tumors that are developed by Golden Retrievers are hemangiosarcoma and lymphosarcoma. They can also suffer from osteosarcoma and mastocytoma, though.

Hemangiosarcoma is extremely aggressive and fast-developing, and in most cases, there aren’t that many things that can be done about it, at least not in the way of treating it. Most dogs that suffer from hemangiosarcoma end up being euthanized because it is often diagnosed too late.

Other Health Problems

Like other breeds out there, Golden Retrievers can suffer from other health conditions, most of which are linked to aging, exposure to chemicals, or an unhealthy life in general.

Endocrine diseases can be common in these dogs, and it’s estimated that approximately one-quarter of Golden Retrievers have some form of thyroid disease — but the majority suffers from hypothyroidism.

Other conditions that these dogs are at risk of developing are bloat, Von Willebrand’s Disease, ear infections, and epilepsy.

Most Golden Retrievers develop a condition called ‘Snow Nose,’ which consists of the discoloration of the nose. Instead of being black, it becomes either pink or light brown. Fortunately, this condition hasn’t been linked (yet) to any complications, so it is merely an aesthetic change.

Can You Prevent Any of These Health Problems?

The best thing you can do, given that Golden Retrievers can develop so many conditions is to keep an eye on your dog as best as possible. Make sure that you assess his or her appetite for food and water, whether any signs such as fatigue or weight loss have occurred, or any change in your canine friend’s behavior or general appearance.

Last, but not least, we would also recommend taking your dog to the vet two or even three times a year for checkups, given that all of the diseases that we have mentioned in this article are easier to treat or manage when discovered in their early stages.



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