What Common Health Problems Do Golden Retrievers Have?

Written by Cory Eckert

We already know that a golden is well-mannered, intelligent and loving with an easy-going temperament perfect for young children.  They are easily trained, faithful and obedient, learn new things and pick up new commands quickly. They make a perfect pet for any family.

That being said, just like any member of your family, your golden retrievers health is an important issue to consider.  It’s been reported that Goldens tend to live to be about 10 to 13 years old. . . of course there are exceptions. Good health habits, monitoring, and routine vet visits will ensure that your pet is healthy, happy and pain-free for as long as possible!

If you have a golden retriever or are considering getting one, it’s important that you are aware of the following health and behavioral problems that are sometimes found in this amazing breed of dog.

NOTE: A lot of the issues mentioned in this post can be reduced and sometimes even eliminated by simply doing your homework and getting your golden from a reputable breeder

Behavioral Issues

  • Separation Anxiety - Goldens love companionship and can sometimes experiences anxiety when you leave the house.  It’s important to determine if your dog has separation anxiety or is simply bored and then deal with it early on in their life if possible. Here’s a great video to get you started…
  • Counter Surfing - Oh yes, golden retrievers know exactly where the food is and they are very good at getting it off the counters. Like any behavior issues, it’s best to identify and correct the issue as early in the dog's life as possible. Try some of these tips to correct counter surfing…

Genetic Issues

  • Cancer - Golden Retrievers have a high chance of getting cancer compared to other dogs. Their rates have become higher in the past several decades, which could be the result of a genetic mutation that has recently emerged.

In the US, the most common cancer affecting goldens is Hemangiosarcoma, which is a very invasive variety of cancer.  It is a sarcoma or tumor arising from the lining of blood vessels.  Other cancers sometimes associated with golden retrievers are:

        • Lymphosarcoma – cancer arising from lymphocytes in lymphatic system.

        • Mastocytoma – growth or lump of white blood cells, can involve the skin, subcutaneous tissue, and muscle tissue.

        • Osteosarcoma – the most common form of bone cancer in dogs.

  • Epilepsy - Is a disorder of recurring seizures that can be idiopathic or have an unknown cause.  This condition is believed to be inherited or acquired. Golden Retrievers are known to have a high occurrence of idiopathic epilepsy, with seizures usually beginning between 6 months to 5 years of age.
  • Hip Dysplasia - Is a genetic disease, that refers to an abnormality of the hip joint that affects a lot of large breed dogs such as the Golden Retriever.  Some of the signs of hip dysplasia are limping and bunny hopping. The condition can range from “mild” to “severe”, so, treatment can include medical therapy and/or surgery.  Some owners have reported mild relief from heated dog beds. If hip dysplasia goes untreated, your golden may develop degeneration of the hip, inflammation and pain, and may not be able to walk at all. You can also try elevated dog dishes to prevent pain during feeding time.

Courtesy of conquerer goldens

  • Elbow Dysplasia - Is a group of congenital elbow diseases that goldens are prone to get.  There is a malformation of the elbow joint, and because of this the bone or cartilage may be damaged.  This could eventually lead to osteoarthritis. A sign of elbow dysplasia is varying degrees of lameness in the front limbs.  This could start as early as 4 months, since surgery is usually the treatment let your vet know if there is any indication.
  • Von Willebrand Disease (VWD) - VWD is a common, genetic blood disorder that is found in Golden Retrievers.  This is caused by a missing or defective clotting protein that is needed to form a platelet plug.  A result of this disease may be excessive bleeding when injured, bleeding from nose, gums, internal organs and even urine.

Physical Issues

Chest conditions – Golden Retrievers are known to develop conditions that affect their heart, lung and circulatory systems.

One of the most common congenital conditions is Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS).  This is the narrowing of the front part of the aorta, which is the artery that carries oxygenated blood out of the heart.  

If narrowed, the flow of blood can be blocked, thus causing the heart to work harder. It is important that your golden gets regular checkups to monitor the heart.  Signs to look for are lethargy, weakness, or difficulty in breathing. If you see any of these, take your golden to the vet immediately.  

A common cause of canine congestive heart failure is Dilated Cardiomyopathy or enlarged heart.  Golden Retrievers seem to be predisposed to this heart problem with the onset of age being 2 to 5 years. 

If you notice that your golden is lethargic, tires easily and is unwilling to exercise, see your vet. More severe signs are coughing, difficulty breathing, bluish gums, and fainting spells.

Eye Conditions – Golden Retrievers are predisposed to certain eye health problems.  Congenital Cataracts, known also as juvenile cataracts, appear in puppies younger than 6 years of age.  It can be treated with surgery but it is very expensive.

Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy (CPRA) is a degenerative retinal disease that can affect the pigment cells at the center of the retina.  This disease can affect both eyes.

Courtesy of wikipedia

It occurs usually in older dogs, and some signs are that they cannot see stationary objects in bright light too well, but can still see moving objects.  As the disease progresses, the dog’s vision will worsen but it does not normally lead to blindness.

There is no treatment for CPRA, but check with your vet to see what can be done to slow the progress.

Skin Conditions – Golden Retrievers suffer from many types of skin issues due to their dense undercoat and long outer coat.  One out of two goldens develop some sort of skin problem, which can come from several sources: mold, dirt, pollen, food, fleas, mites, ticks, parasites, warm or cold air, fungus and bacteria. 

They may experience allergies, which can cause itchy, flaky, red skin; this can lead to serious infections such as pyoderma.  If your golden is experiencing any symptoms and to prevent any underlying problems, see your vet immediately. 

Here are a few other skin disorders and symptoms that Golden Retrievers sometimes experience:

  • Lick Granuloma – dog’s urge to lick lower portion of the legs.
  • Sebaceous Adenitis – hereditary disease in which the dog has hair loss due to the glands becoming inflamed.
  • Seborrhea – chronic inflammatory skin disease due to excessive discharge of sebum from the sebaceous glands.
  • Sebaceous Cysts – skin swelling in sebaceous gland that is filled with yellowish sebum.
  • Lipomas – a fatty tissue tumor that is benign. 

Regular visits to the vet will help to diagnose any of these conditions and   determine what course of action is needed.

Bloating - is a condition that goldens and all barrel-chested dogs are susceptible to.  Bloating happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food or fluid causing it to expand quickly.  The stomach puts pressure on other organs, potentially causing other damaging issues.  

One issue is Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), the flipping of a dog’s stomach upside down, trapping blood from getting to other parts of the body.  This could send your dog into shock and something potentially worse.

Ear Infections - are common in Golden Retrievers due to their long floppy ears and the lack of airflow.  If you notice that your pet’s ears are itchy and smelly or that your pet is shaking or scratching the head excessively, it may be a sign that it is an ear infection. 

This is treatable at home but early detection is important. A simple routine ear cleaning with a quality solution can often prevent ear issues all together.

Hypothyroidismis a hormonal condition involving the thyroid gland which produces a hormone called thyroxine that regulates your dog’s metabolism.  If production is low, the disease can cause hair loss, dull coat, flakey skin, weight gain, muscle loss, ear infections and more.

Loose knees (Luxating Patella)

As stated earlier, if you have a golden or are considering getting one, it is important to consider the health problems golden retrievers are prone to experience so that you can:

  • Ask questions of your dog’s parenting and health history.

  • Be more proactive by knowing and understanding the types of health conditions. 

  • Monitor and take steps to prevent common health issues.  

  • Detect and treat more serious health issues by knowing your pet’s normal routine, being observant of any change in behavior and having routine checkups.

  • Ask the proper questions of your breeder before getting a golden.

  • Ensure the longest happiest life for your new furry family member

refers to the kneecap moving out of position.  Symptoms include limping, intermittent skipping, sudden loss of limb support and an abnormal sitting position.All dogs experience similar health problems, whether small, medium or large. And yet there are some health problems that are associated with large dogs, especially Golden Retrievers.  

Did we miss anything? Comment below and tell us if you experienced any of the mentioned issues above or if we simply missed one.

About the author

Cory Eckert

Cory is the co-creator of GoldenRetrieverLove.com and a life long dog enthusiast. From training livestock dogs as a child to working with obedience classes as an adult, it's hard to imagine Cory without a dog. Currently enjoying being a dog parent to Remi (a chocolate lab) and Annie (a golden retriever).