Golden Retriever Health Problems
This page looks at common Golden Retriever health problems, such as joint problems (elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia), allergies, eye problems,
circulatory system problems, and other congenital diseases.
Golden Retrievers are friendly, well-mannered, intelligent, and easily trained. They are gentle and are excellent companion dogs for children.
Because of their friendliness, Golden Retrievers are not good guard dogs. However, they can still excel as watchdogs since they usually bark loudly upon seeing
a stranger approach.
Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent; some of their talents include hunting, tracking, retrieving, narcotics detection, agility, competitive obedience, and performing
If you are thinking of getting a Golden Retriever, you need to know about the common health problems that may affect this dog breed.
Of course, not all Golden Retrievers will be affected by the common health problems as described below, but keep in mind that they are more predisposed to these illnesses.
Golden Retriever Health Problems - Joint Problems
Golden Retrievers are predisposed to the following joint problems:
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- Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that is
characterized by an abnormal development of the hip joint. It affects mostly large breed dogs such as the Golden Retrievers. The typical sign of hip dysplasia is limping and
bunny hopping. The condition can range from "mild" to "severe". Treatment includes medical therapy and/or surgery.
- Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia is a group of congenital elbow
diseases in dogs. Specifically, there is malformation of the elbow joints, and because of the malformation, the bone or cartilage can be damaged, thereby starting the
process of osteoarthritis. Large breed dogs such as the Golden Retrievers are predisposed to this disease. Dogs with elbow dysplasia usually display a front-limb
lameness of varying degrees. Lameness may start as early as 4 months of age. Surgery is the treatment of choice.
Golden Retriever Health Problems - Eye Problems
Golden Retrievers are predisposed to certain eye problems. Below are some Golden Retriever health problems related to the eyes:
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- Cataracts: Congenital cataracts, also called juvenile cataracts,
affect many dog breeds including Golden Retrievers. They appear in puppies younger than 6 years old. In addition, Surgery may be possible but expensive.
- Central Progressive Retinal Atropy (CPRA): CPRA is a degenerative rentinal disease that affects both eyes, specifically, CPRA affects the
pigment cells at the center of the retina. It usually occurs in older dogs and Golden Retrievers are predisposed to this disease.
A dog with CPRA cannot see stationary objects well especially in bright light. However, the dog can still see moving objects. Although vision decreases as the disease
progresses, it seldom results in complete blindness. There is no treatment for CPRA.
Golden Retriever Health Problems - Circulatory System Problems
Golden Retriever health problems that are related to the circulatory system include:
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- Aortic Stenosis: Aortic stenosis is a congenital heart disease characterized by the narrowing of the aorta as it leaves the left ventricle.
The narrowing is caused by scar-like tissue just underneath the aortic valve, and the narrowing makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood forward to the body.
Over time, this can cause problems to the heart and the condition can be fatal.
Dogs suffering from moderate to severe form of this heart condition show exercise intolerance. In serious cases, a dog may suddenly faint while exercising because
there is not enough blood supply to the brain.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged
heart) is a common cause of canine congestive heart
failure. Golden Retrievers seem to be predisposed to this heart problem. The age of onset is 2 to 5 years. Dogs with this problem usually tire easily. They are
lethargic and may be unwilling to exercise. In more severe cases, they may cough, have difficulty breathing, bluish gums, and fainting spells.
- Von Willebrand's Disease (vWD): Von Willebrand's disease is the most common inherited bleeding disorder and affects quite a few dog breeds,
including the Golden Retrievers. The bleeding is caused by a deficiency of a plasma protein called the von Willebrand factor. The bleeding in most cases of vWD is
mild and lessens with age. However, in severe cases, bleeding may include prolonged nosebleeds, bleeding beneath the skin, and blood in urine and stool.
Other Golden Retriever Health Problems
Other Golden Retriever health problems include:
- Bloat: Bloat is a condition that refers to distention of the stomach
due to rapid gas fill-up. Sometimes the bloated stomach rotates and becomes twisted. As a result of the twisting, blood can be stopped from entering the organ.
Deep-chested, large breed dogs, such as the Golden Retrievers, are susceptible to bloat.
Some of the classic symptoms of dog bloat include unproductive attempts to vomit, retching, and
enlargement of the stomach. The dog may drool excessively and may appear restless.
Sometimes, the dog may just have gas and simply look uncomfortable, and the stomach may
feel a bit tight (but not distended). If your dog does not show the classic symptoms of bloat but has a tight stomach and cannot vomit or belch, be very observant and be
prepared for an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic.
- Allergies: Golden Retrievers are susceptible to various forms of allergies, such as
flea bite allergies,
canine atopy, and
Dogs suffering from allergies usually show signs of intense itching (scratching, chewing, biting). They may also develop recurrent ear infections.
For information on treatment of allergies, please visit our page on dog allergy treatment.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a hormonal condition.
Specifically, a hypothyroid dog has an underactive thyroid gland resulting in slowed metabolic activities. Symptoms include intolerance of the cold, weight gain
(without increased food intake), hair loss, and various skin problems such as yeast infections.
- Epilesy: Epilesy is a disorder of recurring
seizures. Epilesy can be idiopathic, which is believed to be inherited, or acquired. Golden
Retrievers have a high incidence of idiopathic epilesy. Seizures (usually of the grand mal type) begin between 6 months and 5 years of age.
Treatment usually involves the use of drugs (e.g. phenobarbital, potassium bromide) to control the frequency and severity of the seizures.
- Cancer: Golden Retrievers are predisposed to certain types of cancer
such as hemangiosarcoma, which is a soft tissue tumor that arises out of blood vessels;
lymphosarcoma, which is cancer arising from the lymphocytes in the lymphatic system;
malignant melanoma, which is a form of skin tumor that arises from melanocytes, the cells in
the skin that produce dark pigment; and osteosarcoma, which is the most common form of bone
cancer in dogs.