Common Health Problems In Golden Retrievers

With all good must come bad and health is certainly at the top of the list when it comes to a Golden Retriever. To say that its bad may be extreme, but common health problems are a very common concern for most parents of this breed.

Naturally, you can expect most dogs to experience health problems at some point in their lives, but they’re a few common Golden Retriever health issues to be aware of whether you own or plan to own this breed.


Today, I will clear up everything you intend to know from small to big concerns that you may be needing answers for. To kick things off, here are:

Some of the common problems Golden Retrievers encounter:

  • Cancer
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Luxating patella
  • Chest problems
  • Von Willebrand Disease
  • Skin conditions
  • Bloat
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cataracts
  • Ear infections
Common Conditions In Golden Retrievers

Common Conditions In Golden Retrievers

To help you better understand common health problems in this breed, I thought it would be best to elaborate on health issues, problems, and everything surrounding the subject.

Continue reading to find a detailed explanation for each of the above-mentioned health concerns that you may notice in your dog or that is important to be aware of before considering this breed.


Cancer is, sadly, an issue we encounter across a range of animal groups, and dogs are no exception, but if you’re a Golden Retriever owner, you need to be on the lookout even more – that’s because, for reasons we’ve yet to work out of all the dog breeds, Golden Retrievers have the highest cancer rate.

Cancer claims the lives of about 60 percent of Golden Retrievers (around twice that of other dog breeds), and if you have a male, his chances of dying from the disease are even greater than females.

There are several cancers that Golden Retrievers are particularly susceptible to. The most common is hemangiosarcoma – a cancer of the blood vessels. Beyond that, cancers such as lymphosarcoma (a type of blood cell cancer), osteosarcoma (bone cancer), and mastocytoma (mast cells in the skin) also crop up fairly regularly in Golden Retrievers.

Hip Dysplasia & Elbow Dysplasia

One of the most distressing afflictions your Golden Retriever can develop is arthritis such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Allowed to go on untreated, this abnormal development of the hip and elbow joints in your dog can lead to inflammation and pain.

Eventually, your dog might not even be able to walk, so it’s important this condition is treated. And, while this condition (that also affects many other dog breeds) is incurable, there are, thankfully, treatments available that can help your dog manage the pain and slow the condition.

Luxating Patella

This condition, which is basically a dislocated kneecap, is less common among Golden Retrievers than other, smaller dog breeds, but they can develop it too, so be vigilant.

If you see your Golden Retriever limping from time to time, or struggling to support himself while standing or sitting, it could be a sign of this condition (of course, if your dog displays these symptoms in any case you should get him checked out).

Chest Problems

If you think humans have exclusivity over heart and lung conditions, think again. Unfortunately, conditions such as these are also common in Golden Retrievers. The problems tend to begin when the valve whose job it is to carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body gets too narrow.

That leaves the heart with more of the legwork, which can, sadly, lead to your dog dying. Known as aortic stenosis, the good news is that as a genetic condition, not all Golden Retrievers will be susceptible to it. The bad news is that, as a common issue in larger dog breeds, that marks Golden Retrievers out as some of the most commonly affected.

Even more worrying is that your Golden Retriever is unlikely to display any signs of a problem. Therefore, it is important that you have a vet routinely take a look at your dog’s heart and lungs to ensure everything is in tip-top working order.

Von Willebrand Disease

Another disease that can often go without symptoms, this is a genetic blood disorder that stems from a defective (or absence of) a particular protein that helps with clotting.

This means that if your dog gets an injury such as a cut, the blood will struggle to clot, leading to excessive bleeding. Internal bleeding can also be a factor while bleeding from the gums, nose, and blood in the urine can also be tell-tale signs to look out for.

Skin Conditions

You’re bound to have noticed that your Golden Retriever has a mass of fur, but do you know why? It’s because they have a double coat! While this can make them excellent to snuggle up to, it does mean that more health problems can occur as a result, with bacteria thriving in that thick coat of his.

Because of this, you shouldn’t be surprised if your Golden Retriever develops a skin condition from time to time. These can range from relatively minor (although painful) such as allergies causing itching and flakiness, to more serious conditions such as pyoderma (which is infected skin as well as pus).

Lots of things can be behind skin problems in your Golden Retriever, including pollen, insects, the food they eat, dirt, and fungus. Not only that, but signs of a skin condition can also be a sign of a deeper problem.

If your dog has been licking the lower part of his legs a lot recently, this can cause problems such as granuloma (tissue that develops as a result of infection and inflammation), so it is worth keeping a check on and having him looked at by a vet if you spot this,


If you’ve given your Golden Retriever a few too many treats, or even just a slightly heftier bowl of food, it might be time to change tack. That’s because if he gets too bloated, health issues can result. If a dog’s stomach is filled with gas and expands rapidly (bloating) it’s likely to put pressure on other organs. If things get really bad, it can affect breathing, tear the stomach wall, and interrupt blood flow. Believe it or not, your dog’s stomach could even flip upside-down in severe cases, which can hinder the blood’s ability to reach the parts of the body it needs to, leading to shock and, possibly, death.

One very easy change you can make to help prevent bloating is to split up your dog’s meals into several a day, rather than all in one go. And cut down on the treats!


The chances are, if your Golden Retriever is going to suffer from seizures relating to epilepsy, he’ll develop it young – between the ages of one and four. However, if he does have one, immediate attention from a vet should be sought to get the correct diagnosis.

Medicines to prevent seizures should be administered if your dog has over one seizure a month, or for longer than three minutes. More than one seizure in 24 hours should be considered an emergency. Your vet will give you advice on best practices.


If your Golden Retriever is lethargic, weak, not quite on the ball mentally or has an unhealthy coat, gains weight, displays excessive shedding, or a skin infection, it could be a sign of hyperthyroidism (where the thyroid gland produces lower hormones than it should). If you suspect this, have him seen by a vet.


Around the age of four or five, it is possible your Golden Retriever will develop cataracts. When an eye lens that has become cloudy to the point it has more than 60 percent opacity, it can lead to either a loss of vision at night or blindness.

Reasons for this include inflammation, diabetes, exposure to radiation, or just simply old age. However, the condition is often inherited too.

Ear Infections

The floppy, large ears of the Golden Retriever may be adorable, but the way they’re shaped can cause ear infections as they’re more likely to collect moisture.

The way to address this is largely preventative: clean his ears… regularly! However, if he’s scratching his ears a lot or they’re emitting a strange smell, take him to the vet for a check-up.

How You Can Help

Regardless of the issues described, like people, Golden Retrievers tend to develop more problems the older they get, and as their lifespan is just 10 – 12 years, problems related to ageing can develop a little sooner than you may expect. Even so, there are ways to help your dog maintain a healthy life.

Do Your Research

Only use breeders with solid reputations when choosing a Golden Retriever, and make sure you get the dog’s family history so you can check for any genetic health conditions. Forewarned is forearmed, so if you know what might be coming, you’ll be able to prepare accordingly.

Regular Care

To maintain good health in your Golden Retriever is a big commitment. Brush him regularly. This will help prevent skin conditions from developing within that double coat. He’ll need plenty of exercises, too.

As a big dog, he’s going to have loads of energy, so let him run around in the backyard, play with him and take him for plenty of walks. Also, be sure to research the best types of food for him as that too can help give him a healthy life.

Book in for regular check-ups

Don’t hang around wondering if a symptom might end up being serious. If you see a problem, get your Golden Retriever to the vet. As with any condition, early treatment is best.

While you’re there, have your vet give your dog a check-up of his thyroid, heart, hips, elbows, and eyes to catch any unseen problems early on.


With all the breeds of dogs out there, it can be confusing knowing which ailments tend to afflict which types of dogs. Do your research and work out which are common among all dogs and which are breed-specific – and keep in mind that Golden Retrievers, in particular, are more vulnerable to health issues than other dogs,

Last but not least, consider taking out pet insurance – keeping Golden Retrievers can be expensive, particularly as they age and health concerns mount along with your vet bills. Do some shopping around and pick one that fits your budget. 

Jerry Mathis

Jerry Mathis

Jerry M. Mathis is a freelance lifestyle writer, based in California, who writes at Dig Doggy. He has been writing about pet-oriented topics since 2012 and during her career, he has been the editor and contributor for Yahoo’s Canada Pets’ popular website. His most enjoyable activity is giving advice on how to give your animal friends a happy and comfortable life.

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Jerry Mathis

Jerry Mathis

Jerry M. Mathis is a freelance lifestyle writer, based in California, who writes at Dig Doggy. He has been writing about pet-oriented topics since 2012 and during her career, he has been the editor and contributor for Yahoo’s Canada Pets’ popular website. His most enjoyable activity is giving advice on how to give your animal friends a happy and comfortable life.

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