Golden Retriever Health Issues and Problems

Golden Retriever Health Issues and Problems

Golden retriever puppies are adorable, lovable bundles of energy — but do golden retrievers have a lot of health problems when they grow up? Fortunately, a good breeder can select for strong health genes, but golden retrievers are still susceptible to a few health conditions. Below, we'll discuss some of the golden retriever health problems and symptoms you should be aware of before committing to a puppy.

What Kinds of Health Problems Do Golden Retrievers Have?

Like many purebred dogs, golden retrievers are susceptible to several health conditions. Fortunately, stringent breeding practices can help prevent some of these conditions, and others can be managed with medication and veterinary care.

Hip Dysplasia

One of the most common golden retriever health issues is hip dysplasia, a common skeletal disorder in large-breed dogs. In hip dysplasia, the ball-and-socket joints of the dog's hips do not develop correctly, and the bones grind against each other when the dog moves. This condition is extremely painful. It is also a progressive condition — the grinding causes the joint to deteriorate over time until eventually it stops functioning as it should and significantly impairs the dog's mobility. Because of their size, goldens are particularly susceptible to hip dysplasia. But reputable breeders will look carefully at the health history of their dogs and breed only dogs that are likely to produce healthy puppies to minimize the possibility of golden retriever hip dysplasia.


A few types of cancer are threats to golden retrievers — particularly hemangiosarcoma, which affects about one out of every five golden retrievers in the United States, and lymphoma, which affects about one out of eight. Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels, but its tumors often form in the vascular organs, particularly the liver, spleen, lungs and heart. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphoid and white blood cell tissue. Osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, and mast cell tumors, which form masses in the skin or organs, are threats as well. golden retrievers are particularly susceptible to a skin condition known as congenital ichthyosis, which causes the growth of scaly skin on a dog's abdomen

Skin Conditions

Golden retrievers are particularly susceptible to a skin condition known as congenital ichthyosis, which causes the growth of scaly skin on a dog's abdomen. Its name comes from "ichthys," the Greek word for fish, because the rash is similar in appearance to fish scales. This disease has no cure, but dog owners may be able to control the symptoms with special shampoos and rinses. Other golden retriever skin issues frequently noted in the Morris Foundation's Golden Retriever Lifetime Study include external ear infections, hot spots, contact dermatitis, allergic dermatitis and demodectic mange. Seborrhea, sebaceous cysts, granulomas and lipomas are also common.

Chest Problems

Some golden retrievers may develop pneumothorax, which occurs when air leaks into the chest cavity. Pneumothorax occurs primarily in large-deep chested breeds. It can cause labored breathing, coughing, blue gums, an overinflated chest and general distress, and untreated pneumothorax can ultimately collapse the lungs. A veterinarian can perform an emergency procedure to release air from around the lungs. Long-term treatment may involve surgical options or medication.

Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a blood clotting disorder. It occurs when a dog's body produces too little of a substance known as von Willebrand factor (vWF), which is necessary for the blood to clot properly. Affected golden retrievers typically have type 1 vWD, in which the dog's blood contains low concentrations of vWF and normal plasma structure. The disease results in excessive internal and external bleeding and causes particular problems with excessive blood loss after surgery.

Knee Issues

Golden retriever front leg problems often include knee issues like cruciate ligament ruptures and patellar luxation. Patellar luxation is a common disorder in dogs, and many breeds have a genetic disposition for it. It is most often seen in smaller dogs but can occur in breeds like golden retrievers as well. It occurs when the kneecap slips out of its natural position. It can cause the dog to have difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg and increase the likelihood of injury to the cruciate ligaments. The cruciate ligaments are the two bands of tissue that hold the knee joint together and help it function properly. In humans, these ligaments, known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL), are commonly injured in sports. When they rupture, they can the dog cause extreme pain and require surgical intervention.


Cataracts are often hereditary in golden retrievers. Dogs with a genetic disposition may develop clouding of their lenses even at a young age, typically between 1 to 3 years old. Though these cataracts can leave the vision unimpaired, they can also cause vision trouble and blindness. Reputable breeders will analyze the health records of their dogs and breed only golden retrievers without histories of cataracts in their bloodlines.


Hypothyroidism, or low production of endocrine hormones in the thyroid gland, is relatively common in golden retrievers. It can lead to decreased body temperature, weight gain, thinning of the tail, thickening of the skin, diminished activity and behavioral changes. Fortunately, owners can usually manage a dog's hypothyroidism with medication that allows the dog to live a full, active life. any dog breed that enjoys and spends a lot of time in the water will be more prone to inner ear infections

Ear Infections

In the Morris Animal Foundation's longitudinal study of golden retriever health, otitis externa — external ear infections — were the number one observed cause of skin infections in golden retrievers. Any dog breed — such as the golden retriever — that enjoys and spends a lot of time in the water will also be prone to inner ear infections. The golden's floppy ears contribute to the problem by retaining moisture and bacteria. You can help head these off, though, by drying your dog's ears thoroughly after water play is over.


One of the main golden retriever digestive problems is bloat. Golden retrievers' large size makes them susceptible to bloat, which typically affects large-chested dogs. If your golden retriever eats a big meal before or after exercising, the exertion can cause the dog's stomach to twist and flip over. This twisting causes the stomach to fill with air and prevents blood from returning from the dog's hindquarters to the heart. It also cuts off blood flow to the spleen and pancreas, which then release toxic chemicals that can stop the heart instantly. Visible symptoms may include swelling of the stomach, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, vomiting, a weak pulse and pale gums. Bloat is an extremely grave issue and leads to death in many cases if not treated right away. If you notice these symptoms in your golden retriever, seek emergency veterinary care immediately.

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Conditions

Golden retriever heart problems are also all too common. Subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS) is the most common congenital heart disease in golden retrievers. This condition is a heart murmur that occurs when abnormal tissue forms just below the aortic valve and creates an obstruction that forces the heart to work harder to pump blood. Many dogs with SAS are asymptomatic until they collapse, seemingly for no reason and often at a young age. Golden retrievers are also prone to conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease that causes the heart to become enlarged and have difficulty pumping blood. Some recent evidence has suggested a link between DCM and diets containing legumes and potatoes, but more research is necessary to rule out reporting bias and establish true causality. Some dogs may also contract laryngeal paralysis, which is common in older golden retrievers and makes it difficult for them to breathe.

Should You Own a Golden?

Given the issues noted above, should you really be enthusiastic about bringing a golden retriever into your home? The answer is an unqualified yes. Well-bred, well-socialized golden retrievers are loyal, affectionate, playful, beautiful dogs who will bring you many years of affection, adventures and a loving bond like no other. Welcoming a fluffy golden bundle of love into your home will fill your life with unimaginable joy and rewards.

Contact Golden Meadows Retrievers to Add a Lovable Golden Retriever to Your Family

To start the process of reserving a golden retriever puppy of your own, contact Golden Meadows. We'll make a match based on the puppy's personality and the needs of your home, so you'll be sure to get a good fit. We comb through health records meticulously before we breed our dogs, so you can rest assured that your puppy will arrive happy, socialized and healthy. You can also opt for an older puppy with a great head start on training. Our dogs come with a minimum of a one-year health guarantee against genetic heart, hip and eye defects, which may be extendable by two years with the right home nutrition program. Request puppy info online, or contact us today to learn more.

Golden Retriever Health Issues and Problems