Common Golden Retriever Health Issues (And How To Prevent Them)

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If you’re thinking about getting a golden retriever, or you already have one, it’s good to be aware of common health issues that they might experience.

I’ve gone through many of these health problems with my golden retriever, Oliver, so I know how scary it can be when something is wrong.

Thankfully, there are lots of scientists, doctors, and organizations researching these issues and providing information to help you and your vet care for or prevent them.

Plus, by understanding these common issues, you can take steps to prevent them, be on the lookout for them, or be proactive in talking with your veterinarian about them.

Alright now, let’s dive in!

The Purpose Of This Article

Before we get started, it’s important for you to know the purpose of this article, and for me to put out a disclaimer.

I’m not a veterinarian and if you have any issues or concerns about your golden retriever’s health you should talk to your vet.

This article is not a substitute for talking to your vet, but instead is an overview and introduction to common health issues that golden retrievers may be diagnosed with.

If you have a golden retriever, you should be aware of these and keep an eye out for potential warning signs.

And if you’re considering a golden retriever, it may be good to know about these before committing.

In this article, you’ll learn about common health issues puppies may experience, common health problems golden retrievers as a breed may run into, and what you can do to try to prevent these issues from happening.

So let’s start with common puppy health issues…

Common Golden Retriever Puppy Health Issues

golden retriever puppy health issues

Puppies are like kids.

They have developing immune systems, so they often get sick more than adult dogs do.

Plus, they usually haven’t quite yet learned that it’s not a good idea to eat poop…

Here are six common puppy illnesses, according to PetMD:

  • Parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Kennel Cough
  • Adenovirus
  • Leptospirosis
  • Vomiting & Diarrhea

Many of the vaccinations that your vet will give your puppy will protect against these illnesses, and we’ll talk more about preventing them later.

Common Adult Golden Retriever Health Problems

According to PetMD, some common golden retriever health problems include:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sub-aortic stenosis (SAS)
  • Eye disorders
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Seizures
  • Lymphoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Skin problems (like hot spots and allergies)
  • Ear infections

Unfortunately, 60% of golden retrievers are impacted by cancer.

But thankfully, there’s the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which is looking to figure out why, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.

Why Do These Health Issues Happen?

Here are three major reasons why golden retrievers have these particular health problems.

  1. Founder Effect
  2. Inbreeding
  3. Irresponsible breeding

Let’s start with the founder effect…

Founder Effect

The founder effect means that all golden retrievers came from the same few dogs originally, and whatever health issues these original goldens had, nearly all golden retrievers after have them, too, because they share the same genes.

So it seems that these original goldens were predisposed to cancer, and therefore all of their offspring are predisposed to it as well.

It’s kinda like balding in my family.

My grandfather was bald, most of his sons were bald, and most of my cousins are bald.

I’m next (although I’m hoping my hair will last at least a few more years), but that’s just the way it is with my family.

In the same way, being predisposed to cancer and the other common issues is just the way it is with goldens.

It stinks, but genetics is also the reason golden retrievers have sweet personalities and beautiful coats.


golden retriever inbreeding

Another reason why golden retrievers have a high prevalence of health problems is because of inbreeding.

Here’s why: most diseases and other health problems are linked to recessive genes.

For example, if you breed two dogs that are genetically different, the chance that they’ll each have the recessive gene for bone cancer is average, so the chance that their puppies will have bone cancer is average.

But if you breed two dogs that are genetically similar, and bone cancer is a problem in their gene pool, the chance that they’ll each have the recessive gene for bone cancer is higher, so the chance that their puppies will have bone cancer is higher.

I used bone cancer in the above example, but the same goes for any of the common health problems that golden retrievers are diagnosed with.

Now you may be wondering, why in the world would someone inbreed dogs?

For one, if you want to produce puppies with a very specific look (for example, show dogs), then you need to breed dogs that have that look.

If two dogs happen to be cousins, and the breeder really wants these dogs to have a litter of puppies, they may prioritize the look of the puppies over their health.

The same thing can happen with designer dogs, such as mini golden retrievers.

Another way inbreeding could happen is by accident.

For example, where I live there is one breeder that’s really popular.

They have one male and several females.

If two people in the area decide that they want their dogs to breed because they think they’re cute, there’s a decent chance the dogs have the same father, or at least are related through this one dog.

This is called the popular sire effect and is also prevalent in show dog circles.

This leads us to the next reason why goldens have so many health problems…

Irresponsible Breeding

A few decades ago, golden retrievers became really popular and everybody wanted one.

The demand was higher than the supply was, so people who had no business breeding dogs started breeding golden retrievers.

A lot of these people were in it for the money and did not consider whether or not the dogs they were breeding were related, were healthy, or had good temperaments.

Therefore, a lot of puppies were put out into the world that were likely set up for a life of health and behavior issues.

And irresponsible breeding still happens today.

One of my friends grew up with a family dog that had a ton of allergies, bad hips, bad eyes, and bad skin.

They got him at a flea market, and before all of these issues started happening to him, his parents thought he was sweet and handsome, so they bred him with their friend’s dog.

They had no business breeding him, and the people who bought the puppies at an initially cheap price were likely in for a lot of vet bills and possibly some heartbreak.

How To Prevent These Health Problems From Happening

golden retriever health

So now that you know what health problems are common with golden retrievers and why they happen, the question is this: how can you prevent them?

There’s no way to totally prevent everything, but there are certainly some steps you can take.

Of course, the number one thing is to have a good relationship with your vet.

They know your puppy and their health best, and by having good communication with them, you’ll help out your puppy a lot.

In addition to speaking with your vet, to combat many of the problems that puppies specifically run into, here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t let your puppy eat poop (or really anything besides their food) which can potentially be infected with a virus, bacteria or parasites
  • Don’t let your puppy drink from standing water (puddles can often hold bacteria and parasites)
  • Choose a good food to help strengthen your puppy’s immune system
  • Avoid popular dog places like the dog park before your puppy is fully vaccinated
  • Talk to your veterinarian about supplementing with vitamins
  • Talk to your veterinarian about necessary vaccinations

And to try to prevent many health issues that golden retrievers as a breed are commonly diagnosed with, here are some tips:

  • Choose a good breeder. Healthy parents will give you the best chance of getting a healthy dog.
  • Keep your dog’s weight under control. They’re susceptible to hip and elbow issues and excess weight won’t help.
  • Always fully rinse and dry them off when you give them a bath. They’re susceptible to skin issues, like hot spots, and leftover soap or moisture can bother their skin.
  • Feed them a high-quality food (and one that is not grain-free).
  • Regularly clean their ears to prevent ear infections.
  • And of course, it’s worth mentioning again to have a good relationship with your vet.


golden retriever health problems

There are several common health issues that golden retrievers are diagnosed with, including cancer (60% of goldens are affected by cancer), skin issues, heart issues, and elbow and hip issues.

To prevent these issues, make sure to choose a good breeder that’s breeding healthy dogs, feed your pup a high-quality food, keep them at an appropriate weight, and, most importantly, have a good relationship with your vet.

Has your golden experienced any of these issues?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who is considering getting a golden, or already has one, please share this with them!

P.S. If you liked this article, you’ll love the Complete Guide To Golden Retrievers.

Related articles:

Disclaimer: I’m not a veterinarian and you should talk to your veterinarian about your golden retriever’s health.

1 thought on “Common Golden Retriever Health Issues (And How To Prevent Them)”

  1. I’m interested in getting a golden. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the breed in preparation. I’ve recently come across the spaying/neutering debate and wanted to know what your stance is on it. I’ve been thinking about getting a female, but during my research I’ve found some studies that say they may be more susceptible to various health issues and cancers if spayed/ spayed too early/ spayed too late. Professionals also seem to disagree on when the procedure should take place.
    I’m very confused, so I wanted to reach out and ask if you think goldens should be spayed/neutered and if so, when should they be (before or after their first heat)? 


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