Common Golden Retriever Health Problems & Diseases

Golden Retriever Health Issues

Golden Retrievers are known for their beauty and great temperament, but unfortunately they are also known to be at risk for some health issues. Knowing what to look for can help your dog get a leg up on any serious health problems that may come their way.

Below we will cover many of the common health issues your Golden Retriever may face. At the end we will provide ways you can help ensure your dog stays healthy and happy.

Common Golden Retriever Health Issues

Golden Retriever Health

What are some common golden retriever health issues? There are many common health issues among golden retrievers, including cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patella, chest and skin problems, eye problems, ear infections, bloat, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, and Von Willebrand disease.

Every breed comes with its own set of health issues, due to its unique genetic makeup. Even though Golden Retrievers are generally healthy dogs, there are some medical conditions to which they are prone. If you have a Golden Retriever, you should look out for symptoms of these conditions in your dog.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the possible health problems that could affect your golden retriever. However, these are some of the most common health issues that you will have to look out for if you have this kind of dog.


Cancer is a source of worry for many pet owners, as this is somewhat common in all dog breeds. However, it is even more of a concern for the owners of Golden Retrievers, since these dogs exhibit the highest rate of cancer of any breed of dog.

While not a lot is known about why, the reality is that 60 percent of Golden Retrievers die of cancer – 57 percent of female dogs and 66 percent of males (source). This is almost twice the rate of cancer in dogs of all breeds.

Among Golden Retrievers in the United States, the most common cancer is hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels. Also common are lymphosarcoma (a cancer of the lymphocyte, which is a type of blood cell), osteosarcoma (a cancer affecting the bones), and mastocytoma (mast cells in the dog’s skin).

To learn more about cancer in Golden Retrievers check out our article How to Prevent Cancer in Golden Retrievers.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

These are quite common in multiple dog breeds, including the Golden Retriever. It is a type of arthritis that involves abnormal development of the joints in a dog’s hips and elbows. In a dog that does not suffer from these conditions, the bones fit well into their sockets and can move smoothly as your dog moves around.

However, if your dog has elbow or hip dysplasia, that means that the joint is deformed. The bone will not rotate smoothly in its socket, instead involving components that brush together with abrasion and friction. Over time, this can lead to damage to the joint and a significant amount of pain and inflammation for your dog. If you allow this condition to go untreated, your dog may end up unable to walk.

This condition cannot be prevented or cured. However, there are treatments that can stop the progress of the condition or to help your dog cope with the pain.

Luxating Patella

This is basically a dislocated kneecap. It happens when your dog’s kneecap moves out of position. When this happens, he might limp or suddenly lose his ability to support his limbs while sitting or standing. You might also see a skip in his step, although he’ll often be walking normally again almost immediately.

Although this is usually a problem in the small or toy breeds, larger breeds such as Golden Retrievers can experience it as well.

Chest Problems

Heart and lung problems don’t just happen in humans, but in animals as well. Golden Retrievers are particularly susceptible to subvalvular aortic stenosis, which is basically a narrowing of the front part of the aorta. This is the valve that takes oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

When the valve doesn’t provide a big enough passage, it blocks the flow of blood and makes it so that the dog’s heart needs to work harder than it should. The process becomes more laborious over time and leads to the death of your dog. This is more common in large dogs, such as Golden Retrievers, and it seems to be a genetic issue. It usually appears at birth or before the dog is one year old.

One of the scariest things about a chest condition is that you don’t know whether your Golden Retriever has one just from looking at him. Sometimes, he could just be lying around because he does not feel like exercising. Therefore, it is a good idea to have your veterinarian monitor his heart and lung health.

Von Willebrand Disease

This is a genetic blood disorder that is common in Golden Retrievers. The underlying cause is a defective or absent protein Von Willebrand factor, which is a clotting protein. This will interfere with your dog’s clotting ability whenever he’s bleeding, leading him to bleed excessively when he has an injury. In some cases, dogs can experience internal bleeding, excessive bleeding from the gums or nose, or blood in their urine.

Dogs can have this disease without symptoms, but some will experience serious symptoms, such as spontaneous hemorrhaging.

Skin Conditions

Golden Retrievers have a double coat, which means a lot of fur. This makes their skin susceptible to different diseases. Bacteria can grow quite easily under all that fur.

About half of Golden Retrievers will develop some sort of skin problem in their lifetime. These can include allergies, which can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to a lot of itching and flakiness in the skin. It can even lead to major infections, including pyoderma (infected skin that contains pus).

There are many sources of skin problems around. These can include insects, food, pollen, mold, dirt, bacteria, and fungus. You might think that a skin condition is just uncomfortable and not all that serious, but the truth is that it could be symptomatic of a serious underlying problem as well.

In addition to allergies, there are other common skin afflictions in Golden Retrievers. If your dog licks the lower part of his legs too often, he can develop lick granuloma. A granuloma is a mass of tissue that is produced in response to inflammation and infection. There are also many issues that can arise within the sebaceous glands that can cause problems.


Many people do not realize the severity of this condition, but it affects a lot of large dog breeds. It happens when your dog’s stomach is full of gas and rapidly expands. This ends up putting a whole bunch of pressure on other organs that can lead to tissue damage.

When it is bad, it can interrupt your dog’s breathing, stop blood flow, or tear the stomach wall. In severe cases, your dog will experience gastric dilatation-volvulus. This means that his stomach flips upside down. It can lead to blood being trapped in the stomach and unable to go to the necessary parts of the body, which can lead to shock. If this happens, your Golden Retriever will need to be treated right away, or else he can die within hours.

Bloat more commonly occurs when your dog has had too much to eat at one time. Therefore, it is a good idea to split your dog’s daily allotment of food into more than one portion throughout the day. It is the direct result of your dog gulping air, which happens more often when dogs are gulping large amounts of food. You should also avoid exercising him for at least an hour after meals.


Epilepsy is seizure activity that you will observe over time. It is usually genetic, and in this case, dogs who have it will start to have seizures somewhere around 1 to 4 years of age. If your dog has a seizure, you should take him to a vet right away. He is going to need a physical exam and blood work in order to get the right diagnosis.

If your dog has more than one seizure in a month or any seizure that lasts for longer than three minutes, you should start anti-seizure medication. If he has more than one seizure within 24 hours, you should consider it a medical emergency and take him to an emergency clinic right away. How you should handle it will vary a little bit from situation to situation, and you should ask your vet how you should deal with these episodes.


Golden Retrievers also tend to suffer from hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland is in the back of your dog’s neck. It produces essential hormones, including T3 (liothyronine) and T4 (levothyroxine). In dogs who suffer from hypothyroidism, the levels of these hormones are lower. This is a fairly common condition among medium and large-sized dogs, which includes Golden Retrievers.

Perhaps the most visible symptom of this condition will be unexplained weight gain. However, there is a host of other symptoms. These include lethargy and general weakness, mental dullness, hair loss and excessive shedding, a dry and unhealthy coat, scales and infection of the skin, and more.

If you suspect Hypothyroidism it is important to take your dog to your veterinarian.


Cataracts are quite common in Golden Retrievers. Usually, you will see this problem start to occur around age four or five, and it can lead to poor vision or blindness. Cataracts make your dog’s lens cloudy, which interferes with the path of light to his retina. If he has less than 30 percent lens opacity, it may not affect his vision at all or extraordinarily little. If he has greater than 60 percent opacity, he may have problems seeing in the dark or complete vision loss.

Although cataracts are often inherited, there are situations where this is not the case. It could simply be a symptom of another problem, such as old age, diabetes mellitus, radiation exposure, inflammation, or others.

Ear Infections

Any dog can get an ear infection, just like any person can. However, because the Golden Retriever has large, floppy ears, he is more vulnerable to this problem than many other dogs. If a dog has pointy ears, the inner parts of his ear are more exposed to air, and they aren’t as likely to accumulate the moisture that can lead to an infection.

This is why it is a good idea to be proactive and clean your dog’s ears on a regular basis. If you have noticed that his ear is producing a strange odor or that he’s scratching it a lot, you should take him to the vet to see what’s going on. You can usually treat an ear infection at home, but the sooner you get it diagnosed, the better.

For more information on ear infections, check out Golden Retriever Ear Infections.

How You Can Help Your Golden Retriever Stay Healthy

How You Can Help Your Golden Retriever Stay Healthy

There are a few things that you can do to help your Golden Retriever stay healthy. It is important to keep in mind that no matter what you do, you’re not going to be able to guarantee that your dog never develops a health condition. These things happen, sometimes even to the most vigilant dog owners. Also, a Golden Retriever typically has a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, and a lot of problems will become more likely when he starts to get older.

Do Your Homework

First, if you are getting your dog from a breeder, you should select a reputable one who can give you an entire family history when it comes to health conditions. This way, you know what to be prepared for when you are getting your dog since he is more prone to the conditions his family members suffered than you would have otherwise known.

Daily Care

Additionally, you will need to take good care of your dog in order to minimize the development of any serious problems. For example, you will need to brush him on a regular basis. Because he has a double coat, the fur is likely to mat without regular brushing, which can make him even more susceptible to the skin conditions already discussed.

You will also need to make sure that he gets plenty of exercise each day. Whether you are walking him or just playing games with him in the backyard, he has a lot of energy to burn off. Especially since he is a large dog, he is going to need to move around quite a bit in order to remain in peak shape.

The type of food you feed your dog on a daily basis can also play a huge part in their health as well. Be sure you do your research on the best food for your Golden as well.

Regular Veterinary Visits

Finally, if you see that your dog is displaying concerning symptoms of any kind, you should be proactive and go to your vet immediately. You should not wait until it becomes a major problem, and your dog is in severe distress.

With almost any health problem, it will be better and easier to deal with if you tackle it early. You should also make sure that your dog gets regular check-ups, and you can ask your veterinarian to do heart, thyroid, hip, elbow, and eye tests during these check-ups to make sure everything is in working order.

Golden Retriever vet bills can add up. If you need assistance, we recommend getting pet insurance. We have an article on the Best Pet Insurance for Golden Retrievers that should help you choose the one for you.


Keeping Your Golden Retriever Healthy

Whenever you get a pet, it is always a good idea to be aware of all the risks that can come up with that pet. Dogs come in a vast variety of breeds, which is why it is important to not only know common ailments in dogs, but the ailments to which your breed of dog tends to be prone. Even though Golden Retrievers are generally healthy, they are more likely than other dogs to suffer from certain health problems, and it is good to be aware of these.

Now that you are aware of some of the health issues that your dog might develop, it might be time to consider buying some insurance for your pet. Just like you have insurance for all the other members of your family, your retriever deserves the same.

Even if you are proactive about his health and handle any potential problems promptly, there is no guarantee you will not have to deal with vet bills from a serious condition.  Vet bills can add up quickly and seeing an animal in pain is bad enough.  Not being able to give your pet the best care possible because of the expenses is even worse.

There are many pet insurance providers out there.  Do your research and pick the one that best works for you and your budget.

Up to 90% back on Vet Bills - Embrace Pet Insurance

Corey Rawlins

Corey Rawlins has loved Golden Retrievers since he was a boy. His current Golden Retriever, Brady, was his inspiration to create Golden Retriever Society. He and his wife have three children who are always keeping Brady entertained. They love spending time together, traveling, and meeting other dog families.

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