6 Common Golden Retriever Health Issues To Look Out For

Golden retrievers are a delightful dog breed and one of the most popular pet companions in the nation. Here are some common health issues to be aware of.

Brittany Leitner

Updated May 25, 2023 • Published April 14, 2022

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6 Common Golden Retriever Health Issues To Look Out For

Most ‘80s and ‘90s babies grew up watching golden retrievers take over as main characters in our favorite movies and TV shows.

It quickly implanted the millennial urge to get a cuddly, loveable golden retriever for ourselves. Thanks to Full House and the Air Bud movies, many of us never stopped fantasizing about having the perfect pet that was well behaved and yet could somehow also play basketball with you. 

If you did go ahead and make all of your nostalgic dreams come true by adopting a golden retriever of your own, it’s important to stay on top of the best ways to care for this iconic breed.

To find out everything you need to know about potential health issues and skin conditions that could affect your golden retriever, we’ve made it simple by compiling it all in one list. By learning what disorders and conditions may affect a certain breed, you can stay on top of it with your vet to look out for any potential warning signs. 

6 common golden retriever health issues to look out for

“Even though they are delightful dogs and one of the most popular family pets, golden retrievers are not without their share of health issues,” says Dr. Jo Myers, DVM,  a veterinarian who works with Pawp. “In fact, like most dogs who become popular, one could even say they have more than their fair share of health issues.” 

Some of the more common health issues experienced by golden retrievers include, according to Dr. Myers:

1. Atopy (allergic inhalant dermatitis, or "allergies")

Allergies can’t be cured, but your vet can help to minimize symptoms.

“With appropriate allergy management, the dog will have healthy-looking skin and hair and not keep everyone awake at night with incessant scratching,” says Dr. Myers. 

2. Ear infections (often secondary to atopy)

Dr. Myers notes that while ear infections can be treated, it’s important to be aggressive about treatment, especially if your dog is prone to recurring infections.

3. Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia

This should be actively managed, as joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia can lead to a very early onset of debilitating arthritis. 

4. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is not curable in golden retrievers.

“Even though many options are available to try to slow the progression of osteoarthritis and provide some degree of pain relief, the underlying joint deterioration will continue as the dog ages,” says Dr. Myers.

5. Lymphoma and other types of cancer

Dr. Myers notes that Lymphoma typically affects young golden retrievers, so it’s important to stay up to date on taking your puppy to the vet at the beginning of their lives. This cancer is not curable, so any treatment option available (there are a few!) will work to potentially delay and slow down symptoms. 

6. Congenital heart defects

“There are a variety of different heart problems that seem to run in families for golden retrievers,” says Dr. Myers. “As a general rule, we do not cure these conditions, but medications may be used to minimize the impact it has on the dog's life expectancy and ability to exercise.”

What to do if your golden retriever has health issues

Just because many of the above health issues have no cure, doesn’t mean that you can’t be proactive about spotting and catching these diseases. Similar to humans, early intervention is always helpful when trying to maintain or care for a health issue. 

If you’re bringing home your golden retriever from a breeder, the most important thing a prospective golden parent can do to be proactive about their dog's health is to choose a puppy from a high-quality breeder.

“The most conscientious and ethical breeders will test their breeding stock for common issues and use only the best dogs in their breeding programs," says Dr. Myers. "Don’t be afraid to ask for your puppy’s existing test results. The breeder should be able to show you test results regarding joint, eye, and heart issues from all the dogs in the puppy's pedigree."

Of course, health issues can happen at any time whether you adopted your pet or got it from a breeder. If you’re concerned about your golden retriever’s health, you can talk to an experienced vet who can quickly answer any health concerns you may have.

“A healthy dog will have relatively regular patterns of eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom as well as a stable appetite and energy level,” says Dr. Myers. “Anything outside of that can indicate the problem that warrants further investigation.”

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