Common Golden Retriever Health Issues

After only a few moments in the presence of a sweet, bright-eyed Golden Retriever, it’s easy to see why the breed is a perennial favorite in US households. Known for their intelligent and affable demeanor as well as their diligence as a hunting “gun dog,” Goldens are a welcome canine addition to a wide variety of families.

As with any beloved family member (two-legged or otherwise), pet parents naturally want to safeguard the health and well-being of their furry companion. As the old saying goes, well-informed is well-armed, so knowing the most common health problems and concerns for Golden Retrievers is a great way to achieve peace of mind when it comes to your beloved pooch. While each of these conditions is a serious one, bear in mind that the breed is generally a hearty and healthy one: these issues are simply the most common to appear if a health problem occurs.

Cancer in Golden Retrievers
The bad news comes first: cancer is one of the most persistent of the Golden Retrievers’ health issues. Not only is the rate of cancer in Golden Retrievers nearly double that in other breeds, but an eye-opening 60% of all Goldens will also eventually pass on due to cancer. Males have a slightly higher chance to be affected by cancer than females, a gendered tendency that is also reflected in human cancers. The most common type of cancer in Golden Retrievers is hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer that stems from the blood vessel walls in the dog’s body. While it appears most often in the spleen, because it is cancer that occurs in widespread blood vessels, tumors can appear virtually anywhere on a dog’s body. This prognosis is very serious and typically fatal in a matter of months for the affected pup.

While it’s a health issue that is incredibly sad to face, it’s important to step into Golden ownership with “eyes wide open” about the commonality of the problem. Pet owners must realize that there are a variety of types of cancer that can affect their four-legged friend. While most cannot be prevented completely, it’s still important that you are looking out for signs, symptoms, or changes in behavior. The good news is that Golden Retrievers still enjoy an average 10-12 year lifespan, even despite the high percentages of cancer affecting the breed. There are also some treatments available for certain cancers, depending on how they present in the dog and how early the cancer is detected.

What You Can Do: Because cancer is the deadliest of the Golden Retriever common health problems, even selective breeding hasn’t been able to make much of a dent in stifling this widespread breed issue. As a pet parent, the best thing you can do for your Golden is to commit to regular checkups with your veterinarian, a healthy diet, and frequent exercise with your pup. Just like humans, the foundation of well-being lies in staying active and as balanced as possible; while this won’t eliminate the possibility of cancer, it will make it far more difficult for malignant contributing lifestyle factors to welcome it in. It’s also important that you feed your Golden Retriever a nutritious diet that’s filled with vitamins, minerals, and natural ingredients.

Hip Dysplasia in Golden Retrievers
Unfortunately, hip problems are another common health issue seen in older Golden Retrievers, and the usual culprit behind their careful walk and sitting discomfort come from a condition called hip dysplasia. This issue arises when the ball and joint socket in the hip are malformed: the ball joint of the leg is too large for the socket, for example, or the socket is shaped in a way that doesn’t allow smooth movement. When a Golden puppy is young and active, their bones are still growing and changing, so this mismatch isn’t immediately obvious. Goldens will also conceal pain and discomfort from their owners if at all possible, making the diagnosis early in life difficult. Many owners are unaware of a hip dysplasia issue until the dog ages and mobility becomes impaired. In extreme cases, when diagnosis and symptom management are delayed, an older Golden Retriever may lose the ability to walk. Hip dysplasia is squarely a genetic problem, which means that careful breeding can often minimize the possibility of passing on the hip dysplasia gene. Because it’s so common in Goldens, however, the disorder poses the same issue as cancer: it’s borderline impossible to eliminate genetic risk factors while still keeping the hallmark traits of the breed intact. If you think that your Golden has this health concern, it may be a good idea to ask for hip x-rays from your vet.

What You Can Do: The beginning of hip dysplasia starts before a Golden is born, so even the most loving pet parent can’t really prevent it, though breeding selection can minimize the chance of it cropping up. If your pup is diagnosed with the condition, confer with your vet to determine if any surgery or direct treatment is necessary. At home, make it easy for your dog to get around and minimize hip usage with tools like ramps and supportive dog beds to minimize discomfort.

Humeral Condylar Osteochondrosis (HCO) in Golden Retrievers
Just as a malformation of the hip joint and socket can cause dysplasia, the malformation of elbow cartilage can cause the same type of issues in Goldens. HCO or Humeral Condylar Osteochondrosis is also known as elbow dysplasia. It is as common to the breed as hip dysplasia, but the symptoms are likely to appear much earlier in life; as soon as 6 months of age in some cases. When HCO occurs, the cartilage in the elbow joint has grown thicker than it should be. The subsequent effects on mobility and stability lead to osteoarthritis and other ailments in an otherwise healthy young Golden.

What You Can Do: Just as with hip dysplasia, good breeding can minimize the chances of HCO appearing, but once it is diagnosed, follow the lead of your veterinarian in terms of treatment. Clear obstacles away from common paths your dog walks in the home, and use ramps and a good measure of patience for mobility challenges like stairs.

Dental Problems in Golden Retrievers
As a hunting breed with a strong tendency to show a “soft mouth”, these pups don’t hesitate to tackle the world muzzle-first. This breed loves to chew, which is great news for toys, but bad news for unattended shoes on a day when a Golden is feeling lonely or bored. All that chewing and chomping puts their teeth through a lot of wear-and-tear, which in turn can lead to plaque and tartar buildup, decay, and even adult tooth loss. Losing a few teeth as a puppy is not only expected but required for adult teeth to grow in; if one of those teeth is broken, however, your dog may have trouble chewing or playing. A broken tooth may also expose the sensitive nerve inside, causing your dog enough pain that they may struggle to eat normally. Decay on adult teeth can also cause swollen or bleeding gums and the dreaded “doggie breath”– stinky bacteria that thrive on decay and live in your pup’s mouth.

What You Can Do: Look for a vet that offers not only physical checkups for your pooch but dental services to alleviate mouth-related Golden Retriever health concerns. These professionals can examine your Golden to see if there are any current dental issues, perform a cleaning on your dog’s teeth, and even give you instructions for good doggie brushing practices back at home. If your Golden looks to be rubbing their face against the edges of furniture or the carpet, they may be in discomfort over a loose or broken tooth – have them sit near you and gently lift their jowl to see if any damage is visible. If a tooth breaks and you physically have the tooth itself, bring it with your pup to a dental specialist vet ASAP – in some cases, the tooth can be professionally reattached to the root with dog-safe adhesive.

Stomach Bloat in Golden Retrievers
Large, deep-chested dog breeds like Goldens are particularly susceptible to a condition called bloat. When bloat occurs, the dog’s stomach fills up with gas and causes physical complications by limiting blood flow and normal functions in nearby organs, such as the spleen. Diet and feeding habits have a great deal to do with bloat: eating too much food too quickly, or consuming low-quality food with ingredients that the dog is sensitive to can cause a buildup of digestion-related gas. Bloat is a serious issue, as the air-filled stomach will twist,  an issue called torsion. That twist prevents everything – gas, food, and liquid – from moving normally through your pup, and that blockage can quickly turn deadly as gas continues to build.

What You Can Do: Unfortunately, bloat is a serious and possibly even fatal Golden Retriever health issue that pet owners must consider. Preventing bloat is thankfully much easier than wrestling with other Golden Retriever health problems. The key to stopping bloat from ever occurring is twofold: speed and quality of your dog’s diet. Try to create a calm atmosphere during meal-time for Goldens, even if it means other pets need to be sanctioned to other areas of the home so they don’t feel anxious or threatened.

Goldens, being very mouth-oriented, have a tendency to “bolt” down their food, eating hurriedly as soon as it’s placed in front of them. The effect is amplified if there is another pet in the house that they feel they are competing with for nourishment. A precisely-formulated, grain-free dog kibble like Lucy Pet allows you to dispense a small amount of nutrient-balanced food, ensuring pups get exactly what they require without needing to bolt down large volumes of food during mealtimes. If your pup is food-nervous or food-aggressive around other household animals, try feeding them separately. This may help cut back on rapid-eating-as-defense. Additionally, try incorporating “slow feeding” bowls and mats that make your dog hunt for small measures of food, slowing down the overall ingestion process. With patience and affection – after all, practice makes perfect – you can create a comfortable ritual for your Golden’s mealtime, ensuring not only his nutrition but his sense of well-being and safety – and consequently creating a lasting bond with your furry friend. While you can’t avoid all health conditions, adding proper nutrition to your dog’s diet is an excellent start. To keep your pup healthy for years to come, try adding high-quality dog food into your dog’s diet.

Sources Cited:

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  4. Manzotti, Roberto. “How To Take Care Of Your Golden Retriever’s Teeth.” Official Golden, (no publish date), Accessed December 12, 2019.
  5. “Gastric Dilation / Bloat.” Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, inc. (, June 23, 2015, Accessed December 12, 2019.
  6. A Helpful Guide Best Food for Golden Retriever Dogs: