Understanding Golden Retriever Health Issues

Golden retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. They are fun, loving, and smart. Golden retrievers also make a great dog in hybrids, from loveable Goldendoodles and Golden Huskies, to the Golden Cooli, Goldador, and Golden Hounds.

However, what the popularity of the Golden Retriever does not indicate is the breed’s health issues. Overall, this is a relatively healthy breed. Yet, there are some diseases that are prevalent in Golden Retrievers. Understanding health risks can help you decide if the Golden Retriever is right for you, as well as ensuring you’re the best pet parent possible to your gold-haired, four-legged friend.

Golden Retriever Breed Facts

Golden retriever mobility loss solution

Golden Retrievers are actually a sporting dog. They were bred for hunting and retrieving waterfowl. In many ways, the Golden Retriever resembles the Labrador Retriever, which is another sporting and waterfowl breed. They are actually very similarly sized breeds and live approximately 10-13 years.

Golden Retrievers do have some differences with Labs. The most obvious difference is in their appearance. Golden Retrievers have a characteristically golden coat. Labs come in brown, black, or yellow colors. Golden Retrievers can also have either long or short costs. Golden Retrievers tend to be quieter than labs. Also, Golden Retrievers have a few more health issues. 

Because they were bred as a sporting and hunting dog, Golden Retrievers need a lot of exercise. Without the stimulation they need, they can become destructive. If you want a couch potato dog, then the Golden Retriever may not be for you. However, if you enjoy swimming, playing catch, walking and running, and many other outside activities, you and your Golden Retriever will get along just fine.

Common Golden Retriever Health Issues and How to Treat Them

Any dog breed you choose will come with its own health issues. Golden Retrievers are fairly healthy on average, but there are a few common health concerns:

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Goldendoodle Hip-EEZ

As with many large breeds, elbow and hip dysplasia are both common in Golden Retrievers. It is a genetic condition that causes the femoral head to partially dislocate. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are thought to occur in at least 70% of dogs. 

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia can cause stiff and painful joints. You will notice your dog struggling to stand or having an unusual gait with this condition. Most responsible breeders will ensure that they do not breed dogs with Hip or Elbow Dysplasia.

If your dog has the disease, your veterinarian can help you create a treatment plan. Treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms. It may range from pain medication and therapy to surgery.


Unfortunately, cancer is very common among Golden Retrievers. It is estimated that around 60% of Golden Retriever deaths are from cancer. That is a huge occurrence of the disease in this breed. 

As with humans, cancer is spread genetically. There are actually far more cases of cancer in Golden Retrievers than there were in the 1970s. That is good news because it may point to a new genetic mutation in the breed. Researchers are looking for a reason for the recent rise in Golden Retriever cancer rates. The good news is, cancer in Golden Retrievers may be treatable depending on the type.


Epilepsy is a neurological condition common in dogs and Golden Retrievers are no different. They are prone to this disease. You can suspect that your Golden Retriever has epilepsy if they have involuntary seizures or lose consciousness often. If you notice these symptoms, take your Golden Retriever to your vet immediately. 

Epilepsy can be treated through the use of medication. The two most common are phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Research is ongoing into more modern anticonvulsants.


More than many other breeds, Golden Retrievers are prone to allergies. Their allergies can cause skin problems like lick granulomas or hot spots. Wheat allergies are common with this breed, as are environmental allergies.

Most allergies can be controlled. There is medication if your Golden Retriever’s allergies become severe. Otherwise, you can help them by treating the symptoms of their allergies. Take them to the vet if they excessively lick or scratch at an area. Also, removing the allergen as much as possible can help control symptoms.

Golden Retriever Mobility Loss

Joint conditions like hip dysplasia are the tip of mobility problems impacting Golden Retrievers. Severe arthritis can make standing painful and can cause a dog’s back legs to collapse underneath them. Golden Retrievers are active dogs, making them prone to injuries like ACL tears.

It is devastating when a previously active dog can no longer walk. A dog wheelchair can help your senior Golden Retriever to walk again. Wheelchairs support your dog’s legs giving them the stability they need to continue to exercise. If your Golden Retriever struggles to move, a dog wheelchair might be precisely what they need!

Buddy the Golden Retriever and His Wheelchair

Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair

Two days ago Buddy lost use of his hips from displacement and arthritis. Early this morning I felt there was no other option but to put our family member Buddy down. He had not gone to the bathroom for almost 2 days. He is a private dog and wants to not be “seen.” So holding him up and walking him around wasn’t working. But then, I found your optional rear end harness! It is absolutely perfect for the manual transport to and from house, car, etc. Then it snaps in place on the Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair, allowing him to roam the yard and do his business by himself.

I found you on the Internet this morning, drove to your office. Now my family and I have more time with our beloved Buddy. It’s still going to be tough but a lot less tough with your system. Thank you!”

– Buddy’s owner

Final Thoughts

Golden Retrievers, overall, do not have very many health problems. However, the increase in cancer rates in the breed is worrying. Regular vet checkups and constant love and handling can help you catch any health problems before they get out of control. Make sure you are aware of the health issues before deciding on a Golden Retriever. That knowledge ensures you help your beloved Golden live a long and healthy life.

dog wheelchair for retriever

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One comment

  1. I love your blog, I’ve learned many tips, thank you for your time!
    My dog has attitude problems and thanks to your blog- I was able to learn to deal with this problem!
    Thank you!

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