Common Golden Retriever Health Concerns and Tips

Key Points

  • Golden retrievers are prone to specific health concerns, including genetic conditions like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, as well as common conditions such as cancer, heart disease, hypothyroidism, ear infections, eye conditions, and obesity.

  • Regular check-ups and early detection are critical in managing these conditions effectively.

  • Preventive measures, such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper grooming, greatly improve the well-being of golden retrievers and help them lead healthy, happy lives.

No, there wasn't some freak accident that caused all your shoes to suddenly have teeth marks. A golden retriever caused that — the affectionate dog that wants to share their love with everything and everyone.

Sure, not all goldens are like Brutus and Dasher who, as reported in Newsweek on June 26, 2023, "argued" over who got to cuddle a new kitten. Chances are, your golden loves you more than anything!

Golden retrievers have a loyal and friendly nature, making them one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide. However, like any other breed, goldens are prone to certain health concerns. Owners must be aware of these common health issues and take proactive measures to ensure the well-being of their furry friends.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of common health concerns in golden retrievers and offers valuable tips for prevention and management.

golden retriever laying in grass

Genetic Conditions

As with most breeds, goldens are prone to specific genetic conditions. Not every golden has these issues, but a proper understanding helps you safeguard your dog's health.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition in which the hip joint develops abnormally, causing discomfort and pain. Monitor your golden retriever for any signs of hip dysplasia, such as difficulty standing up, limping, or reduced activity levels. If you suspect hip dysplasia, consult a vet for a thorough examination and potential X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

To prevent hip dysplasia, provide a balanced diet to support healthy growth and maintain an appropriate weight. Regular exercise is crucial, but avoid activities that are too strenuous on the hips, such as excessive jumping or running on hard surfaces.

The American Kennel Club advises, "As your dog grows, providing appropriate levels of exercise and a healthy canine diet will prevent obesity, which is a major contributing factor to hip dysplasia. Also, obesity causes many other health problems in dogs, so hold off on the table scraps and fatty foods."

Treatment options for hip dysplasia range from medication and physical therapy to surgical interventions such as joint replacement or corrective osteotomy, depending on the severity of the condition. Your veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate treatment plan for your dog's specific case.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is another common genetic condition that affects this breed. It occurs when the elbow joint fails to develop properly, leading to pain, lameness, and restricted movement. Be on the lookout for signs of elbow dysplasia, including stiffness, difficulty climbing stairs, and reduced interest in physical activities.

A proper diagnosis requires a thorough orthopedic examination and potential imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans. In some cases, arthroscopy may be necessary to fully evaluate the extent of the joint damage.

Treatment for elbow dysplasia often includes a combination of pain management, joint supplements, and physical therapy exercises to improve your dog's mobility and reduce discomfort. In severe cases, surgical interventions can address the underlying joint abnormalities and provide long-term relief.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)

Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) is a developmental disease in the cartilage and bone structure of young goldens. OCD commonly affects the shoulder and elbow joints, causing pain and limping. If you notice any signs of lameness or difficulty moving, seek veterinary attention to determine if OCD is the underlying cause.

The diagnosis of OCD typically involves a physical examination, X-rays, and, in some cases, advanced imaging techniques like MRI or arthroscopy. Early detection is essential to prevent the progression of OCD and minimize its impact on your dog's quality of life.

Treatment options for OCD vary depending on the affected joint and the severity of the condition. Conservative management often includes rest, restricted exercise, and anti-inflammatory medication. In more severe cases, your dog may need surgery to remove the damaged cartilage or bone fragments and restore joint function.

Common Health Conditions

Breeding has made goldens more prone to certain health conditions than others. While not every dog suffers from these ailments, it's best to know what to look out for.


Cancer is unfortunately prevalent in these dogs, affecting various organs and systems. Keep a watchful eye for symptoms such as abnormal lumps or bumps, unexplained weight loss, chronic coughing, or changes in appetite or behavior.

If you suspect cancer, consult with a veterinarian who performs diagnostic tests, including bloodwork, imaging scans, and biopsies. The cancer treatment depends on the type, stage, and location of the tumor. It may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these modalities.

Regular check-ups and early detection are crucial in managing cancer effectively. Avoid exposing your golden retriever to harmful substances and maintain a healthy diet and weight to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Additionally, consider genetic testing to identify potential predispositions to specific types of cancer.

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Heart Disease

Various heart conditions, such as dilated cardiomyopathy and mitral valve disease, affect golden retrievers. Watch for symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and fainting. Seek immediate veterinary attention if you observe any of these signs.

A thorough cardiac examination, including listening to the heart sounds and potentially performing an echocardiogram, helps diagnose heart disease. Treatment options often involve medications to regulate heart function and manage symptoms. Lifestyle adjustments, including a low-sodium diet, also improve heart health.

Regular check-ups with a veterinarian who specializes in cardiology are vital in monitoring the progression of the disease and adjusting treatment plans accordingly. Following the prescribed medications and maintaining a stress-free environment are essential for managing heart disease.


Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. The condition leads to weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, and skin problems. If you notice these symptoms, consult with a veterinarian to perform thyroid function tests and confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for hypothyroidism in goldens typically involves administering synthetic thyroid hormone supplements to restore the hormone balance. Regular monitoring of thyroid hormone levels and adherence to the prescribed medication are important to ensure optimal management of hypothyroidism.

An appropriate diet, rich in nutrients and fatty acids, supports thyroid function. Avoid processed foods that contain fillers and artificial additives. Regular exercise and mental stimulation are also essential to maintain overall health and well-being.

Miscellaneous Health Concerns

Regular grooming takes care of many of the following health concerns. Keeping your golden groomed helps them avoid eye and ear issues. While grooming, you'll also be able to see if your dog is getting big around the middle and if you need to adjust their diet or exercise regimen.

Ear Infections

Golden retrievers are prone to ear infections due to increased moisture accumulation in their floppy ears. Regularly inspect your dog's ears for signs of redness, discharge, or a foul odor, indicating a possible infection.

Prevention is key, and you reduce the risk of ear infections by cleaning your dog's ears regularly with veterinarian-recommended solutions. Avoid excessive moisture from swimming or bathing and dry the ears thoroughly after any water activities. If an infection occurs, consult a vet who can prescribe the appropriate medications and offer guidance on proper cleaning techniques.

Preventive measures also include addressing any underlying allergies or ear mites that contribute to recurring ear infections. Ensure that your dog's environment is clean and free from potential irritants.

Eye Conditions

Golden retrievers commonly experience eye conditions such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and glaucoma. Regularly examine your dog's eyes for any signs of redness, cloudiness, or abnormal discharge. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your dog's vision or ocular appearance.

A veterinary eye exam, including tonometry and ophthalmoscopy, assists in diagnosing eye conditions in your dog. Treatment options vary depending on the specific condition but include medications, surgery, or specialized procedures like laser therapy.

Avoid exposing your golden to excessive sunlight, as prolonged ultraviolet (UV) exposure contributes to certain eye conditions. Keep your dog's eyes clean and free from irritants, and schedule regular eye examinations to ensure early detection and intervention.


Obesity is a common health concern among golden retrievers and leads to various complications, including joint problems, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues. It's vital to maintain a healthy weight for your dog through a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Consult a veterinarian to determine the ideal weight range for your dog based on factors such as age, activity level, and overall health. Establish a feeding schedule and provide appropriate portion sizes of high-quality dog food. Avoid overfeeding or excessive treats, as they contribute to weight gain.

Exercise is also crucial in managing and preventing obesity. Regular walks, playtime, and mentally stimulating activities contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and overall well-being. If your dog shows signs of obesity, consult with a veterinarian to develop a weight loss plan customized for your dog's needs.

Skin and Coat Care

Golden retrievers are prone to various skin conditions, such as allergies, hot spots, and dermatitis. Keep an eye out for signs of itching, redness, hair loss, or scaly skin.

Regular grooming and proper coat care are essential in preventing skin conditions. Regularly brush your golden retriever's coat to remove loose hair and prevent matting. Bathe your dog with a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo specifically formulated for dogs, avoiding harsh chemicals that may irritate the skin.

If your dog experiences recurrent skin problems, consult with a veterinarian. They may recommend special diets, allergy testing, or prescribe medications to manage the underlying causes of skin conditions.

golden retriever laying in grass

Golden Days

Awareness of common health concerns in golden retrievers plays a crucial role in maintaining their well-being. By staying vigilant, observing any changes, and ensuring regular veterinary check-ups, you proactively address potential issues and provide the best possible care for your dog.

Remember, early detection and prompt intervention are key to managing these health concerns effectively. By following preventive measures, such as a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper grooming, you ensure your golden lead a happy and healthy life.

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