Golden Retriever Diseases

When thinking about dog breeds, and which might make good pets, considering the diseases that they may be predisposed to should be a consideration. Golden retrievers as a breed are genetically predisposed to a number of diseases; more than manyGolden Retriever Diseases breeds. This article will list and describe many of the golden retriever diseases that an interested pet owner should consider. Some of the diseases are just anecdotal where as with others the genetic factors are well studied. Most pure breed dogs are bred rather closely to near relatives. This process results in offspring that have both the best and the worst characteristics. The puppies are often conformationally superior but any inherited traits are also increased in what is called “line breeding”. Some conditions puppies are born with and are called congenital and other inherited diseases the dogs develop with time are called acquired; both can be inherited traits.

Orthopedic: ( Diseases of bones and joints)

1)      Hip Dysplasia

  • Malformation and degeneration of the coxofemoral joints (hip joints), leading to osteoarthritis over time.

2)      Elbow Dysplasia

  • Includes 4 different disease processes: ununited anconeal process, osteochondrosisGolden Retriever dog and Diseases dissecans, fractured medial coronoid process, incongruity.
  • Any one of the above diseases can lead to forelimb lameness and degenerative osteoarthritis.

3)      Cranial Cruciate Rupture

  • An acute or progressive degeneration of the cranial cruciate ligament in the stifle (knee), leading to osteoarthritis and joint instability.

Neoplastic: (Cancer)

1)      Malignant Lymphoma

  • A proliferation of B or T cell lymphocytes (white blood cells) – can appear in one or multiple organ systems.

2)      Hemangiosarcoma

  • A proliferation of the vascular endothelium (cells that line the inside of blood vessels) – usually appears in the spleen or liver, but can be seen in the heart, skin or bone.

3)      Insulinoma

  • A condition where the beta cells within the pancreas produce excessive amounts of insulin.

4)      Chondrosarcoma

  • A type of cancer arising from cartilage – commonly seen in the ribs.

5)      Oral melanoma

  • A type of cancer arising from melanocytes (pigmented cells) – can spread to other parts of the body.

Dermatologic: (skin disease)

1)      Acute Moist Dermatitis (hot spot)

  • A bacterial infection of the skin, initially caused by something irritating, such as fleas.  The dog licks the area, there is loss of hair and it gradually becomes infected.

2)      Atopy (skin allergies)

  • A condition where an animal becomes allergic to normally harmless things, such as pollens, mites, or other allergens.  The skin becomes very inflamed and itchy, usually leading to secondary skin infections.

Cardiovascular: (heart and blood vessels)

1)      Sub Aortic Stenosis (congenital heart defect)

  • A narrowing just below the aortic valve – leads to increased left sided intraventricular pressure and cardiac hypertrophy, along with a multitude of other secondary cardiac diseases

2)      Patent Ductus Arteriosus (congenital heart defect)

  • A persistent duct from the aorta to the pulmonary artery – this duct normally closes shortly after birth.  Can cause congestive heart failure and other secondary heart / pulmonary diseases.

Endocrine: (hormones)

1)      Hypothyroidism

  • A condition resulting in insufficient production and release of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) from the thyroid glands.  This causes a generalized decrease in bodily metabolism.

Ocular: (eye diseases)

1)      Pigmentary Uveitis

  • Inflammation of the uveal tract (the iris or the structure surrounding the pupil) of the eyes, secondary complications include cataracts and glaucoma, can lead to blindness.

2)      Cataracts

  • Opacification of the lens of the eye which can lead to eventual blindness.

3)      Retinal atrophy

  • Generalized degeneration of the retina (cells that line the back of the eye), eventually leading to blindness.

4)      Glaucoma

  • An increase in the pressure within the eye which can lead to eventual blindness.


1)      Laryngeal paralysis

  • A dysfunction of the muscles that control the cartilage at the opening of the trachea – can cause loud airway noises and eventually lead to death due to obstruction of the trachea.

2)      Ciliary Dyskinesia

  • Dysfunction of the hairs that line the respiratory tract, resulting in a lack of clearance of bacteria from the respiratory tract, leading to an increase in infections.

Immune Mediated / Hematological Diseases:

1)      Hemophilia A

  • A decrease in blood clotting factor VIII, which leads to increased potential for bleeding.


1)      Acquired megaesophagus

  • A diffuse dilation of the esophagus with decreased to no motility – resulting in difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food and aspiration pneumonia.

2)      Congenital portosystemic shunt

  • An abnormal flow of blood in the liver where blood flows from the GI tract to the venous system instead of through the liver, the result is that the liver does not develop properly and that gives rise to liver failure with an increase in toxins in the bloodstream with neurological signs.


1)      Muscular dystrophy

  • A progressive degeneration of the muscles, initially presenting itself as difficulty swallowing, then muscular atrophy, curving of the spine, and heart problems.


1)      Horner’s syndrome

  • A condition where the eyelid is dropped, the pupil is small, and the third eyelid is protruding.  This can be idiopathic or caused by a neurological condition.

2)      Idiopathic epilepsy

  • Seizures, generally in younger animals, where a cause cannot be found.

Renal / urinary tract:

1)      Renal dysplasia

  • Progressive abnormal growth of the kidneys, eventually leading to kidney failure and death.

An excellent and thorough resource of all congenital and inherited diseases in dogs can also be found here.

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Dr Roger Johnson

Roger K. Johnson, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include cardiology as well as using advanced diagnostics to help his patients. His particular favorites include echocardiography, abdominal ultrasonography, and endoscopy.

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