Genetic problems in golden retrievers

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Golden retrievers can suffer from hip dysplasia, eye abnormalities, heart conditions, and skin problems. A guide to canine health.

Golden retrievers are a loyal, intelligent, and beautiful canine breed.

When purchasing a golden retriever, a potential owner can expect a wide variety in prices depending on bloodlines and championship pedigrees. If you only want to purchase a golden retriever for a family pet, then you might not care as much about their ancestry. However, if you want a show dog or a good hunter, you might be willing to spend considerably more money.

No matter how much money you spend, however, you still need to be aware of common ailments that can affect golden retrievers. Hip dysplasia is probably the most well-known physical problem that affects this breed. Goldens can also suffer from eye abnormalities, heart conditions, and skin problems.


Hip dysplasia occurs when the structure of the hip socket and joint fail to grow properly. Because the bone fails to fit correctly into the socket, stress creates undue wear on the bones, and this can cause arthritis. Golden retrievers may experience this problem because they are a larger breed of dog.

Hip dysplasia can cause mild to severe discomfort in an adult dog. Sometimes it may be hard to determine how much pain a golden retriever may be in because they are hardy animals that can endure a large amount of discomfort. If you are really concerned that your dog might have hip dysplasia, your veterinarian can perform an x-ray. When you are searching for a puppy, ask the breeder if his dogs have been x-rayed and said to be free of hip dysplasia.

The two most common eye ailments in golden retrievers are CPRA, which is Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and juvenile cataracts. CPRA, though not as common as cataracts, can eventually cause a dog to go blind. Light receptors that are located in the retina begin to degenerate causing a progressive loss of eye sight.

Juvenile cataracts most often occur in the first seven years of a dog’s life. Only in rare cases, however, do they cause severe vision problems. Before you buy a puppy, you will need to ask the breeder if his dogs are certified to be free of hereditary problems. Once you become the owner of a dog, it is a good idea to have your dog examined yearly by a veterinarian who is familiar with eye abnormalities.

One type of cardiac problem that has been found to occur in golden retrievers is SAS, which is subvalvular aortic stenosis. Unexpected deaths have been traced to this condition. However, other dogs may only be mildly affected and remain perfectly healthy. An experienced veterinarian can examine your dog for heart murmurs. While completely healthy dogs can have murmurs, your vet should be able to determine the severity of the murmur by studying the sounds of the dog’s heart. Since this is probably a genetic problem, a dog with SAS should not be bred.

Finally, because golden retrievers have thick coats of long hair, their skin is more susceptible to various irritations and infections. The fact that goldens love to spend time in the water only compounds their skin problems. Some skin problems may actually be allergic reactions to pollutants and chemicals in their environment. Other skin conditions are caused by parasites such as fleas and ticks. Sometimes, simply changing your dog’s diet can improve his skin.

If your dog does develop skin problems, you will need to take him to a vet. However, you can also do a little investigating yourself. Maybe he is allergic to his bedding. Some dogs have allergic reactions to cedar or other wood shavings that might be used for their bedding. He may have come in contact with pesticides that have been used on your yard or a neighbor’s yard. You may just need to groom him more often to help him shed excess hair and stimulate his skin.

Becoming aware of potential problems that can affect your golden retriever’s health is the first step towards finding and keeping a healthy dog. If you are going to buy a golden retriever, find out as much information as you can about the dog’s pedigree. If you already own your retriever, pay attention to signs of distress, and ask your vet to administer preventive tests.