Known as a friendly, intelligent, and devoted dog, Golden Retrievers are popular family dogs in America. Originally a Scottish gundog, these beautiful animals make great working dogs. Their hunting genes make them natural swimmers and experts at fetch. If you’re thinking of adopting one of these outgoing and trustworthy dogs, you may be wondering about a Golden Retriever’s life span and any health issues common to the breed. In this article, we’ll discuss both those issues as well as ways to keep your Golden healthy and in your life for a long time.
What is the Life Expectancy of a Golden Retriever?
The Golden Retriever’s life expectancy is 10-12 years, which is standard for a dog that size. For whatever reason, smaller dogs tend to outlive larger dogs by quite a few years. And, at around 65 pounds, Goldens are larger dogs. While you can’t do anything about your dog’s genetics, there are many health factors under your control. This includes things like diet, exercise, and supplements, which we’ll go over in a later section. The point is that you have the power to help your Golden live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Common Golden Retriever Health Issues
Here are a few of the common major and minor Golden Retriever health issues.
Hip dysplasia occurs when the ball and socket joint of the hip forms incorrectly. This leads to a bad fit of the ball of the leg into the hip socket. Instead of moving smoothly, the poor fit leads to the wearing away of the cartilage cushion that protects the joint. Bone starts to move against bone which causes pain and will eventually lead to lameness. This is a genetic condition that afflicts many of the larger dog breeds. There are a variety of ways to manage symptoms, which include medications, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle modifications such as only walking on soft ground. There are surgical options as well, particularly for younger animals.
Most unfortunately Goldens are at a high risk of developing cancer in their lifetimes. Hemangiosarcoma is a fast-growing and aggressive cancer that affects all dogs, particularly Goldens. Vets also see lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and mastocytoma cancers in Goldens. The key to beating cancer is early detection and early treatment, which is why regular vet check-ups are so important.
Goldens have a dense, double coat that can create the perfect environment for infesting pests like fleas, mites, ticks, and other harmful parasites. This is especially unfortunate if your dog already has skin issues; parasites can aggravate existing conditions. Goldens are also sensitive to environmental allergens like pollen and dust which can lead to aggravated skin.
One skin issue that is common among Goldens is granulomas or granular non-cancerous tumors. These are benign growths. Another is sebaceous cysts, which are inflamed oil glands in the skin. Also common are lipomas fatty tumors, which are generally benign as well. These skin issues may require treatment from your vet.
While all dogs can suffer from ear infections, Goldens are particularly susceptible to these infections. Their big, floppy (and adorable) ears make the perfect ecosystem for bacteria to multiply because the ear flop creates a dark, moist environment. Signs of an ear infection are a bad odor coming from your dog’s ears, or if your dog’s ears seem to be itchy. Dog’s will paw at their ears and shake their heads back and forth rapidly if their ears itch. Ear infections are easily treated at home but are best caught early.
Cardiovascular and respiratory conditions
Similar to many other large breeds, Goldens have health risks concerning their heart, lungs, and circulation. A common and unfortunately dangerous example of this kind of condition is subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS), which is when the aorta, the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body, starts to narrow. When the aorta narrows, it causes the heart to work harder which can damage the heart muscle and even lead to death. Signs of SAS are lethargy, weakness, and difficulty breathing. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect SAS.
How to Improve Your Golden Retriever’s Health and Lifespan
If you’re still in the process of adopting a Golden Retriever, then you have the opportunity to go through a reputable breeder. Using a good breeder ensures you are more likely to have a healthy dog. Here are some of the signs you’ve found a good breeder to work with.
- They show you where the mother and litter are living. It should be clean, warm, and comfortable. The mother should seem relaxed and at ease interacting with her puppies. Ideally, it is inside the breeder’s home since puppies who grow up around a household will better adapt when moving into your home.
- They interview you just as much as you interview them. A good breeder would never adopt a puppy to an unsuitable home. They will do their due diligence to assess whether or not you’ll be able to provide a good home for one of their puppies.
- They perform adequate health testing before breeding any dogs. A reputable breeder will never breed unhealthy dogs or dogs who might have unhealthy puppies.
- They space out their litters a healthy amount and never breed a dog more than once a year, or three litters in a lifetime. This likely means that you’ll be put on a waiting list for the puppy of a good breeder.
- They keep the puppies with the mother for an adequate amount of time, which is at least 8 weeks. Puppies need that time with their littermates to learn good canine manners, which is essential for a properly socialized dog.
- A good breeder will require a contract that includes a return to breeder clause if the family or person adopting is unable to care for the dog. This shows that they are responsible for all the animals they bring into the world and are not contributing to the population of dogs who need rescuing.
Simply put, feeding your dog high-quality, high-protein food is the best way to improve your Golden Retriever’s life span and health. Consider the higher cost of quality food an investment in your dog’s health and a way to avoid vet bills down the line. Choose food with meat, real meat, as its top three ingredients. Read dog food labels carefully and beware of ingredient splitting, when one ingredient, usually corn, is listed in three different ways, to avoid being a top ingredient. Your vet likely carries high-quality food or has brand recommendations.
Goldens are highly energetic, playful dogs and require plenty of daily exercise. Without proper exercise, a Golden is likely to get into mischief. Since they’re so friendly, they make great buddies on long walks, hikes, or bike rides. Do take care of their joints, and don’t let the exercise get too strenuous. Also, be careful of high-impact activities like running on asphalt that could aggravate their joints.
It’s recommended for all pets to be on monthly parasite preventative medicines, but it’s doubly important for Goldens. Their dense double coats can make a great home to parasites, so it’s best to prevent them so you don’t have to cure them.
During most of the year, all Goldens need is a brush down once or twice a week with a slicker brush. This will capture the dead hair and prevent excess shedding. They are moderate shedders, however. Once or twice a year, Goldens will go through a full shed and will need daily brushing to keep up with hair. Baths will help to loosen the dead hair during a full shed, but you need to wait until the dog is completely dry to start brushing for it to be effective.
Regular vet checkups are very important for all dogs, especially Goldens with their high risk of cancer. Another way your vet can help your dog live a longer life is through regular dental cleanings. There is a link between poor oral health and kidney disease in dogs, so in addition to regular cleanings, regular brushing or other oral care is going to keep your dog healthier all the way around.
Your Golden can benefit from nutritional supplements just like you can. Nutritional supplements give your dog’s body the nutrition that it needs to thrive and may have many health benefits. Consider glucosamine and chondroitin which may help prevent or alleviate joint issues. Glucosamine and chondroitin support healthy cartilage and are considered a standard supplement for large dogs and are often included in dog foods.
Hemp seed oil is full of healthy essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. These healthy fats support the skin, cardiovascular system, and nervous system. Choose organic, cold-pressed oils and drizzle them over your dog’s food.
Probiotics are another good choice for dogs. Your dog has a gut microbiome of healthy bacteria just like you and supporting it with supplements may help digestion, support immunity, and ease skin issues.