Potential Health Problems
In the Golden Retriever

Also Important Information...

Hereditary Problems and Health Clearances:

The vast majority of dogs of all breeds (as well as mixed breeds) can live long, healthy lives if given proper care and routine veterinary attention. Nevertheless, any dog can fall victim to a wide range of acquired problems, just as humans can, which range from acne to viral diseases, from allergies to cancer and so on. In addition, each pure breed of dogs has its own particular hereditary problems, some minor, some impairing, and some possible fatal. Some may show a very strong hereditary basis and others not much more than a tendency to "run in families". The Golden Retriever is no exception, and unfortunately the problems multiply as the breed continues to increase in popularity. Failure to screen for hereditary problems before breeding often results in the "doubling up" of unfavorable genes, and the results are distressing for the buyer and dog alike. The following, while not all-inclusive, are some of the more common hereditary problems that may be encountered. 

Canine hip or elbow dysplasia means poor development of the formation of the pertinent joint, and describes a developmental disease in young dogs of many different breeds. It can be a serious problem in any dog that is to be trained for a demanding activity. It is an inherited defect with a polygenic ("many genes") mode of inheritance. The degree of heritability is moderate in nature, meaning that the formation of the hip and elbow joints can also be modified by environmental factors such as over-nutrition, excessively rapid growth, and certain traumas during the growth period of the skeleton. Hip and elbow joint conformation can range from good to bad with all shades in between. 

Hip and elbow dysplasia may be diagnosed by x-rays between six months and a year of age, but this is not entirely reliable, and dogs intended for breeding should be x-rayed when fully mature in order to select for sound joints. The age of 24 months is usually considered the minimum for accurate radiographic determination of desirable conformation. X-rays are sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in Missouri for diagnostic evaluation. Reputable breeders will have documentation showing a favorable (Fair or better) OFA hip rating, and a pass (clear rating) for elbows, for any dog being used for breeding. 

Hereditary cataracts are a common eye problem, and at least one type of hereditary cataract may appear at an early age. While these may or may not interfere with the dog's sight, so may progress into severe or total loss of vision. 
There are also non-hereditary forms of cataracts which may occur. Other eye defects may include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and retinal dysplasia, all of which should prevent consideration of the dog being used for breeding purposes. 

Examination of breeding stock should be done annually, until at least eight years of age, as hereditary eye problems can develop at varying ages. The examination should be made by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist (a member of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology or ACVO) , who has the special equipment and training needed to properly examine the dog's eyes. Dogs that have been examined by a ACVO vet and found to be free of hereditary eye disease can be registered with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Reputable breeders will have documentation showing a current eye clearance for dogs being used for breeding. 

Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS) is known to occur in the Golden Retriever breed. All prospective breeding animals should be examined by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist or by an internist with cardiovascular training. If a murmur is detected on auscultation (listening), additional diagnostic tests are available and may be recommended; however, even if the results are negative, this does not conclusively rule out heart disease, as some mild but hereditary forms may be undetectable except on necropsy. Animals with hereditary heart disease should not be used for breeding. 
Reputable breeders will have documentation showing a cardiac clearance for dogs being used for breeding. 


Excerpts from "Acquiring A Golden Retriever" published by the Golden Retriever Club of America.

(Reprinted with permission, October 1996).



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