Health

Below you will find some basic information about health issues anyone considering buying a Golden Retriever should know about, as well as some issues relating to puppies and dogs generally.

First, though, is a general overview about these matters.

A downside to the Breed’s popularity

The Golden Retriever has a warm, loving temperament, thrives in many types of loving home environments, and is equally well suited to homes with children as to homes with the elderly.  This is a smart dog, a quick learner, and it is generally anxious to please its owner.    So it is not surprising that this dog is a very popular dog.    Popularity is nice, but it has some decided drawbacks as well.  One drawback is that some misguided people will decide

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to breed a litter thinking they will reap financial gain from the sale of the puppies.  This is a very unfortunate motivation, is usually factually wrong, and more often than not will result in unhealthy or unsound pups on the ground.

Please be extremely cautious if you think you may be dealing with such a breeder, even if he or she has the most adorable puppies for sale right now.   Please resist the temptation to buy a puppy just because it is in front of you.    Even if the puppies are adorable.  Remember:  ALL puppies are adorable.  Don’t succumb to a momentary impulse when making a decision that will affect you and your family for many years.  When you do make a decision and bring home a specific pup, you will be bringing home not just the puppy, but its pedigree and the health history of its parents and their lineage.  Some of the questions you should have:  what will that puppy be like once it is a grown adult?  Will it be healthy?  Will it have a calm and correct temperament?   Goldens typically live ten years or more.  The casual breeder, operating on the fly, is not likely to be there for you during the years to come. A conscientious and devoted breeder will be, and will expect to interact with you for the entire life of the dog.  Not surprising, then, that the dedicated and conscientious breeder will want to know a lot about you and to have you know a lot about him or her before entrusting a puppy to you.

An upside to the breed’s popularity

One positive consequence of this breed’s popularity is that at the national level much research and funding has been made available to identify and address health issues as they crop up in the breed. The breed has many dedicated and knowledgable stewards who are dedicated to eliminating such health problems when they are identified.

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  For example, the Golden Retriever Foundation has numerous laudable goals, including helping breeders and the public better understand health issues that have surfaced in dogs generally and Golden Retrievers in particular.   It also generously funds research into health issues that affect the breed, all to the breed’s great advantage.

Some look at the existence of these health concerns as an indication that the breed is not sound.   The same people frequently consider any purebred dog inherently unhealthy.  While this perspective is no doubt well-intentioned, it overlooks some critical points.   Purebred dogs are watched, loved, bred, and ministered to by groups of people who are dedicated to the specific breed.  As a consequence, trends are noticed in these dogs that go undetected in other dogs.  It is not logical, however, to assume that the other dogs do not suffer from similar or even more serious health issues.   They most likely do, but there is simply no organized group documenting and responding to health trends that may  be evolving or affecting the other dogs in the same way that breed-specific groups do.

Golden Retrievers in particular enjoy the benefit of many passionate stewards who devote untoward hours and resources toward the identification and redressing of these concerns.   When you see the documentation available about various health issues known to affect the breed, please don’t panic and assume this means that your dog will be affected by any of the specific problems.  Rather, this is all good background information for you to use in discussions with any breeder you may encounter, in an effort to learn what that breeder’s practices and thoughts are on the various topics, as well as what if any history of such problems the breeder may have encountered in his or her own dogs.

Health clearances

Both the sire and the dam of any litter should both have at least the following health clearances: hips, elbows, eyes, and heart.   The breeder should be happy to show the printed copies of these clearances to you, as well as show you the clearances on the relevant websites.   There are several organizations that maintain these clearances, for a U.S. breeder the most commonly used is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.   Anther important site is the Ontario Veterinary College, (for hip and elbow clearances in Canada).   Other sites exist, although they are less frequently used by most U.S. breeders.  If a breeder shows you clearances from another source that seems questionable, I encourage you to ask other breeders what they can tell you about that resource.

In the U.S. hip and elbow clearances cannot be obtained before the dog is at least twenty-four (24) months old.   (In Canada they may be obtained at the age of eighteen (18) months.)  A heart clearance can be obtained as early as one year of age.   Eye clearances (CERF) should be obtained and renewed every twelve (12) months for the life of the dog.

Nutrition

There is a lot to learn about canine nutrition, and there are many diverse, and frequently quite vocal, views on the topic.   For present purposes here, we will simply point out that the safest route a new dog owner can take is ensure that the food fed to the animal is manufactured in the U.S. to ensure there is some measure of effective quality control over its contents.   Golden Retrievers tend to be very food motivated and they will happily eat table scraps if given the opportunity.   The safest, and healthiest, course for your beloved dog is for you to feed a good quality dog food and to refrain from sharing table scraps with your pup, no matter how adoring or pitiful the look the pup is giving you!

My own adult dogs are fed a raw diet.  Puppies go to their homes weaned on a reliable and balanced kibble I have found time and again has served my puppies well.  Any owner who wants to place their dog on a raw diet will have my complete support and guidance in doing so.

Veterinary care

Find and use a good vet.   Better yet, find two.  Really.   A good vet will charge you for routine health visits, but those routine charges will help ensure your dog’s overall health and happiness, and very well may help you avoid some other, far more costly, expense down the road.   In Southern California, there are many wonderful vets that make house calls.   Having an ongoing relationship with two vets will give you a built-in back-up for when your regular vet is unavailable due to a well-earned vacation or whatever other reason.

Also, the best time to locate your nearest emergency veterinary clinic is when you DO NOT need it.   Take the time to drive by and check the clinic out, and assuming all is good, to go ahead and program the address and phone number into your cell phone.   Hope you never need it, but have it handy just in case.