Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds out there – their fun and bouncy nature make them the perfect choice for a family pet. Unfortunately, for reasons still unknown to dog experts, golden retrievers are prone to developing more health conditions than any other dog breed including various forms of cancer. However, showing them the proper care and love can increase their chances of enjoying long and happy lives.
So what can you do to improve a golden retriever’s quality of life? Like all dog breeds, golden retrievers will benefit from getting daily exercise and a balanced diet to stay at a healthy weight. Regular vet visits and screenings are also vital for monitoring and hopefully catching some of the illnesses they can be prone to.
If you are looking to bring a beautiful golden retriever puppy into your home or you simply need advice on keeping your current Goldie in shape, read through our health checklist below to make sure your dog is getting everything they need out of life – with a few tips on how to stretch their lifespan a little further in their twilight years too!
Golden Retriever Lifespan for Different Sub-Breeds
If you’ve ever noticed that some golden retrievers seem darker or lighter gold than others, it’s because there are 3 different types of golden retriever, falling under the 3 sub-breeds of English or British. American and Canadian. Their life expectancy actually differs between each sub-breed (as seen below).
|English/British||Up to 12 years old|
|American||Up to 10 years old|
|Canadian||Up to 11 years old|
Subtle differences in the lifespan of each sub-breed are thought to be down to their varied lifestyles and genetics. Each sub-breed has a slightly different build from one another which will affect things like dietary needs, exercise and grooming needs. English/British golden retrievers, for example, tend to be heavier and with thicker coats that can make them harder to manage, whereas Canadian and American retrievers tend to have shorter, thinner coats and can be taller.
Whichever sub-breed you have (find out which type here!), the lifespan of your golden retriever will rely on your proper care of them as much as their genetics. Next, we’ll look into the common health problems of golden retrievers and what owners can do to keep them at bay.
What Do Most Golden Retrievers Die From?
It’s a sad but true fact that golden retrievers can die from bone cancer, blood cancer and lymphoma more than any other dog breed and they are also more prone to certain types of cancer. Research into why this is has been inconclusive, however studies have shown a link between the early neutering of golden retrievers and an increased risk of certain cancers and illnesses.
How Can I Make My Golden Retriever Live Longer?
Though it’s heartbreaking to know that this breed is particularly susceptible to cancer and other diseases, illness is not a certainty. As long as the owners are dedicated to providing them with the best care and love they can, there’s no reason why most golden retrievers can’t live for many years. Consider the following factors carefully to give your golden retriever your best chance of a long and fulfilling life…
Spay and Neuter
Early spaying and neutering of your dog can be harmful to their health since the removal of sex hormones are essential to their protection against certain cancers. For this reason, deciding when to spay your golden retriever can be a delicate task. Your vet will be able to recommend the best time to spay or neuter based on your dog’s unique health history and genetics.
Because of the risks, some vets like the proactive wellness veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker is recommending that owners opt for sterilization without desexing their golden retrievers. This is so that they get to keep their essential cancer-fighting hormones without risking pregnancy or unwanted mating.
As obesity can be a common problem with golden retrievers, you need to cut down on the treats and sharing table leftovers (no matter how cute they look begging!). Retrievers need a routine of being fed the same amount twice a day at the same time every day, and their diet should consist of good quality commercially available dog food that lists meat such as chicken, lamb, turkey etc in the ingredients as well as fresh water every day. Your vet will be able to advise how much your retriever should be eating based on their age/specific dietary requirements.
Golden retrievers love to play and are naturally quite energetic dogs, but because they have fairly short legs in proportion to their bodies, they can find exercise a little more taxing than other dog breeds. As a result, they are dangerously prone to becoming overweight, so keeping them fit every day is vital, not only for keeping to a healthy weight, but for preventing joint issues which can lead to arthritis and other health concerns.
Your golden retriever should be getting a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 2 hours of exercise a day (based on their age and general health). Mix this up with daily walks, swimming, play time in the yard or going for runs together – especially when they are younger!
As well as creating a calming environment for them with a good quality comfy bed, giving them massages from time to time (and having plenty of cuddles on the couch!), you could also try to limit the stress felt by your retriever at times when you won’t always be there. Goldie’s are prone to separation anxiety which may result from a recent move or a new work schedule.
As well as filling your home with plenty of chew toys and familiar ‘you’ items, you can help decrease their anxiety about a new situation by going for walks before work or involving them in your morning workout – that way, they will feel connected but also more tired out before you have to leave the house for a while, so they’re more likely to feel eased into a new routine and notice your absence less.
Brush Those Teeth
Like humans, your golden retriever will benefit from regular dental check ups (every 6 to 12 months) and in between, you need to keep an eye on their oral health. Give them good quality dental chews that taste nice but secretly do a great job of shifting plaque build up! And don’t forget to brush their teeth at least twice a week to keep on top of their dental hygiene and prevent any severe oral health issues from occurring.
Regular Veterinary Check-Ups
As well as you know your dog, regular check ups at the vet (once every 6 months or so) is vital if you want potential health issues to be caught early. Golden puppies will need important shots and vaccinations in their first few months to protect them against various diseases. After that, your adult retriever needs the regular trained eye of a vet to prevent or treat numerous illnesses and cancers they can unfortunately be prone to – so never skip a vet visit.
Sunscreen On Sunny Days
Yes, your golden retriever can get sunburnt (which can lead to skin cancer and other disorders if neglected), so make sure to bring a vet-recommended sunscreen with you when you know they’ll be exposed to long days in the sun.
Feed Healthy Supplements
A healthy diet should normally be enough for most dogs, but in a golden retriever’s case, it can’t hurt to provide them with a little health boost in the form of supplements, especially as they get older and need to strengthen their joints.
Retrievers can suffer with arthritis and hip dysplasia in old age which limits their movement and causes discomfort, so look for supplements containing these joint-freeing active ingredients: Glucosamine, Chondroitin sulfate, fatty acids, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) and Vitamin C.
Keep Them Lean
It’s all too easy for your golden retriever to become overweight, so keeping them in slim and slender shape will help prevent further complications down the road. You’ll know they are in ideal, lean shape when their ribs can be felt but not be visible. You should also be able to see their waist when viewing them from above. If you can see their ribs or see no waist shape, your goldie is respectively under or overweight. Take them for regular exercise and go easy on the treats to keep them lean!
Avoid Toxic Exposure
Limiting your dog’s exposure to toxins wherever possible is a must for ensuring their long-term health. We already know that chocolate is a no-no for this reason, but there are many other foods your golden retriever should avoid. Also, be wary of the plants in your garden as many are known to be toxic (and in some cases fatal) to dogs. Stick to these safe plants and flowers only.
Sugar = Evil
The natural sugars found in fruits such as apples, bananas and pears is perfectly fine. Processed sugar of any kind, however, can be extremely harmful to your retriever when consumed in certain quantities, so it’s safer to avoid feeding them sugar altogether.
Chocolate contains Theobromine which is toxic to dogs, so never feel tempted to feed them any holiday candy (or candy of any kind). You should also avoid dog snacks and treats advertised as “sugar-free”, since these may contain sugar substitutes like Xylitol which can be fatal for your pooch. Sugar adds no nutritional value or benefit to your retriever whatsoever so cut it out of their diet altogether.
Show Them Love
A healthy, happy dog is a well-loved, nurtured one, so don’t forget to show your goldie plenty of affection and care every day of their lives. Strengthen your bond with man and woman’s best friend and make sure to do the following as often as possible…
- Eye contact – Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University Dr. Brian Hare suggests staring deeply into your dog’s eyes helps stimulate the release of Oxytocin in your dog’s brain -the hormone that bonds a mother and child.
- Give plenty of hugs – we lean on our dogs so much, so lean on your retriever right back and give him/her a big cuddle from time to time.
- Let them sleep with you – According to Emory Neuroscientist Gregory Burns, allowing our pet retrievers to sleep on our beds proves to our canines that they are ‘one of the pack’ and increases feelings of trust. If you have a ‘no pets on bed’ rule, allow them to slumber with us on the couch or floor for 10-15 minutes each day to show them the same affection.
What Else You Can Do to Make Your Golden Retriever Live Longer When It’s Old?
As your dog ages, you can make small but significant changes around the home to make life a little easier for them:
- Changing their bed for an orthopedic memory foam one will make for more comfortable sleep, as well as prevent joint issues from worsening or flaring up.
- Get some ramps for getting into the car/home staircase more easily.
- Elevated food bowls will reduce the stress and strain on their backs and forelimbs when they eat.
- Cover sharp corners in the home that could cause injury as your golden’s eyesight diminishes.
- Frequent regular grooming will relieve stress and pressure from aging joints, as well as give you more opportunities to spot any lumps and bumps under their skin that may need medical attention.
- Keep them on their toes! Lastly, help prolong their playful spirit for as long as you can by playing with them. Even when they don’t feel up to walks and play time, interactive food toys are a great way of keeping them mentally sharp and ensures they have fun too.