Common inherited diseases in Golden Retrievers and how food can help

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are a popular breed among owners, in fact, they are consistently in the top 10 for most owned dogs in the United States.

However, like most dogs, they can come with their own set of genetic and inherited issues. Aside from the common digestive issues that most dogs get like bouts of diarrhea, here are some congenital issues of Golden Retrievers and how food may help.


Cancer is a leading cause of death in dogs and unfortunately, Golden Retrievers top the list for dogs prone to developing cancer. In fact, a study showed that approximately 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer in their life span, which is twice as much as most dogs. It is good to note that most Goldens can still live very long lives, usually between 10-12 years of age even with the prevalence of cancer.

cancer in dogs

How might diet help Golden’s with cancer?

While there are no guarantees when attempting to feed for cancer in dogs, along with treatment with a veterinarian, owners often try the ‘cancer diet’ for dogs. It consists of feeding your dog a clean diet, usually mixed with their current diet or in lieu of what they are eating over the counter. To learn more about feeding your dog a cancer diet, read our article here.

In addition to feeding your Golden the right things you should help them shed any extra weight as some studies like this one published by the AVMA, showed a slightly increased prevalence of cancer in overweight and obese dogs

Also, if you have a dog with cancer the Dog Cancer Blog may be a great resource!

Hip dysplasia

golden retriever

Hip dysplasia is fairly common in Golden Retrievers, like most larger breed dogs. It is a multifactorial condition that persists for life after diagnosis, however, there are some things you can do to help your dog like hydrotherapy, keeping them at a healthy weight, and some supplements have been shown to help as well.

Hip dysplasia in dogs usually presents at two times in a Golden’s life, when they are growing, usually between 6-12 months of age, and when they are older, usually between 4-8 years old.

What can I feed my dog to help with hip dysplasia?

Just like people collagen has been shown to help dogs that have hip dysplasia, common ones include:

  • Egg white supplements (source) – there are over-the-counter supplements available.
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondrotin
  • MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)


golden retriever

Ichthyosis is a skin condition seen in dogs that carry the recessive genetic mutation, while it is rare, Golden Retrievers are one of the breeds that carry the mutation.

The genetic mutation prevents the outer layer of skin from developing and sloughing properly which causes the skin to be rough (most owners initially notice it on the paw pads) and feel greasy. There are often times very large flakes, thickened skin, discoloration of the skin, and a greasy like feel to the skin.

If anyone has ever had fish, then you may be familiar with the fish disease ‘ich’ and that is where the word ichthyosis comes from since it is the Greek word for fish.

The disease usually worsens with age and requires a biopsy for diagnosis.

How can diet help my dog with ichthyosis?

Along with medicated shampoo some owners have had success in shifting their dog’s diet to include more fatty acids like Omega 3’s and fish oil.

GDV or stomach bloat

GDV is not necessarily only found in Golden Retrievers but is more common in larger dogs like the breed. What happens is that because they have such large barreled chests and large bodies after eating a large amount and especially if they are extremely active after eating the stomach can ‘twist’ and cause a blockage that prevents anything from passing (gas, water, food). It can be deadly if not treated quickly since gas continues to build up in the stomach.

If the stomach continues to twist, it can cause other complications like the spleen twisting and cutting off blood flow or twisting the esophagus

While there isn’t one known specific cause of Bloat in dogs some contributing factors are:

  • Overeating
  • Eating quickly
  • Exercise after eating
  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Older dogs

Symptoms are usually seen in a couple of hours and some signs of bloat in dogs are

  • Pacing the floor and unable to rest or relax
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • The abdomen may look distended or severely swollen (like a balloon)
  • Attempting to vomit but nothing coming out
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Collapse
  • Pale gums
  • Difficulty breathing

How can what and how I feed my Golden help prevent gastric bloat

  • Feeding smaller meals throughout the day may help prevent bloat
  • Not allowing your dog to run around after eating
  • Avoid foods that expand in the stomach, like cereal-based foods or excess amounts of chia seeds
  • Use a slow-feeder to prevent your dog from eating too fast

Muscular dystrophy in Golden Retrievers (GRMD)Golden Retriever

Muscle Dystrophy is a degenerative muscle disease in dogs where the muscle fibers generate and die. The muscle protein dystrophin is not produced and these dogs suffer from muscle weakness and wasting, inability to walk, and in some cases eat.

It is an X-linked recessive inherited trait and symptoms usually begin at about 6-10 weeks of age. The same disease occurs in humans and is termed Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to help a dog that has this genetic defect as far as feeding is concerned. The best thing to do is to keep their stress levels down and feed a whole, quality, nutritiously balanced meal.