Golden Retrievers are generally a healthy breed; however, like all dogs they are subject to some genetic disorders and health problems. The following is a brief outline of some of the more common health concerns. If you would like further information about these and other health matters of the breed, please check out our Fact sheets or contact your State Breed Club.
|Ectopic ureters (also called ‘wet puppy syndrome’) is known to be a hereditary problem in Golden retrievers; however the mechanism for this inheritance is not yet known. In Entlebucher Mountain dogs, ultrasound screening of healthy dogs has identified 3 ureteric subtypes (A, B & C), with ‘A’ being normal, ‘C’ being ectopic and ‘B’ intermediate. Pre-mating screening in this breed has achieved a reduction of the incidence of wet puppies from 26% to 10% over 3-4 years. The University of Cambridge is currently doing a similar study in the Golden Retriever to see if three subtypes are also present in this breed and to see if there are clinically normal dogs present within the breed with type C ureters (ectopic). This is more likely to be the case in male dogs due to their much longer urethra and consequently much higher urethral resistance. Hopefully this study will shed some light on how the condition is being transmitted in Golden Retrievers and provide a strategy for breeders to reduce its incidence. For further information on the study Click HerePreliminary Results from the project can be found here
When it comes to cancer in dogs, a diagnosis these days isn't as bleak as it used to be. Indeed, 50% of all canine cancers are curable, if caught early enough. The disease is mostly an affliction of old age (though, sadly, some cancers strike dogs as young as two).
It may seem like more dogs get cancer than ever before, but it’s likely because they enjoy a longer life span, thanks to vaccinations against infectious diseases like parvovirus and distemper, and new treatments for congenital, degenerative and metabolic disorders. The good news is a long-term study of Golden Retrievers is providing the necessary data to reduce in the risk of cancer in all dogs.
The high incidence of cancer in American Golden Retrievers around 60 %, appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon. Interestingly, cancer risk in Australian and European Goldens appears to be significantly lower, with a mortality figure around 40 %.
Goldens in Australia/Europe and the U.S. may look similar, but there are enough DNA differences to separate the dogs into two distinct populations corresponding to their geographic regions. Gene pools on both continents are large, so breeding between the two populations is rare.
When studied in the lab, genomic differences suggest that risk for some types of cancer is related to recent genetic mutations in North American Golden Retrievers. And this could be good news: genetic differences between North American Golden Retrievers and other Golden Retrievers may be key to understanding the etiology of canine cancer overall.The four types of cancers common in golden retrievers – lymphoma and osteosarcoma, which are dramatically similar to the same cancers in humans, as well as hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumours.
According to recent studies, early neutering and spaying may affect the risk of golden retrievers developing certain cancers and joint disorders. Current literature supports a protective effect of sex hormones against several forms of cancer. In addition, it would seem that for those cancers that are potentially promoted by sex hormones, such as mammary cancer, treatments are often successful whereas cancers that develop in the absence of sex hormones such as hemangiosarcoma or osteosarcoma are aggressive and difficult to manage or cure.
Dogs that have been spayed or neutered at or before puberty can often be identified by their longer limbs, lighter bone structure, narrower chests and narrower skulls than intact dogs of the same breed. This differential growth frequently results in significant alterations in body proportions and particularly the lengths (and therefore weights) of certain bones relative to others. Causing the relationship between connected bones in the dog's legs to be different than what was genetically intended. This may result in an abnormal angle at the stifle and a longer (and therefore heavier) tibia placing increased stress on the cranial cruciate ligament (of the knee or stifle joint). Spayed and neutered dogs are more likely to be overweight or obese than sexually intact dogs, and this can be an additional contributing factor to orthopaedic diseases. Thus, keeping spayed/neutered dogs lean can help mitigate the increased risk of orthopaedic conditions.
A review of the literature shows that:
• Bitches spayed at 7 weeks had significantly delayed closure of growth plates as compared to those spayed at 7 months; those spayed at 7 months had significantly delayed closure of growth plates as compared to those left intact. • In a study of 1444 Golden Retrievers, bitches and dogs spayed or neutered at less than a year of age were significantly taller than those spayed or neutered after a year of age. • Spayed and neutered dogs have a significantly higher prevalence of CCL rupture (3–7), even when controlling for body size. • In a study of 759 male and female Golden Retrievers neutered or spayed before 6 months of age, the incidences of CCL rupture were 5 and 8 percent for males and females, respectively, compared to no CCL rupture diagnosed in intact dogs. • Dogs that were neutered at least 6 months prior to a diagnosis of hip dysplasia were 1.5 times more likely to develop hip dysplasia than sexually intact dogs. • Spayed/neutered dogs had 3.1 times higher incidence of patellar luxation. • Neutering Golden Retrievers before 6 months of age increased the incidence of one or more joint disorders by 4 to 5x, respectively.
Cancer Considerations - Studies have that: • Spayed females had more than 5 times greater risk of developing cardiac hemangiosarcoma than intact bitches. Neutered males had 1.6 times higher risk than intact males had of developing cardiac hemangiosarcoma. • Spayed females had 2.2 times increased risk for developing splenic hemangiosarcoma than intact females. • Spayed/neutered dogs had a 2.2 times higher risk of developing bone cancer than intact dogs. • Neutered dogs had a 2.8 times higher risk for developing prostate cancer than intact dogs. • Neutered dogs had a 4.3 times higher risk of developing prostate carcinoma than intact dogs. • Neutered dogs had a 3.6 higher risk for developing transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder than intact dogs, and a 3 times greater risk of developing any bladder tumour. • Spayed/neutered dogs had more than 4 times greater risk for developing transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder than intact dogs. • Early neutered male Golden Retrievers were 3x more likely to be diagnosed with lymphosarcoma than intact males, and late-spayed females were significantly more likely to develop hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumour than intact females.
Other Health Considerations • Female, and sometimes male, dogs that are spayed/neutered before puberty have an increased risk of urinary incontinence and it is more severe in bitches. • A health survey of several thousand Golden Retrievers showed that spayed or neutered dogs were more likely to develop hypothyroidism. Neutered male and spayed female dogs had higher relative risks of developing hypothyroidism than intact females. • Neutered females had a 22 times increased risk of developing fatal acute pancreatitis as compared to intact females. • Risk of adverse reactions to vaccines is 27 to 38% greater in neutered dogs as compared to intact.Summary Clearly, the veterinary practice of recommending that every dog not meant for breeding be spayed or neutered at or before the age of 6 months is not a black-and-white issue. More studies need to be undertaken to evaluate the broader health effects of spaying and neutering, and in particular to investigate non - gonadectomy alternatives to prevent procreation such as vasectomy and hysterectomy. It is clear that the sex hormones are not just important for reproduction, they also play a critical role in growth, development and long-term health. One study showed that spayed bitches had 30x higher levels of luteinizing hormone than intact bitches and given that this hormone has receptors on diverse tissues throughout the body, and that binding of LH to its receptors can induce inflammatory cascades and cell division, it is possible that the lack of a feedback loop for this hormone might contribute to some of the negative effects of early spaying and neutering, at least in females.
In consideration of the evidence presented here, it is apparent that early spay and neutering presents significant risks to dogs. This is particularly true given that the procedure is not required to prevent procreation, the predominant reason for which this procedure is considered. Therefore, before performing, it is important that we assess each dog and its living situation individually, weighing the risks and benefits of spaying and neutering. It is also critical that the pros and cons of the procedures and their alternatives are discussed. There is no single solution that fits every dog.