Most Common Health Issues with English Golden Retrievers

We believe part of our job as breeders is not only to train and raise wonderful pups but also to prepare you for any possible issues that could come up. Part of that process is to prepare you in case a health problem arises. We have an incredibly detailed Nursery

Schedule where we have a strict schedule where our employees care for each puppy. Every puppy is also examined multiple times by veterinarian technicians and veterinarians to make sure there are no problems we can see with the pups.

NuVet Diet Supplements for your English Golden Retriever

On the other hand, there are many issues that can come up after the pup has arrived home. No honest breeder can tell you they can guarantee their puppy will have, for example, no diarrhea. Our puppies are not machines but animals and there is no way to predict what mother nature will throw at us. We do have a very good warranty to cover anything major like death, dysplasia, severe heart murmurs, etc… Our warranty is the best of any breeder I know of. It covers more than just death and if you use TLC, NuVet and NuJoint with autoshipping, then your warranty extends to 4 years.

I do want to stress that we stand by our warranty. However, we can’t guarantee against every possible health problem that comes up. The job of a good breeder is to breed health tested adults and sell to the best of their knowledge healthy pups. Each of our English Golden puppies are health tested before they go home, but as you know, no vet can see everything. There is always a chance something is missed.

I once had a client that had a pup get hip dysplasia. It’s very uncommon, but it happened. Our warranty covered it but they were enraged that their puppy had it. I 2puppybagswas broken-hearted as you can imagine, but please understand that no breeder can guarantee that nothing will happen to a puppy.

The client quickly became angry that we sold them an unhealthy puppy. Unfortunately, we can’t prevent every issue. We also are very specific in our warranty. We cover death and the most common illnesses of hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and severe heart murmurs. As with all living beings, puppies will sometimes suffer from health issues like allergies, urinary tract infections or other type of illnesses that our warranty does not cover. There is an inherited risk that you do take purchasing a living being and we definitely want you to be prepared for that.

As mentioned, we do have a warranty, but it’s not an all-encompassing warranty that covers any health problem that can happen. We only breed adults that have been health tested with their hip, elbow, eyes and heart exams. And we will never sell you a puppy that has a health issue we’re aware of. But to help you be prepared for what you might encounter, we’ve put together the list below.

Each of the issues below are very minor common issues. None are life threatening or serious at all. But below you will find symptoms, treatments and additional information on each issue.


Diarrhea is extremely common in Golden Retrievers. In fact, it is the most common illness that we see. The reason being is that seemingly everything can cause it! Giardia, coccidia, stress, bacterial infections, diet change and so much more. The biggest culprit for diarrhea is simply the stress of being in a new home. Many pups that leave here with solid stools will arrive home and in a day or two will get diarrhea. That’s almost always caused by stress. A long car trip, or a plane trip, or just missing their littermates are all very stressful on a young pup.

Stress by itself can cause diarrhea. But stress always has a by-product; a weaker immune system. That weaker immune system will cause a pup’s giardia or coccidia numbers to go up which again, causes diarrhea. Sometimes accompanied with diarrhea is blood or mucous in the stool. First, blood and mucous in stool is extremely common in puppies and is equivalent to a child having a bloody nose. It’s normally not as serious as it appears. The blood and mucous is caused by irritation in the lining. That can be caused by giardia, internal parasites or simply diarrhea caused by stress.

We have treated every puppy for all internal parasites including hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, roundworm and even coccidia and giardia. We do a fecal on every individual puppy prior to leaving so if there are anything that shows up we will treat it and let you know. Giardia though is still something that causes issues. It never completely leaves a dogs system and sometimes comes back when the puppy is stressed. We treat preventatively and if he shows any signs we treat more aggressively. We use panacur once every other week but if he does have giardia then he needs to be given panacur daily for about 10 days. A normal fecal doesn’t show giardia and so you see it in your puppy then you would have to ask for a specific test to see if his giardia numbers are high (almost all dogs and pups have it but if the numbers get too high then it causes diarrhea).

Treatment- Treating your puppy with an anti-diarrhea medicine like pro-pectalin (included in your puppy packet) and also metronidazole (Flagyl) will help cure it. NOTE: if your puppy gets “water-diarrhea” than an anti-diarrhea medicine is needed quickly…especially if accompanied by vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy. These 4 symptoms can be deadly if not treated quickly. If your puppy gets these then immediately take them to the vet for medicines. Also mix their food and water with Nutra-Cal and/or Dyne High Calorie Solution. You must make sure you puppy stays hydrated and gets calories. The danger is dehydration and hypoglycemia. Again, if your puppy has just soft-stool than it’s not that big of a deal but if it turns to water diarrhea (you’ll know it) and they lose their appetite than immediate action is needed.


Coccidia isn’t a worm, though there are some who associate it as such. It’s a sort of parasite that again is in all dogs. Adult dogs are not bothered by it but puppies can get diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite and could potentially get a life-threatening illness from getting dehydrated. This is very common in all puppies.

For years there was no medicine on the market that would kill coccidian but recently a new medicine name Marquis has been found to actually kill it. We purchase Marquis, which is $200 for a small tube, and give to every one of our puppies every other week from 6-16 weeks of age. Some believe it’s overkill, but since we have been using it we rarely get a puppy that goes home with coccidian. We do want to provide you some general information on it though, just in case.

Coccidia will come and go and especially come during stressful times like transitioning into a new home. We have had pups come home and in the next couple of days their coccidia grows out of control. Then the buyer has a sick puppy for 2-3 days, which isn’t pleasant. Again, during the fecal they look at their coccidia count and it looked good but realize it could get worse. If this happens, then simply make sure your pup is hydrated and getting plenty of food. We will inject water mixed with sugar in the puppy’s mouth. We will also feed them soft food with plenty of calories just to make sure they stay strong.


Since we found the “magic bullet” for coccidia, our most common illness is giardia. Giardia is actually much like coccidia. It’s not a worm, but a parasite that’s found in almost all puppies. If in low numbers it has no effect on the puppies. Because of copophrasia (read below) and the sensitive stomach of Goldens, they can easily see their giardia numbers get way out of hand.

Giardia is the number one reason our pups will keep diarrhea. Stress will cause diarrhea and a weaker immune system, which will cause giardia to grow and cause…more diarrhea. As of today, there is no medicine that wipes out giardia like coccidia. Because of this, many of our puppies will have their giardia numbers grow back up and need to be treated again.

The two medicines to treat giardia are a metrondazole (Flagyl) and fenbendazole (Panacur). Again, we treat every puppy with Panacur several times. Not only does Panacur treat giardia but it is a great all-wormer. It kills roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm and more. The final few days prior to pick-up/shipping, we will treat each puppy with Panacur every day. If we see problems with their stool we will also treat them with Flagyl. Again, both medicines really don’t kill giardia completely so it’s hard to fully obliterate.

We will get a Giardia test done prior to going home. The test is looking for OVA or Parasites. Because we are a kennel, 100% of our pups will test positive for Giardia Antigens which basically means they had giardia. If they do not have active cysts, then they are not contagious and should not be treated. If you get your dog tested for giardia and it comes from the lab “Positive”, please ask if it’s just antigen or OVA/Parasites. The worry is if you treat without active giardia, your puppy may become resistant to the medicine.

If your dog does test positive before going with cyst/parasites, we will let you know and give you the medicine to treat it. Time is the best medicine for giardia as their immune system can take over as they get older.


Ichthyosis is a disease characterized by scaly skin and dandruff, and may include hair loss and/or skin hyperpigmentation. In Golden Retrievers, it is usually very mild, and can be so mild that there are no clinical signs or symptoms, but it can be more severe.

Ichthyosis isn’t curable, but is usually well controlled with brushing, mild shampoos and conditioners, and a diet high in fatty acids. It is very common in European Goldens and almost all are at least a carrier of Ichthyosis. None of our adults are affected with it but most all are carriers, so there is a chance your pup may show the condition later, including possibly for the first time later in life. If you do see dandruff, it may be a sign and/or a symptom of this condition or it may not. Ichthyosis is a common genetic condition.   Thankfully, there now is testing which has been recently developed to see if a dog is a carrier, clear of the disorder, or affected.

False or Minor Heart murmurs

This sounds worse than it actually is. Your vet, like ours, typically checks the heart with a stethoscope. They listen for any irregularities. Sometimes they hear what they will call a “soft murmur” or a “Grade 1 or 2” heart murmur. A couple of important things about this.

  1. This is extremely common in puppies. It almost always goes away by the time the pups are 16 weeks old. We have this issue more with pups going home at 8 weeks than 12 weeks, but we still want to give you the heads up.
  2. A “soft heart murmur” is not dangerous. Not even a “moderate” heart murmur is typically dangerous in young puppies. Only a “loud” or a Grade 5 or Grade 6 heart murmur poses serious health threats. Our warranty does cover that. We never had a puppy that has had a serious heart murmur and we have checked your pup out and the vet heard nothing. A grade 5 or grade 6 heart murmur is very loud and can even be felt by a trained vet.
  3. A “soft murmur” is so quiet that technically a stethoscope cannot accurately diagnose it. A puppy can have an irregular heartbeat by being stressed or excited. I had a breeder friend of mine that had a vet diagnose their puppy with a “moderate” heart murmur. She spent $400 getting an echocardiogram with a canine cardiologist to get a true reading of their puppy’s heart murmur. Come to find out that the puppy had absolutely no heart murmur and the vet probably misinterpreted the sound of an excited or stressed puppy. Again, if there is a serious heart murmur, your vet will know and then you can get it checked out with a canine cardiologist.

Allergies/ Food Sensitivities

Goldens are more like people in their digestive system than any breed we know of. They all have different allergies and food sensitivities. We chose TLC Whole Life Puppy Food because we buy directly from the manufacturer, meaning they have less preservatives. We found many of the preservatives in really good dog foods were causing our pups to have consistent diarrhea. Because of this, we went to TLC Whole Life Puppy Food and it has helped greatly.

We’ve had pups with the oddest of allergies before. We’ve seen Goldens have allergies to chicken, grass, barley, Pork, Soybean, White Potato, Green Peas and more. You may need to go to your vet and order an allergy test like the one found on to truly figure it out.

Hot Spots

A hotspot is a warm, painful, swollen patch of skin 1-4 inches across that exudes puss and gives off a foul odor. Hair in the area is lost rapidly. The infection progresses when the dog licks and chews the site. They appear suddenly and enlarge quickly within a matter of hours.

Common places for them to appear are under the ear flaps. They tend to appear just before shedding when moist dead hair is trapped next to the skin.

Treatment– To treat hotspots, you will need to clip away the hair to expose the hot spot and then gently cleanse the skin with povidone-iodine shampoo (Betadine) or a chlorhexidine shampoo (Nolvasan), and allow the skin to dry. An antibiotic steroid cream, powder or spray can be applied twice a day for 10-14 days. Basically, you want to keep the skin dry. In hot, humid, or wet weather always be sure to dry your dog thoroughly after bathing and swimming. Otherwise, the conditions are perfect for a hot spot to develop.


This is a fancy term that basically means your Golden likes to eat poop. It’s the most disgusting of all things, but it is common in Golden Retrievers. Probably about ¼ of Golden puppies will do this at least once and some have a continual problem with it. Outside of it being disgusting, it does cause health problems. Giardia and especially Coccidiosis increases greatly if they have this problem.

The good news is there’s usually a very easy fix if your Golden is having this problem…over the counter medicine. You can buy anti-coprohagia medicine at any Petsmart, Petco and even Walmart. We’ve used many and all have seemed to work. Basically, you give your dog a chewable tablet and it makes their feces taste and smell revolting to a dog. If you have several dogs then you will need to give this to all of them or else your puppy may move past his feces and go to the good tasting brand!


The most common name for bordetella is “kennel cough.” It is a very contagious viral infection that can cause coughing, and if not treated could lead to more serious respiratory illnesses and even pneumonia. There is a vaccine for bordetella and so because of the risk, we vaccinate all of our adults as well as our pups. The vaccination lasts for 1 full year typically.

Even though we vaccinate, it is possible for the pups to get bordetella. They don’t get their vaccination until they are older and so there’s a chance that they get it earlier. It’s not contagious to humans, nor is it rarely a serious illness. If your puppy starts coughing then they may need a 10 day treatment of an antibiotic. Clavamox, diocyclin and clindamyacin are all common medicines used to treat kennel cough.

The tough thing for any kennel is that if one young puppy gets it, it’s very difficult to stop the spread from pup to pup and litter to litter. Once they get treated, they can get it again because other pups are getting it. Getting out of a kennel environment with treatment is actually helpful. Prior to shipping any pups, we get our veterinarian to check every puppy individually. They do fecals, check their hearts and check their lungs for any noticeable respiratory illnesses. If you puppy is coughing or showing any signs, we will let you know right away and provide the medicines for treatment. It can still slip through sometimes as stress from a new move weakens immune systems, causing any small issues to grow and become a bigger issue. If this happens, your vet will be very well equipped to take care of it.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are very common in puppies. It is caused by the presence of bacteria in the urethra and bladder, and lead to inflammation and pain for the puppy. The most common cause of a UTI in a puppy is the migration of bacteria from the puppy’s feces into the urethra. Because a puppy’s immune system is still developing, this makes the likelihood of bacteria causing an infection higher than in an adult dog.

Watch your puppy for signs of a UTI. These infections can spread to other parts of the body, and they require immediate diagnosis and care from a veterinarian. Inspect your puppy’s urine when he empties his bladder. If the urine appears dark, cloudy or bloody, he likely has a urinary tract infection. Blood in the urine indicates the presence of red blood cells, caused by irritation of the bladder. Smell your puppy’s urine; if you notice a foul odor, bacteria are likely present in the urine, indicating a UTI.

Other signs are straining while urinating, constant urination, excessive drinking, weight loss, lethargy and a fever. If you see these signs, then having your pup treated with clavimox or cephalexin for 14 days will get rid of UTI’s most of the time. UTI is the enemy of potty training as well. It’s very difficult to have your pup hold their restroom for long if they have a UTI.

Bacterial Infections

Golden Retrievers are very sensitive to a multitude of bacterias and the result is almost all the same…diarrhea accompanied with sometimes vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite. These can be very dangerous, especially in pups under 16 weeks of age. The most common bacterial infections we have seen are from e-coli, campylobacter jejuni, salmonella, etc. Most all are spread through feces and because Goldens sometimes have problems with copophragia (see above), they easily pass from one pup to another.

If your pup is lethargic, having diarrhea or vomiting, make sure you take them to the vet right away. If they do a fecal and they don’t see coccidia or giardia, then the most common problem will be bacterial. Campylobacter jejuni is especially the bacteria we see more than anything and is cured with a combination of antibiotics and making sure your pup has fluids and energy to get through it. A shot of cerenia helps them not to vomit. Giving them Zithromax and if needed Baytril helps cure campylobacter jejuni.

The main thing for all of these issues is keeping the puppy hydrated and given enough energy. Sometimes hospitalization is needed to make sure your pup is getting the right amount of fluids. This again is especially common with younger pups. Typically after a pup gets over 4-5 months of age, these bacterial infections cause little problems.

Localized Demodectic Mange

This disease occurs in dogs under 1 year of age. The appearance of the skin is similar to that of ringworm. The principal sign is thinning hair around the eyelids, lips, and corners of the mouth, and occasionally on the trunk, the legs, and the feet. The thinning progresses to patches of ragged hair loss about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. In some cases the skin becomes red, scaly, and infected.

Localized mange usually heals spontaneously in six to eight weeks, but may wax and wane for several months. If more than five patches are present, the disease could be progressing to the generalized form. This occurs in approximately 10 percent of cases. Treatment: A topical ointment containing either benzoyl peroxide gel (OxyDex or Pyoben), or a mild topical preparation used to treat ear mites can be massaged into affected areas once a day. This may shorten the course of the disease. The medication should be rubbed with the lay of the hair to minimize further hair loss. Treatment may cause the area to look worse for the first two to three weeks, but will soon begin to clear.

Important to Remember

I’ve stated it above, but I want to emphasize that the issues mentioned above are not severe for the most part. Most are common, and all can be handled by a good veterinarian and a watchful eye from you, the owner. But it is important to not panic, even though some of the above issues might seem a little scary when they happen.

Puppies are like any other young being. As their immune systems are developing, and as they live around several other pups (which happens with any litter), illnesses happen. But it’s important to stay patient and realize that none of these are permanent or major health issues. If you have any questions or concerns, you are welcome to contact us and we will help you take the proper steps. Our goal is to provide you with the healthiest English Golden Retriever puppies possible, and provide ongoing support once they go home with you.