The second most popular dog in America, according to American Kennel Club statistics, is the Golden Retriever. This loyal, fun-loving dog enjoys family life, is patient with children and even friendly with strangers and other pets. It is intelligent, easy to train and social. A healthy Golden Retriever has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years. They tend to be healthy dogs that, when purchased from a responsible breeder and not a puppy mill, can live out their lives without major problems. However, illness can strike some golden retrievers, and the breed is at risk for a few genetic illnesses.
Cataracts are a disease that can affect a golden retriever's eyes as easily as a human's. A cataract is an opaque spot that forms within the lens of the eye. It can cause partial or total blindness in some cases, although in others the dog's vision is unaffected. A golden retriever with a genetic cataract can develop the problem at a young age. Older dogs are susceptible to both genetic and non-genetic cataracts. Some golden retrievers are also at risk of developing Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy (CPRA). When this occurs, the retriever's retinas start to deteriorate and, unable to perceive light, the dog will go blind.
Golden retrievers are one of several large breeds that are susceptible to hip dysplasia. It is a genetic disorder that is characterized by poorly formed hip joints. The ball and socket do not fit together properly. The defect occurs during a puppy's rapid growth phase, and in golden retrievers can often be detected as early as four to nine months of age, according to the Golden Retriever Club of America. Some golden retrievers, however, will show no symptoms until they are older (seven or eight years), and wear and tear on the hip joints make the condition more obvious. CHD can be degenerative and limit a dog's ability to walk as it ages, especially in cases where arthritis forms in the affected hip joints.
Similar to Hip Dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the elbow joints. It can be a mild condition or can make it very painful and difficult for a golden retriever to walk. As with hip dysplasia, arthritis can form in the affected joints, making the problem worse. Many golden retrievers with elbow dysplasia can go through life with minimal symptoms or pain, however. Some never show any symptoms at all. Unfortunately, they can still pass the disorder on to any offspring they may have.
Some golden retrievers are genetically inclined to heart disease. Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS) is the most common heart problem in the breed, according to the Golden Retriever Club of America. Dogs with this condition develop extra tissue below the aortic valve. This tissue can restrict blood flow and require the heart to work harder to pump enough blood out to the body. SAS is a genetic condition that, in moderate to severe cases, can lead golden retrievers to experience heart failure.
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