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The Golden Retriever and Cancer

Cancer is a boring subject among human beings and until recently treated as taboo. In the Golden Retriever breed, cancer is the number one cause of death, according to a health study conducted by the GRCA.

Two types of cancer account for 50% of these deaths: hemangiosarcoma, which affects soft tissues, mainly the spleen, skin and heart, and lymphosarcoma (lymphoma), which affects the lymph nodes (ganglia) and extends to the spleen, liver, kidneys and lungs.

Being such a serious and frequent subject in the breed, we could not fail to address it here at Golden Retriever Online (formerly  Golden Retriever Brazil). It is important that we talk about the problem and debate with other Goldens owners (guardians), breeders, kennel clubs, veterinarians, tutors of other breeds and so on. Only then will we have more knowledge about the disease.


Some alarming numbers about cancer in the Golden Retriever breed:

  • 60% of Goldens die of cancer;

  • 57% of females of the breed die of cancer;

  • 66% of males of the breed die of cancer;

  • Cancer in Goldens is almost twice as high as in other breeds;

  • Even so, the breed lives an average of 10 / 11 years, the same as other breeds that do not have such a high incidence of the disease;

  • Hemangiosarcoma affects 1 in 5 Goldens;

  • Lymphoma affects 1 in 8 Goldens.


In a litter of 10  Golden Retriever puppies, 3 are due to die of cancer and that's why it's so important to talk about it. Cancer is not a fatality that can only happen to your dog. He is present in the lives of all of us, among humans and all animals. We cannot ignore it.

Cancer contains cells that don't stop multiplying when they should and don't die when they should. This is what makes it a “cancer”. They are identified by their cell of origin. Hemangiosarcoma, for example, originates in endothelial cells, such as those lining the walls of blood vessels. Lymphoma comes from cells in the lymphatic system, osteosarcoma of the bones, and so on.

One of the main issues to be understood is that cancer is called a genetic disease. For scientists, genetics is everything that needs to be looked at in genes to be understood. Breeders, on the other hand, often use the word “genetics” to indicate what is inherited from one dog to another. Cancer is genetic because we need to look at the genes to analyze it, but it is part inherited and part non-inherited, which means that a breeder cannot eliminate the disease based on breeding criteria as it is not just the sperm and the egg. that will define whether a dog will get cancer.

In the Golden Retriever breed there are some inconclusive theories about the reason for the high incidence of cancer. One of them says that the dogs that originated the breed had genes that were concentrated over the years, increasing the risk of cancer in all current Goldens.

As the immune system plays an important role when it comes to cancer as it can destroy cancer cells before they cause clinical cancer, comes a second theory. The breed is prone to a number of other immunological problems such as allergies, hot spots, ear problems, etc. This theory may be related to the first one as the same founding dogs of the breed could have dysfunctional genes when it comes to immunological diseases.

Although it is not possible, with the information available at the moment, to emulate or reduce the risks of cancer in the creations, some strong data suggest some paths for the effective reduction of cancer in the Golden Retriever and should be taken into consideration:


  • try to keep a  slower growth curve, keeping puppies, juveniles and adults leaner and healthier;

  • Some supplements are said to be beneficial in improving cancer risk profile. Serving fresh vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage about three times a week and others indicate the daily addition of omega-3s and omega-6s such as those contained in fish oils and other indications of 200 mcg of selenium and 400 IU of Vitamin E;

  • We must avoid exposing dogs to carcinogens such as: coal or kerosene heaters, solvent and paint fumes, asbestos, secondhand smoke (smoking close to dogs), radiation (excessive x-ray), phenoxy herbicides and pesticides.


We hope that this article brings a reflection on the need to talk openly about the pathologies that affect our Goldens and that we can research together, gather more information and debate the themes, so that we can contribute to making the breed healthier.


We at the BR Calli kennel are very concerned about this disease, because our first golden, first love Logan died at the age of 3 from a very aggressive lymphoma and because of that we decided to CHANGE everything we were looking for in our breeding, from then on we looked for dogs of origin European, with lower incidence of cancer and greater longevity, we also removed from breeding any dog or direct descendant of dogs that died of cancer while young (up to 8 years of age), and from there we seek healthier and longer-lived dogs as a top priority. in our kennel!




Golden Calli

Specializing in Golden Retrievers

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