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What is health testing and why is it important?

The term health testing is quite broad but covers genetic and structural issues that are common within the Golden Retriever breed. It is important to remember that even with genetic, cardiac, ophthalmic, and orthopedic screening, nature is not perfect and illnesses, diseases, injuries can all still happen.


To help alleviate this as best as possible, be certain that your breeder has all appropriate testing done on the parents. Preferably, multiple generation testing, but that’s not always available. 

The Following physical screenings should be completed:

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia - an x-ray is performed and evaluated by the OFA

  • Eyes - eyes should be examined by an ACVO ophthalmologist

  • Heart - cardiac evaluation by a specialist 

The following genetic screenings should be completed:

  • PRA-prcd: Progressive Retinal Atrophy – Progressive rod-cone degeneration

  • PRA-1: Golden Retriever Progressive Retinal Atrophy 1

  • PRA-2: Golden Retriever Progressive Retinal Atrophy 2

  • Ichthyosis: A chronic skin disease that looks like severe dandruff or scaling in affected dogs.

  • NCL: Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis 

  • DMD: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

  • DM: Degenerative Myelopathy

  • DEB: Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa

  • OI-BBD: Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Brittle Bone Disease

  • SAN: Sensory Ataxic Neuropathy

  • Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome (CMS)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy – Progressive rod-cone degeneration

PRA-prcd starts out by causing night blindness and progresses to total blindness in affected dogs. 

Find more info here at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine

Golden Retriever Progressive Retinal Atrophy 1 & 2

PRA 1 & 2  starts with lesions of thinned tissue on the retina, which further degenerates eventually causing separation of the retina total blindness in affected dogs. 

Find more info here at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine


Ichthyosis can look like dandruff or scaly build-up of skin all over the dog's body. It is rarely severe but can be unpleasant. 

Find more info here at Golden Retriever Club of America

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis

NCL is a progressive disease that first appears around 1-2 years of age. The dog begins to seem clumsy, then behavioral changes may occur, the dog may become agitated and sometimes aggressive. It is caused by the body's inability to break down and recycle proteins. Most affected dogs are euthanized by about 3 years of age. Find more info here at Canine Genetic Diseases

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

DMD is an x-linked disease (in other words, mostly affects males) that causes a deficiency in a protein required to form muscle tissue. Most affected pups die within several weeks. 

Find more info here at Veterinary Genetic Services

Degenerative Myelopathy

DM is similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease in humans. Deterioration of the spinal cord inhibits the function of the hindquarters and eventual paralysis.  

Find more info here at VCA Hospitals 

Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa

DEB causes severe blistering of the skin and mucus membranes that can be painful. Additionally, the skin is fragile and easily damaged by touch.  

Find more info here at Paw Print Genetics

Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Brittle Bone Disease

OI causes bones and teeth to be very brittle, fractures occur frequently, and take significant amounts of time to heal. Additionally, this can cause weak muscles, loose joints, and oddly enough hearing loss.
Find more info here at Animal Genetics

Sensory Ataxic Neuropathy

Sensory Ataxic Neuropathy is a progressive inherited disorder characterized by uncontrolled muscle movement, abnormal posture, and decreased spinal reflex. However, muscle atrophy is not evident.

Find more info here at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine

Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome (CMS)

Dogs affected with congenital myasthenic syndrome (CMS) demonstrate generalized muscle weakness with symptoms becoming evident at 6-8 weeks after birth. The symptoms of CMS are often exacerbated with exercise. The gait of affected pups has been described as choppy with increasingly short strides and stiffening of the legs. Unlike myasthenia gravis (another neuromuscular condition), megaesophagous (loss of motility of the esophagus) is not evident.

Find more info here at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine


Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is one of the largest, most comprehensive prospective canine health studies in the United States. The Study’s purpose is to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs. Each year, with the help of veterinarians and dog owners, the Foundation collects health, environmental and behavioral data on 3,000+ enrolled golden retrievers.

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