The golden retriever lifespan is 10-12 years. And while that may seem short compared to the lifespan of humans and other long-lived animals, like elephants and sea turtles, it’s actually in line with the average life expectancy for dogs.
Of course, we all want our dogs to live happily and healthily for as long as possible. And if a golden retriever has captured your heart, you’ll want to keep your best friend active into their golden years (forgive the pun) so they can join you on all of life’s adventures.
There are steps you can take to choose a healthy golden retriever puppy and keep your goldie healthy for as long as possible. We’ll explain why the golden retriever’s lifespan is just over a decade, plus we’ll look at the golden’s most common health issues and share tips to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Why Is the Golden Retriever Lifespan 10-12 Years?
Many factors affect the golden retriever’s life expectancy, but two of the most important factors are breeding and size. Here’s a look at how each factor contributes to the average golden retriever lifespan of 10-12 years.
Time and again, research has found that purebred dogs are less healthy and have shorter life expectancies than mixed breed dogs. According to research by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the average lifespan of purebred dogs is 11.9 years. This number is on par with the golden retriever’s average lifespan, but it’s 1.2 years shorter than the average lifespan for mixed breed dogs.
The most common theory behind mixed breeds’ longer life expectancy is that they benefit from a wider and more diverse gene pool, which decreases their risk of inherited diseases and increases their longevity.
To create a purebred golden retriever, breeders have to limit the gene pool to other purebred goldens. Two goldens will have more similar genetics than two dogs chosen at random. Breeding like with like keeps the breed’s looks consistent but can also lead to a concentration of genetic disorders, which ultimately shortens the lifespan of purebred dogs.
Multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and another published in the American Naturalist, have found that larger dogs have shorter life expectancies than smaller dogs.
The golden retriever is a large breed, typically weighing 55-75 pounds when fully grown. But many breeds of dogs are even larger and have even shorter life expectancies than the golden.
For example, the golden’s average lifespan is longer than that of larger breeds such as the German shepherd and Great Dane, with a lifespan of 7-10 years each. However, the golden retriever and Labrador retriever, which are similarly sized, have nearly the same life expectancy. And it’s extremely rare for the golden to achieve the long lifespan of smaller dog breeds like the chihuahua, which can live 14-16 years.
Rare doesn’t mean never, though. The oldest golden retriever of all time, a female golden retriever named Augie, lived 20 years and 11 months.
The Golden Retriever’s Most Common Health Issues
While the American Kennel Club (AKC) considers the golden retriever to be a relatively healthy dog, these dogs are at risk for a variety of health conditions that can affect their longevity and quality of life. These are some of the most common health issues for goldens:
- Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when your dog’s body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to obesity, aggression, and early death.
- Heart disease: Goldens are prone to several types of heart disease, including a congenital heart defect known as subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS), which can lead to life-threatening arrhythmias.
- Cancer: Goldens are at risk of developing several types of cancer, including lymphoma and bone cancer. These cancers most often affect old golden retrievers, but they can develop at any age. The Morris Animal Foundation is running a lifetime study in golden retrievers to better understand the risk factors that lead to cancer. If you own a golden retriever, you can join the study and help fight canine cancer.
- Joint problems: While joint problems, including elbow and hip dysplasia, aren’t fatal, they are painful and can lead to immobility, which can dramatically shorten a dog’s life expectancy.
If you own a golden retriever, taking your dog for regular check-ups and screening for these health problems can help you catch issues sooner and keep your dog healthy for longer.
How Can You Raise a Healthy Golden Retriever?
A healthy life starts early and continues through your dog’s golden years. From choosing the right breeder — one who only breeds healthy dogs — to providing the right food and care, every decision you make as a dog owner will affect your pet’s health and wellness. It’s a big job, but watching your golden retriever puppy grow into a healthy adult is the best benefit any job can offer. Follow these steps to keep your goldie healthy for as long as possible.
Work With a Reputable Breeder
A responsible breeder raises their dogs in their home as beloved members of the family. They’re interested in continuing to improve the breed so that dogs get healthier with each generation. Make sure your breeder performs all of the AKC’s recommended health screenings for golden retrievers, and ask what kind of early socialization they provide for the puppies.
Feed a High-Quality Dog Food
The best foods for golden retrievers contain real meat as the first ingredient and include dog-friendly fruits and vegetables in the ingredient list. You should also make sure the food is appropriate for your dog’s age — puppies have different nutritional requirements than adults.
Offer Plenty of Exercise
To help your dog maintain a healthy weight, it’s essential to provide daily exercise. Golden retrievers need a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day. Even as your golden ages, exercise can help them ward off joint problems. One study found that exercise and weight maintenance helped arthritic dogs maintain their mobility.
As your dog gets older, you may need to switch from high-impact exercises like running and jumping to low-impact exercises like walking and swimming. But whatever you do, keep your dog moving.
Protect Their Mobility With Supplements
Fish oil supplements are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help protect your dog’s joint health. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that omega-3s reduced dogs' inflammatory response. In another study, researchers observed a decrease in signs of pain in arthritic dogs and cats given omega-3 supplements. The decrease in inflammation and pain can help your dog maintain their mobility for longer.
Spay and Neuter
If you don’t plan to breed your golden retriever, spaying and neutering can protect your dog’s health in the long-term. A study by the American Animal Hospital Associate found that spayed and neutered dogs have longer life expectancies than in-tact dogs. Beyond increasing your dog’s lifespan, spaying and neutering may also help reduce the risk of aggressive behavior. The National Canine Research Council found that 84% of dogs involved in aggressive incidents weren’t spayed or neutered.
Provide Preventative Care
Annual check-ups with your family’s veterinarian can help you identify health issues early, which is typically when treatment is most effective. Annual appointments also ensure that your dog remains up-to-date on vaccinations and preventative medications, which can help them avoid preventable issues, like rabies, distemper, parvovirus, canine influenza, and heartworm.
Every Minute With Your Retriever Is Golden
Golden retrievers are some of the best dogs out there. These loving family dogs will devote every minute of their 10-12 year lifespan to you and your loved ones. And while a decade with your dog never seems long enough, the golden retriever lifespan is actually in line with the average lifespan for dogs, and it’s exactly what we would expect for a purebred dog of the golden’s size.
These dogs are relatively healthy, but they are at risk for some genetically inherited health conditions, including some types of cancer, that can shorten their life. By taking your dog for regular check-ups, feeding a healthy diet, offering health-promoting pet supplements, and providing regular exercise, you can help your golden retriever live their happiest and healthiest life.
For more tips on your dog’s health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog. We have more resources on golden retrievers, including: