Cancer is the main killer of golden retriever dogs. Learn the facts about canine cancer in goldens and how to lower their odds of contracting this disease.

Facts About Cancer in Golden Retriever Dogs

Among the 60 percent of goldens who die of canine cancer, 57 percent of them are females and 66 percent are males, according to golden retriever expert Rhonda Hovan. But while nearly 2 of every 3 goldens succumbs to cancer, compared to roughly 1 of 3 in other breeds, the average lifespan of a golden retriever dog (10-12 years) is about the same as that of all breeds.

In goldens, the most common type of dog cancer is hemangiosarcoma, which typically develops in the vascular organs, such as the heart, spleen, and lungs. Unfortunately, hemangiosarcoma’s symptoms are often sudden and fatal – a stricken dog may collapse and die. Lymphoma, which often presents with enlarged nodes, lumps, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, is another canine cancer common in golden retriever dogs.

Why is cancer so prevalent in golden retrievers? Hovan suggests that their predisposition to the disease relates back to the original dogs, who were inbred from a water spaniel and a flat-coat retriever, and to the fact that goldens are prone to various immune disorders, like allergies. Some speculate that the original dogs carried genes that led to the immune system dysfunction in golden retriever dogs.

Facts About Cancer in Golden Retriever Dogs

Facts About Cancer in Golden Retriever Dogs

A Canine Anti-Cancer Diet

Despite the above statistics, most golden retrievers can live a long, full life, especially those who follow a healthy, wholesome diet. In fact, dogs who eat nutritious foods from day one, including a moderate amount of protein, low carbohydrates, and foods without artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, have a good chance of remaining cancer-free.

But golden retriever owners can go a step further to keep their dogs healthy by adding the following anti-cancer foods and nutrients to their dog’s diet:

  • oily fish, like salmon or herring
  • pureed cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • flaxseed or flaxseed oil
  • other anti-inflammatory supplements, such as selenium and Vitamin E

(Note: Always be sure to check with a veterinarian or vet nutritionist before adding supplements to a dog’s diet.)

Other Dog Cancer Preventive Health Tips

Other Dog Cancer Preventive Health Tips

Other Dog Cancer Preventive Health Tips

In addition to including anti-cancer foods and supplements in a golden retriever dog’s diet, there are a number of other health tips owners can follow to aid in canine cancer prevention. They are:

  • Limit the amount of time a golden spends in the sun
  • Manage a golden’s weight and avoid overfeeding during the puppy years
  • Include daily exercise, like play and walks, in a golden’s routine
  • Make a point to get regular veterinarian exams, including routine checks for skin problems
  • Limit the dog’s exposure to second-hand smoke, pesticides, herbicides, coal, and kerosene
  • Keep dogs away from paint fumes

There is mixed data on whether spaying or neutering a dog (and at what time in his or her growth) can affect a dog’s cancer risk. For example, although neutering a male golden retriever dog may prevent prostate cancer, studies have indicated that it may increase his risk of developing cardiac hemangiosarcoma.

While canine cancer in golden retriever dogs is nothing to celebrate, it shouldn’t stir up unnecessary fear, either. Owners can help their goldens stay cancer-free by having them eat a healthy, anti-cancer diet, limiting their exposure to carcinogens, and taking other preventive health measures. A golden’s life is definitely worth it.

Cancer and Golden Retriever Dogs


  • Beck, Melinda. “When Cancer Comes With a Pedigree.” Wall Street Journal 
  • Flaim, Denise. “Fighting Cancer the Natural Way.” Dog Fancy’s Natural Dog
  • Golden Retriever Club of America
  • Hovan, Rhonda. “Understanding Cancer in Golden Retrievers.” Perspectives