Arial portrait of a Golden Retriever

Cancer in Golden Retriever dogs

Team Walmart Pets

July 16, 2021


min read

There is no doubt that Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in America. According to the American Kennel Club, the Golden Retriever ranked 4th in popularity in 2020 (the Labrador Retriever took first). Their intelligence and good sense of humor combined with a gentle demeanor make them a perfect fit for anyone from singles to families with kids.

But this seemingly perfect pooch may have a downfall—cancer. According to the Morris Animal Foundation, about 60% of Golden Retrievers die from cancer* (namely, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors and osteosarcoma).

Why do so many Golden Retriever dogs develop cancer?

While it’s true that cancer is the number one killer of all dogs over the age of 2 years old, it’s still a head-scratcher as to why Golden Retrievers in particular are so prone to developing cancer. When you consider the high prevalence of cancer and the popularity of the breed, you’re left with a lot of heartbroken owners wondering “Why?” 

The answer is complicated. To find effective strategies for preventing and curing cancer, it is first imperative to understand its cause. Is it nutritional? Is it environmental? Or genetic? While it’s probably a mix of all three, the truth is that we don’t know for sure.

Let’s step back for a minute and consider human medicine and the field of heart disease. Sure, today we know that certain risk factors predispose us to heart disease—smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and a couch potato lifestyle are a few. But there was a time when these risk factors were just our best guess.

Cancer in dogs research & developments

Enter the Framingham Heart Study. This landmark study aimed to identify common factors in people with heart disease. In 1948, researchers recruited over 5,000 men and women for physical exams and lifestyle interviews. These research subjects have returned every 2 years, and over time, scientists have been able to identify major risk factors for heart disease and strokes in humans. 

Of course, cancer research is a popular field of study, and work is ongoing in both human medicine and veterinary medicine to find a cure for cancers of all types. We have made great strides in cancer treatment, but we have yet to find a cure. With the cooperation of Morris Animal Foundation and Golden Retrievers all over the country, hopefully, we’ll get a little closer to a cure each year.

But until we find a cure, we always suggest that owners get pet health insurance coverage for their Golden Retrievers as soon as they can. Pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so getting young dogs covered is a smart move — especially with the risk of cancer in their lives. As a beloved family member, you want to keep your pup healthy and insurance covers the vet bills to help you do so.


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Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash