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What you need to know

Before choosing a Golden Retriever

so that you can try to find a healthy one!!

This page is dedicated to Sydney. She was my 1st Golden Retriever of my very own & the one who taught me about hip dysplasia (HD) and the pain that it caused both of us! She was diagnosed with HD at only 7 months old. So, please....let me tell you how to try to avoid this, so that you do not have to learn the hard way also!!

Golden Retrievers are a breed that, unfortunately, have a reputation for many bad health problems. So, please educate yourself about them so that, together, we can avoid these hereditary health problems. A healthy Golden is worth its weight in "GOLD"!!!


According to the Code of Ethics of the GRCA (Golden Retriever Club of America), it is recommended that any Golden to be considered for breeding purposes be screened for hereditary defects in the following areas:

Hips, Elbows, Eyes, & Heart



The following is an excerpt taken from the book Golden Retrievers for Dummies & clearly & concisely explains the importance of these health screenings: 


Healthy parents, healthy pups

The sire [dad] and dam [mom] of any Golden [Retriever] litter you consider should carry the standard health clearances for hips, eyes, heart, and if at all possible, elbows. All these dog parts can be defective. If either parent has hip dysplasia (poor development of the hip joint), cataracts, heart disease, or shoulder or elbow disorders, it's a good bet they could pass that condition along to their kids.

Here are some specific areas to keep a watchful eye on:

 *Hips: OFA rating...indicating it has been declared free of hip dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), which is the official hip clearing house for dogs.....  [I have more to say about how important OFA certifications are. You can read about this towards the bottom of this page.]


Eye clearances are registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation [CERF], which provides its own numbered certificate of clearance. However, some dogs with eye clearances may not [be] registered with CERF. In those cases, the breeder should be able to produce Board-certified ophthalmologist certificates stating that both parent's eyes have been examined and found to be free of hereditary cataracts.


Even the dog's heart needs another letter of approval. This time, the letter should be from a Board-certified cardiologist stating that both the parents' hearts were tested and found to be free of a heart disease called Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS). This horrible disease involves a stricture in the left ventricle of the heart, which restricts the blood flow out of the heart, leading to sudden and unexpected death after normal activitiy or exercise.

 *Allergies and thyroid problems:

Avoid pups from parents who have chronic allergies or are on thyroid medication.


*TIP* It's great if you can find health clearances on a puppy's grandparents and other ancestors. The stronger the gene pool, the healthier the offspring [puppies].

[End of excerpt.]



Here's what I have to say about OFA certifications:


When a puppy's parents are OFA certified it means that the pup's sire & dam (dad and mom) were brought to a veterinarian to have its hips x-rayed. Next, the vet looked at the x-ray of the dogs hips, looking for any signs of hip dysplasia (HD). The vet can give his opinion, but he / she will then mail the x-rays to be evaluated by more specialized veterinarians at the foundation called OFA. These specialists will then evaluate the x-rays. Dogs found without any signs of HD will be given an OFA certification.


This is so important to know in Golden Retrievers because, according to statistics put out by OFA, Goldens are one of the top 20 breeds of dogs to have this genetic / hereditary disease known as hip dysplasia (HD). In a dog with severe HD, it can have a crippling effect, making walking painful and sometimes even impossible. In dogs with moderate HD, one can notice a slight limp in the dog's walk. An observant owner will also notice that their dog is inactive- not wanting run or play very much. The scary part is that a dog can also have HD so mildly that it is only detectable by x-ray. While this dog may seem to be ok & have a normal life, if bred, this disease can be spread to his / her puppies; and the puppies can have it worse than the parents- making the dog's life painful.


So what's the big deal? Chances are my dog won't have it, right? . . . Wrong! According to more OFA statistics, approximately 20% of Golden Retrievers have bad hips- that's 1 out of 5 !!! And I know first-hand how disappointing this can be. In the past, out of 6 Goldens we personally had x-rayed (before we knew how to avoid this by researching screened & certified pedigrees), 3 of them had HD. Now that we've learned the hard way & have started getting Goldens from health clearanced bloodlines, we have rarely had problems.  :)


So, please, if you're looking for a Golden Retriever, please get one whose parents are both OFA certified. Even if the parents "seem" to have good hips, chances are, they could be bad; and you really cannot know for sure unless their hips have been x-rayed. This is why Golden Retrievers MUST be x-rayed if they are going to be bred. Just because the parents "seem fine," that simply isn't good enough. X-rays are the ONLY way to know the truth. 


Unfortunately, although there's no 100% guarantee that the pup won't have HD, getting a pup from OFA certified parents definitely minimizes the chances. This goes with all hereditary diseases. As breeders, we do what we can to screen for these problems but understand that there's still a chance, regardless of how hard we try, that pups may still develop problems. But we love Goldens & will continue to do the best we can to minimize their health problems with selective breedings.

golden- tips on finding a healthy golden

As you look for a Golden puppy, be sure to ask the breeder for proof of OFA certifications. It's a sad truth that many breeders brag about these OFA clearances but they have either not been done or are incomplete (where they passed some areas but failed others). 


These are some examples from the OFA website on what these clearances look like & what the breeder should provide you copies of.


You can also verify them online at

example OFA hips.jpg
OFA logo.jpg
OFA elbows.jpg
heart clearance- OFA.jpg
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