Medical Causes for Weight Loss in Golden Retrievers

Golden retrievers are generally mellow, friendly dogs that love their food. Goldens can put on weight quickly which can lead to many health problems like arthritis and diabetes. But causes for golden retriever to lose weight are serious. If your golden retriever suddenly loses weight, please take him or her to a vet.

Internal Parasites

Because golden retrievers will eat just about anything, including garbage, carrion and cat feces, they are prone to being infected by internal parasites. Commonly known as worms, they can be easily prevented through medication and flea prevention programs. Fleas transmit tapeworms. Other symptoms of worms include vomiting, diarrhea and passing what looks like moving grains of white rice out of the anus (tapeworms).

Since golden retrievers like to swim, they may get into bodies of water containing the giardia protozoan. Dogs become infected by drinking giardia-infested water. This microscopic parasite causes giardiaosis in dogs and can kill a dog unless it gets treatment. Symptoms of giardiaosis include watery diarrhea and sudden weight loss.

Diabetes Mellitus

Golden retrievers are more prone to getting diabetes than many other breeds of dogs, according to The Veterinarians’ Guide to Your Dog’s Symptoms (Villard Books; 1999). Overweight golden retrievers are more prone to developing diabetes mellitus than golden retrievers at an ideal body weight. The initial symptoms are an unquenchable thirst (polydipsia) and urinating more frequently than usual (polyuria). As the diabetes progresses, the dog will suddenly lose appetite and begin losing weight.

Although weight loss plays a role in canine diabetes management, the dog also needs a change in diet and insulin shots. If the dog does not get insulin shots, the dog will go into a coma and die. Shots are given intramuscularly, so hitting a precise vein is not necessary. A vet can easily teach a dog owner how to give such injections.


The Golden Retriever Club of America notes that older goldens have a higher than average incidence of developing two kinds of cancers – hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma. Weight loss and lethargy are common symptoms of only lymphoma, as well as large bumps that grow under the skin on the dog’s legs, groin and under the jaw.

Cancerous tumors grow in the lymph nodes and in vital organs such as the liver and spleen. It is sometimes treatable through surgery and chemotherapy.


Golden retrievers are also prone to a genetic condition known as megaesophagus or cricopharyngeal dysfunction. Afflicted dogs have difficultly swallowing due to either an abnormally shaped esophagus or an inability of the upper sphincter muscle to open up. Surgery is the only way to help the dog; otherwise it will starve to death because the dog is unable to swallow food or liquids. Since this is a genetic condition, no golden retriever with swallowing problems should be bred.

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

This happens extremely rarely in golden retrievers but can happen. The dog loses the ability to digest most of its food. The dog could have a huge appetite and yet begin wasting away. The dog needs to be given digestive enzyme substitutes for the rest of its life, otherwise it will starve to death.

In Conclusion

Causes for golden retrievers to lose weight are usually due to illness. The dog needs to get to a vet as soon as possible. Bring a recent stool sample from the dog. Most illnesses golden retriever weight loss causes can be treated.


Garvey, DVM, Michael S. The Veterinarians’ Guide to Your Dog’s Symptoms. Villard Books; 1999.

Eldredge, Debra M. DVM, et al. Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook. Howell Book House; 2007.

Golden Retriever Club of America. “Health Concerns.”

Batchelor, DJ, et al. “Breed associations for canine exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. March/April 2007; 21(2):207-14.

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