A Complete Guide to Golden Retriever Skin Issues (and Fixes!)
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A Complete Guide to Golden Retriever Skin Issues (and Fixes!)

by Jeff Bloom

Written By: Tiffany Ruiz Dasilva, VMD, cVMA | Professional Services Veterinarian, Wild Earth

Golden Retrievers are most known for their friendly personalities and their beautiful golden coats. Unfortunately their dense undercoats store heat and retain humidity close to the skin. Coupled with the fact that they are also prone to allergies, Golden Retrievers are likely to develop skin issues. As pet parents we need to make sure we know what to look out for so we can keep our pup’s skin healthy..

Read on for our complete guide to common golden retriever skin conditions, and advice on how to manage them.

Environmental Allergies – and How to Treat Them

Golden retrievers, and many other breeds, can suffer from environmental allergies, and develop atopic dermatitis. These are allergies to things in the environment such as dust, tree pollen, grass, and even cleaning products. What makes it difficult to spot in golden retrievers is their thick coat as it can actually hide any skin reactions they have.

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:

  • Itching
  • Scratching
  • Paw chewing
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Skin inflammation
  • Watery eyes

A runny nose, If left untreated, can result in infections so if you suspect your Golden has an environmental allergy, it is important to consult your vet. Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms and the type of allergy, they may recommend itch relieving medication, antibiotics or antifungals.

Something you can do at home is to wipe your Golden Retriever with a damp cloth after they go out in order to remove allergens from their coat and skin.

That thick coat is beautiful – but is also vulnerable to skin irritations.

Food Allergies

Another common issue for Golden Retrievers is food allergies. The most common food allergens for dogs are animal protein sources such as chicken, beef, and dairy.

A recent study revealed that animal-based ingredients (beef, dairy, chicken, lamb, egg, pork, fish, and rabbit) were responsible for over 3 times the amount of food allergy cases in dogs than plant-based ingredients.

Beyond causing skin issues, food allergies can also cause other problems such as upset stomach and other gastrointestinal issues.

If you think your dog is having an allergic reaction but can’t pinpoint the cause, it may be their food. Food allergies can develop at any age so even if their food has not been changed, it may still be the cause of their allergies. Learn about our Wild Earth Dog Food and our Skin & Coat Dog Supplements to help provide your dog with all of the nutrients they need to thrive and help improve their skin and coat health.

Hot Spots

Hot spots are red inflamed skin lesions that ooze. They tend to appear quickly and may even contain pus. They develop as a result of scratching an initial itch. In Golden Retrievers, common causes of the initial itch are allergies and the hot, humid environment near the skin created by their thick undercoat. Once a dog begins licking the sore spot, they irritate the superficial nerve endings in the skin, which only further stimulates them to lick, causing more self trauma.

In order to stop the self trauma cycle, the first step is to stop the trauma. This can often be accomplished by placing an e-collar on your dog. Remember that this does not address the cause of the itch, and so it is recommended you consult your vet.

For severe cases, immediate veterinarian attention is recommended. Your vet will likely clip the hair surrounding the hot spot and disinfect the area before recommending medications such as topical or oral steroids, antibiotics, and/or antihistamines.


Fleas are one of the most common culprits behind Golden Retriever skin issues. Much like allergies, they will cause your dog to itch a lot. But a telltale sign is brown dust or brown shapes moving across your dog’s skin. They can infest your home too, spreading to other pets and living in soft furnishings.

Unlike fleas, ticks may be a little harder to spot under a Golden Retriever's thick coat. Make sure you are checking your pup's skin and coat routinely. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In order to keep your fur baby parasite free, it is best to give your dog a monthly flea and tick preventative year-round. Speak to your veterinarian to determine which is best for your pup. Prescription preventatives are usually recommended as many over the counter preventatives are not very effective.

Golden Retriever Skin Issues Made Easy

So there you have it! Now you know about some common Golden Retriever skin issues, and more importantly, you know what to look out for.

Thick undercoats make golden retrievers very vulnerable to skin issues, especially if they remain wet. Trapped moisture and a natural disposition for skin issues can be a problem. The key is to be vigilant, making sure to check your dog’s skin on a regular basis.

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