8 Golden Retriever Skin Issues (and How to Address Them)

With their double coats and floppy ears, Golden Retrievers are prone to certain skin problems. Here’s how to recognize skin issues and help your pup feel better.

Jun 11, 2024·8 min read
8 Golden Retriever Skin Issues (and How to Address Them)

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in America, and for good reason! But Golden Retriever skin issues are common due to the breed’s double coat and can lead to itching, scratching, and hair loss.

In this article, you will learn about the most common skin problems that Goldens face, how to recognize the symptoms, what to do if you see them, and preventive measures to take. In addition, you’ll learn tips on how to best take care of a Golden Retriever’s skin and coat.

Golden Retriever Skin and Coat Characteristics

Golden Retrievers are known for their luxurious, silky fur. Golden Retrievers have what is called “double-coated” fur, which means they have two layers of fur. Their coat features a water-resistant outer coat and an insulating soft, fluffy under coat. A Golden Retriever’s double coat helps keep them warm and dry in wet, cold weather. 

While Golden Retrievers continually shed hair year round, the heaviest shedding occurs in the spring and fall.

Goldens require regular brushing and grooming to keep their silky feathers looking their best. Daily brushing prevents mats, removes dead skin and hair, redistributes skin oils, and provides pet parents with an opportunity to monitor their dog’s skin health.

8 Potential Golden Retriever Skin Issues

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis in dogs is characterized by intense itching associated with an allergy to flea bites. The bite of just one flea is enough to cause symptoms in many dogs. The typical manifestation of FAD are Golden Retriever hot spots around the base of the tail or on the neck or cheek. Intense itching causes dogs to scratch and chew themselves raw, creating localized hot spots that are hairless, raw, painful, and oozing. 

This condition is treated by clipping and cleaning the hot spot, antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections, anti-itch medication, and removal of fleas. It can be prevented by utilizing strict flea control medication for all pets in the household and treating the environment for fleas.


Atopy, or atopic dermatitis, is caused by a hypersensitivity to allergens in the environment. These allergens can include pollen, insect particles, mold, and dust. The symptoms of Golden Retriever allergies include seasonal and recurrent itching of the face, arm pits, groin, and feet. Secondary bacterial or fungal infections of the skin and ears are common. 

Treatment is available and involves reducing exposure to the offending allergen where possible and treating secondary infections. Prescription medications and over-the-counter antihistamines, shampoos, and sprays may be recommended by your veterinarian. If your Golden Retriever has a severe case of atopic dermatitis, a consultation with a veterinary dermatologist and skin testing is recommended. 

Prevention includes starting medication before signs begin, wiping your dog off with wipes after going outside, air filtration, and supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids.

Skin Infections

Symbiotic yeast and bacteria normally live on the surface of a dog’s skin with no problems, but when something degrades or traumatizes the skin’s barrier or the immune system has an allergic reaction, then skin microorganisms can overgrow and cause problems. 

The symptoms of a bacterial skin infection can include pimples, pustules, redness, odor, itching, excessive licking, hair loss, and flaky skin. The symptoms of a yeast infection include redness, odor, itching, excessive licking, hair loss, and thickened hyperpigmented skin. Golden Retrievers may also develop dog paw yeast infections that are characterized by excessive paw licking and chewing, paw redness, and a pungent odor. 

Treatment is done with antibiotic or antifungal medication. Most yeast and bacterial skin infections are secondary to other problems, such as allergies, and can be prevented by managing underlying conditions.

External Parasites

In addition to fleas, Golden Retrievers can become infested with other external pests, including ticks and mites. 

Ticks attach to the skin to suck blood, causing local inflammation. Ticks can also carry diseases, such as Lyme disease, and should be removed from dogs as soon as possible to prevent disease transmission. Mites are microscopic parasites that chew skin or burrow, causing itching, hair loss, inflammation, and secondary infections. 

Fortunately, many prescription strength flea medications also prevent ticks and mites. Ask your local veterinarian for the best prevention for your dog.

Ear Infections

Golden Retrievers love water and have floppy ears, which can predispose them to recurrent ear infections. Dogs that have allergies are also prone to developing ear infections. Ear infection symptoms include excessive scratching or rubbing the ears, ear odor, redness, and excessive ear wax. 

Ear infections can be prevented by managing underlying skin allergies, inspecting the ears regularly for symptoms, and cleaning and drying the ears after swimming.

Auto-Immune Disorders

Seborrhea, excessive dandruff, crusty skin, and/or oily skin due to underlying auto-immune skin disorders are noted in some Goldens. These conditions are typically managed with medicated shampoos, though some dogs require oral medication.

Acral Lick Dermatitis

This condition is characterized by focal, hairless areas that are thickened, raised, and sometimes raw. The affected areas are typically on the front legs — primarily the paws — though sometimes they can be on the back legs and are due to excessive licking

The reasons for excessive licking vary and can include allergies, hormonal disorders, anxiety or boredom, underlying joint disease, trauma, nerve pain, or underlying infections or inflammation. Treatment and prevention varies depending on the underlying cause, which will require the assistance of your local veterinarian to sort out.

Gold Retriever Skin Cancer

Golden Retrievers can get various lumps and bumps on their skin, some of which are benign and others which are cancerous. Another benefit of brushing Goldens daily is the opportunity to examine the skin for any abnormalities. Any skin changes including lumps and bumps should be checked out by your local veterinarian, who can tell you if the condition requires treatment or is benign and can be left alone.

Why You Should See Your Vet About Golden Retriever Skin Issues

While it may be tempting to try and solve your Golden Retriever’s skin issues by yourself, it is best to enlist the help of a veterinarian from the beginning. Pet parents often attempt several DIY solutions to resolve the problem before going to the vet, which can result in the problem getting worse. 

Most skin conditions in Goldens aren’t veterinary emergencies, but a few are. In general, if your dog is experiencing any of the following skin symptoms, then take them to an emergency clinic:

  • Swollen ear flap (aural hematoma)
  • Sudden appearance of raw, oozing skin (hot spots)
  • Falling to one side, circling, head tilt (vestibular disease that could be associated with ear infection)
  • Open wounds
  • Active bleeding
  • Broken, bleeding toe nail
  • Abscess (swollen area that may be draining pus)
  • Burns
  • Foreign body stuck under skin (grass awns)

How to Care for Your Golden Retriever’s Skin

Yellow Golden Retriever outside scratching his neck

Every ounce of prevention goes a long way. It is always best to prevent Golden Retriever skin issues before they start. The following are a few recommendations to help keep your Goldens skin and hair in top condition:

  • Brush daily and remove mats
  • Bathe every 4-8 weeks
  • Dry skin and ears after swimming and bathing
  • Feed a high quality complete and balanced dog food
  • Give your dog a high quality omega 3 fatty acid supplement
  • Utilize year round flea and tick control
  • See your vet promptly if you notice any skin abnormalities or excessive scratching or licking
  • Schedule an annual examination with your vet

In addition, if you are considering purchasing a Golden Retriever puppy, ask the breeder if the parents have any history of skin and ear problems, as several Golden Retriever skin problems are hereditary. Protect yourself by asking for a puppy health guarantee and to see health testing results for the parents.

Whenever you get a dog, it is always a good idea to be aware of risks that are associated with their breed. Even though Golden Retrievers tend to be healthy dogs as a whole, they are more likely than other dogs to suffer from specific skin conditions. If you know the signs of potential problems, you can seek help as soon as possible. 

By utilizing proactive measures, you can reduce the likelihood that your dog will suffer from disease and ensure more golden days together in the future.

Sarah Wooten, DVMS

Sarah Wooten, DVM

Dr. Sarah Wooten is a respected figure in the veterinary and animal healthcare fields. With 16 years of experience in private practice and over a decade in veterinary media, she's certified as a veterinary journalist. Beyond her professional accomplishments, Dr. Wooten is dedicated to helping pet owners care for their furry friends. Through web articles, videos, and media appearances, she shares practical advice on pet care and the human-animal bond. She's also known for her engaging talks on leadership and communication within the veterinary community.

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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
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