Why Do Golden Retrievers’ Faces Turn White?

Your Golden Retriever’s face will naturally turn white (or grey) as they get older. This is completely normal, and will usually start once they reach five years. By the time they’re seven, their muzzles will usually be entirely white.

Though age is the main reason for their face turning white, there can be other factors that influence it. Their genetics, stress, and certain skin conditions can also affect how quickly their face turns white.

Read on for everything you need to know about a Golden Retriever’s face turning white.

All the Reasons Your Golden Retriever Might Have a White Face

There are a bunch of reasons why Golden Retrievers end up with white fur amongst the golden on their face. It happens to pretty much every Goldie, but it’ll be far more noticeable on darker golden fur, rather than cream or light. 

Your Golden Retriever might have a white face because of:

  • Old age: Melanin (the pigment in a dog’s cells that gives their hair colour) starts decreasing as the Golden Retriever gets older. The less melanin they have, the more their fur will turn grey.  This only happens in their face, not the rest of their body, though their coat will turn coarser.
  • Genetics: If your Golden Retriever’s parents go white at an early age, there’s a chance that the gene for that has been passed down to your Goldie. There’s nothing you can do to change this – it simply means that their melanin levels decrease earlier than they would have otherwise.
  • Hyperthyroidism: This is when your Golden’s thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine. This directly affects their metabolism and might have symptoms like gaining weight, their fur going white, and skin issues. A hyperactive thyroid will need treatment from a vet, and successfull treatment might be able to reverse early whitening.
  • Liver and kidney disease: This is rare, but sometimes if toxins aren’t being removed as quickly as they should from the liver or kidney, white hair will begin to show on their face. Fortunately, treating this type of problem can reverse the white hair. You’ll need to contact your vet ASAP if you suspect your Golden has a liver or kidney issue.
  • Cushing’s disease: This is a serious hormonal disease that affects their body, and one of the signs you might see is their face turning white. It can lead to further issues like diabetes and kidney damage which can end up being fatal. Make an urgent vet appointment if you suspect your Goldie has Cushing’s disease.
  • Vitiligo: This is an extremely rare condition that causes the skin to lose its natural pigment when melanin-producing cells are damaged. Usually, it’ll start with patches of white skin appearing on their skin and how much their body is affected will vary between individual dogs. Though there’s no cure, it’s purely cosmetic. 

Factors That Can Speed up a Golden Retriever’s Face Turning White

Stress can massively influence how early in life your Golden Retriever’s face will begin changing from golden to white. 

This is because stress can prevent their body from producing hair pigments and therefore cause their fur to go white sooner. 

Look out for signs of stress such as sleeping more than normal, lost appetite, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, and heightened aggression. If you think your Goldie might be stressed, try to help them relax and if possible remove the source of the stress. Speak to your vet if you have concerns about their health.

Is a White Face on My Golden Retriever Anything to Worry About?

If your Golden Retriever’s face is turning white due to the natural ageing process, then you have nothing to worry about.

However, a white face can be a symptom of other diseases and issues. If it’s accompanied by any other symptoms or it’s super early in their life, then it’s worth getting them checked out by a vet.

Going grey is as natural as it is for elderly humans. It affects a bunch of other dog breeds too! 

Fun fact: The oldest recorded Golden Retriever Augie, was almost an incredible 21 years old when she passed away. If you look her up online, you’ll see that her face was almost entirely white from age!

How to Prevent Early Whitening of Your Golden Retriever’s Face

There’s nothing we can do to slow the ageing process – not for any human or animal. However, there are a few things you can do to try and prevent their face from turning white early.

  • Regular vet visits: If your Golden has any of the conditions that can cause their face to turn white, a vet is the best person to go to for diagnosis and treatment. They’re usually the first to spot the signs and the sooner a problem is found, the better.
  • Minimise stress: As stress is something that can exacerbate their face turning white, trying to keep your environment calm and relaxing will help avoid stress. A happy dog will be far more comfortable than if they’re anxious.

Extra tips that’ll benefit an older Golden Retriever:

  • Increase grooming: As your Golden Retriever gets older, their mobility will decline. You’ll need to step in to keep up with brushing their fur and while you’re at it, check their body for unusual lumps or bumps.
  • Maintain dental care: This is an important area to maintain. Regular brushing and checking in their mouth should help you spot broken teeth, bleeding gums, or other mouth problems.
  • Adjust training: If your sweet Golden is struggling with their vision, then you’ll need to focus on verbal communication. If they’re hard of hearing, teach them hand gestures and try not to sneak up behind them and startle them.
  • Scale down activity: Every elderly Golden Retriever will have different limits. Most will need shorter walks – nowhere near the 1-2 hours a day they might’ve done as pups. They’ll become tired faster, and usually take longer to recover after. The most important thing here is not to over-exert them.
  • Adapt your home: Consider getting raised bowls to make eating and drinking easier, a good quality orthopedic bed to help their body, and see if you can use a ramp if they struggle with any steps (e.g. to get in or out of the house).
  • Adjust diet: This is a fine balance to make sure your Goldie is getting all the nutrients they need, but managing the portions so less exercise doesn’t result in obesity. Your vet can advise you on what’s best for your Goldie, or you can research to find out.

These tips can help keep your Golden Retriever as content and comfortable as can be as they enter their twilight years.

A Golden Retriever’s Age 

Golden Retrievers usually live on average for 10-12 years. Though this can vary between individual Goldies. Some will live longer, while some will not get the chance to live for many years.

It’s when they reach middle age, around 5-7 years old that their face begins to turn white. This is the equivalent of being in their 40s-50s (in human age). The first year of their life is equal to 15 years, the second year is like 9 years, and every year after is like five more years.

Other signs of ageing include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Stiffer joints
  • Incontinence
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss
  • Drooling
  • Slower movements 
  • Coat thinning
  • Cognitive decline

These are just a few issues that could affect your Golden Retriever as they get older. As their bodies show signs of ageing, you’ll have to adjust their care accordingly. This might look like shorter walks, more regular vet trips, and keeping a close eye on them.

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