When Do Golden Retrievers Faces Turn White? [And When You Need To Be Concerned!]

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A commonly asked question among Golden Retriever owners is “When Do Golden Retrievers Faces Turn White?”

Also referred to as sugar face, Golden Retrievers will naturally start to turn white as they get older.

It’s just part of their aging process and is usually the first sign that your Golden is getting older.

So when can you expect your Golden Retriever to start developing a sugar face?

Keep reading to discover the answer!

Plus, find out the reasons why some Golden Retriever’s faces turn white prematurely.

When Do Golden Retrievers Faces Turn White?

Typically between the age of 5 and 7 is when a Golden Retriever’s face will start to turn white. The muzzle and around the eyes will slowly begin to whiten, before spreading all over your Golden’s face. Some Golden Retrievers’ faces will turn white prematurely, while others may not turn white until much later. The most common reason your Golden’s face is turning white is due to aging. However, stress, genetics, health issues, and a skin condition called Vitiligo can all cause premature whitening of the face.

White Hair Appears When Your Golden Hits Middle Age

When Do Golden Retrievers Faces Turn White - A dark red Golden Retriever with some white on his face looking happy.

Unfortunately, every one of us starts to get grey or white hair as we get older, including our beloved Golden Retrievers!

Seeing white hair start to show on your Golden Retriever may come as a shock, and you may even feel a little sad.

The thing to remember is that dogs age much faster than we do, and unfortunately larger breeds like the Golden Retriever age even faster than small dogs.

Since the average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is 10-12 years, white hair starts to appear during middle age. Typically this is around 5-7 years old.

Along the muzzle and around the eyes is where it appears first. Eventually, it starts to form a heart shape around your dog’s face, and sometimes in the blink of an eye, your Golden will have a completely white face.

White hair is more noticeable on darker coloured Golden Retrievers, as compared to the lighter goldens, or cream coloured ones.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Faces Turn White?

Aging is the most common cause of your Golden Retriever’s face turning white.

Your dog’s body is made up of cells called Melanocytes which produce Melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives hair its colour, without it, the hair is white.

As your Golden Retriever gets older, melanin formation starts to decrease, and the hair starts to turn white.

White hair happens on your Golden Retriever’s face, and not usually on the rest of your dog’s body.

However, you will notice a change in your dog’s coat texture, it will become coarser.

Here is a short video of the world’s oldest Golden Retriever named August, nicknamed “Augie”. This sugar-faced beauty celebrated her 20th Birthday on April 24, 2020. Sadly, Augie passed away on March 31, 2021. She was 20 years and 11 months old.

Genetics Can Cause Premature Whitening

Two Golden Retrievers laying in a field of grass looking at you.  The one on the right is larger and light coloured, the one on the left is smaller and dark red coloured.

Genetics can cause a loss of melanin earlier than expected, causing some Goldens to turn white prematurely.

You’ll have to look at the parents of your dog. If their faces started turning white at an early age, then chances are your Golden will as well.

Nothing can be done about the genes that your dog inherits, and turning white prematurely even though your dog is healthy otherwise, is not a cause for concern.

Stress Plays A Role In Early Whitening

Ever heard the saying that stress makes you age faster? Well, it certainly is true, even for dogs.

Stress plays a role in how early your Golden Retriever’s face will start to turn white.

Some Golden Retrievers will start to show white on their faces earlier than the age of 5, a few have started turning white at the age of 1.

Stress prevents the body’s production of hair pigments.

If your Golden is highly stressed or anxious, it can cause premature aging, not only of the hair but the body as well.

Signs of Stress:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • No interest in the things he used to enjoy, (playing, walking).
  • Sleeping more than normal.
  • Aggression.
  • Isolation.

There are many more signs of stress in dogs that you can discover in this article.

Stress in your Golden Retriever can be influenced by impulsivity and anxiety. If your Golden exhibits any of the following, chances are they are highly stressed and anxious:

  • Difficulty calming down.
  • Remaining hyperactive, even after exercise.
  • Jumping up on people.
  • Constant barking.
  • Fear of people, and different things.
  • Unable to focus.

Keep in mind that many of these behaviours are naturally seen in Golden Retriever puppies, and with age and training they will subside.

But, if they continue long-term for your Golden, they could be directly linked to premature aging.

A Golden Retriever with a history of abuse and neglect, such as a rescue, will have more anxiety and impulse behaviours than others.

Keeping a calm and loving environment for your dog is crucial to preventing stress.

Health Issues Can Turn Your Golden’s Face White Early

A white faced Golden Retriever laying on a hardwood floor, looking off into the distance.

Certain health issues can cause your Golden Retriever to turn white earlier than expected.


Common in Golden Retrievers, it is when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormone called thyroxine. Thyroxine controls your dog’s metabolism.

Symptoms include weight gain, skin issues, and whitening of the fur. Treatment from your vet will prevent and reverse the whitening of the fur caused by this disease.

Liver & Kidney Disease

A very rare symptom of liver and kidney disease is whitening of the face.

When toxins aren’t being removed from the body quickly enough by the liver or kidneys, white hair can appear on the face.

White hair doesn’t appear suddenly, it develops gradually over time. Treating the disease will prevent and reverse the whitening.


Vitiligo is a very rare condition that causes the skin to lose its natural pigment. It can also cause the hair to turn white due to pigment loss.

Symptoms are patches of white skin and fur appearing around the face first. It affects dogs differently, some may lose pigmentation over their entire body, while others will only get it in certain spots.

Vitiligo appears when the melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) are damaged. The cause is unclear to scientists, but it is believed to be hereditary.

While it is rare, certain purebred dogs including Golden Retrievers have a higher genetic risk of developing this condition.

There is no treatment for Vitiligo. The good news is that it is purely cosmetic and does not cause any harm or pain to your dog.

How To Prevent Your Golden From Premature Whitening

You obviously can’t turn back the clock or fight the natural aging process, that results in white hair. But, there are certain things you can do to help prevent your Golden from turning white too early.

Schedule Regular Vet Visits

It’s so important to monitor your dog’s health and behaviour and look for any changes.

Many of the health issues that cause premature whitening in your Golden can be treated, and the whitening can be reversed.

If you notice whitening on your Golden’s face, especially at a young age, schedule a vet visit to rule out any underlying health issues.

Hypothyroidism often occurs in middle-aged Golden Retrievers. If your Golden has started developing white hair on his muzzle, a visit with your vet will help determine if there are any other signs of this disease.

Provide A Calm And Loving Environment

A calm and loving environment is not only beneficial for you, but it is important for your dog’s health and well-being.

Stress is a factor that affects how early your dog starts to turn white.

By minimizing the stress and anxiety in your dog’s life, you will be ensuring that your dog is happier. You may even prevent any premature signs of aging like white hair.

Final Thoughts

As we have learned, Golden Retrievers start getting white hair on their faces when they reach middle age, which is between 5 and 7 years old.

While a white face and muzzle most commonly indicate that your Golden is getting older, it can also indicate underlying health issues.

Genetics, as well as stress, play a role in how early your Golden’s face will turn white as well. While nothing can be done about genetics, you can minimize your Golden’s stress levels.

It may be a sad moment to witness the first signs of white hair on your dog, but rest assured if your Golden has received a clean bill of health, white hair is nothing to be concerned about.

As the saying goes, Golden Retrievers remain puppylike throughout their lives! They just become blessed with adorable sugar faces!

When did your Golden Retriever’s face turn white? Let us know in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “When Do Golden Retrievers Faces Turn White? [And When You Need To Be Concerned!]”

  1. My Golden just turned 12 yo, he has recently become more white-faced. He’s the perfect dog, adopted him when he was two (his family did not want him ?). He’s still happy, energetic, and puppy-like. Love my Golden boy.

    • Hi Maria,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I am sure your Golden has a beautiful sugar face! All Golden Retrievers will get white on the face, but the time at which it happens certainly varies, based on genetics, health, etc., and it is certainly more noticeable on darker Golden Retrievers!

      That’s great that your Golden is still happy and energetic! This breed remains puppy-like well into their senior years, it’s a quality that is very endearing!

      All the best to you and your happy Golden!


  2. I was always curious as to how it was possible that a Golden Retriever could have a white face when “little”. I was not aware that they just lived between 10 and 12 years!!! What a nice dog the Goldens are, love them!  Also, genetics play a key role, as in humans I believe. Really nice of you to take the time to explain and teach about this amazing breed. 

    • Hi Johnny,

      Many people are unaware of the lifespan of a Golden Retriever, but unfortunately, this breed only lives on average 10-12 years.  This is why their faces turn white around midway through their lives, due to aging.  But, as mentioned, many will begin turning white earlier than expected.  Of course, it all depends on the individual dog, as genetics can play a role as well, just as it does in humans.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.  As a Golden Retriever owner, I always love to hear other people mention how great this breed is!



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