Golden retrievers are a well-loved breed for good reason — they're intelligent, loyal, energetic and gentle. Keeping your golden retriever happy and healthy is an intricate task because your pup needs proper exercise and a healthy, balanced diet for sustained long-term health. With so many brands on the market, choosing the best food might seem just as complex. This guide is full of tips and tricks to make selecting a dog food option easier.
When choosing the right food for your pet, pay close attention to nutrition facts, labels and ingredients. Looking at these details will help you narrow down the options to the most beneficial and wholesome. As you look for the best food for your dog's specific needs, use this guide to help you decide.
What Makes Dog Food Healthy?
Dogs have specific nutritional needs, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. At least 10%
of a dog's calories should come from protein — that number increases if a dog is growing, nursing, geriatric or highly active. Look for meat as the first ingredient — not meat by-product, by-product meals or wheat fillers. By-product meals are unfit for human consumption, and wheat fillers minimize nutritional value.
Some higher-end dog foods can be more expensive, and the quality could be well worth the price. On the other hand, an expensive option doesn't always mean healthier or better golden retriever dog food. Look at ingredients and labels to help you find the best affordable dog food for golden retrievers.
You might feed your dog either dry food or canned food. While either option is healthy for golden retrievers, you'll want to pick one of the best-rated dog foods for your furry friend. Here are some of the best dry dog foods for golden retrievers, as well as the best canned foods.
What Is the Best Dry Dog Food for Golden Retrievers?
Many dog-owners prefer buying dry food. It's often more affordable, and many dogs seem to enjoy it over other options. Make sure you choose a brand designed for medium to large dog breeds. Some of the best dry foods for golden retrievers include:
What Is the Best Canned Dog Food for Golden Retrievers?
Some dogs may require or prefer softer foods. Dogs with dental problems, for instance, may not be able to chow down on crunchy dry foods. Some of the best canned food brands for golden retrievers include:
Importance of Good Food to Keep Golden Retrievers Healthy
These top-rated dog foods contain balanced ingredients formulated to meet a dog's nutritional needs. Balanced nutrition is necessary to keep a golden retriever healthy. The right food can:
- Promote healthy growth.
- Bolster the immune system.
- Prevent disease.
- Build stronger muscles.
- Keep the coat shiny.
- Provide energy.
Dogs with wholesome diets also have better temperaments — they're overall happier and healthier
Importance of Quality Ingredients for Golden Retriever Dog Food
Selecting the best dog food for your pooch is all about the ingredients. High-quality ingredients taste better, eliminating the need for artificial flavorings or sweeteners. Learning how to read ingredient labels is something you can learn over time — remember, ingredients are listed by weight, but that weight can include water. If possible, avoid any of the following ingredients when selecting a dog food:
- Corn or wheat gluten
- Meat by-products and by-product meals
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Food dyes
- Propylene glycol (PG)
- Rendered fats
These ingredients are low in nutritional value and may even pose health risks. Instead, look for brands with these ingredients and labels:
- Whole meats or meat meals: Steer clear of the phrase "by-product meal," which can include internal organs, heads, hooves and other undesirable body parts. Instead, look for whole meats or meat meals. Opt for lists with specific organs over vague terms like "by-products" or "made with organ meat." Kidneys, hearts and livers have the most nutritional benefits of any organs. However, remember that whole meats often have a high water content and may not provide enough protein on their own. Meat meals include both ground and dehydrated meat, which provides more protein.
- The "complete and balanced" phrase: Though this phrase may sound like a marketing term, it's actually a guarantee by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This label denotes a dog food that can complete a dog's diet with no other additions. Brands labeled "snack," "treat" or "supplement" will not meet all your pet's nutritional needs.
- Healthy carbohydrates and fats: Dogs are omnivores — they need more than just meat. They derive nutrition from plant-based sources as well. However, not all carbohydrates and fats are the same. Look for specific fruits, vegetables and rice rather than wheat, soy or corn.
While ingredient lists are important, they will not tell you everything you need to know. Some brands may use ingredients for marketing purposes, choosing healthy-sounding components that fail to meet dogs' nutritional needs. Make sure your golden retriever's food contains everything necessary for proper health.
Nutritional Needs of a Golden Retriever
To determine what is a good dog food for golden retrievers, you must first understand your dog's nutritional needs. The ideal nutritional ratios vary based on age, size, activity level and other factors. With that said, the AAFCO includes the following in dog nutrient profiles
- Ten amino acids: Dogs need to receive 10 essential amino acids from their diet's protein sources to promote proper bodily function and health, including arginine, threonine, valine, leucine, histidine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine, lysine and tryptophan.
- Twelve basic minerals: These basic minerals include some you're likely familiar with as part of your own diet — calcium, sodium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and iron. Other necessary minerals for dogs include chloride, magnesium, copper, manganese, iodine and selenium. The right mineral proportions are also important.
- Ten vitamins and other ingredients: These include vitamins A, D, B12 and E, as well as thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid and choline.
Not all dog foods meet all these nutritional standards. Fortunately, certain labels declare whether or not a dog food has adequate content. All you have to do is look for the nutritional adequacy statement
, which should include the words "complete and balanced" and reference the AAFCO standards. This statement may be on the package's front or underneath the nutrition information on the back.
Best Food for Different Stages of Life
Since dogs' nutritional needs vary with their life stages, the best dog food brand for your golden retriever puppy might differ from the best brand for your adult or senior dog. Learn how to select dog food based on your pet's age and change the food you purchase throughout its life.
Puppies: What Is the Best Dog Food for a Golden Retriever Puppy?
Puppies are growing, which means they have more complex nutritional needs than adults. The best food for a golden retriever puppy will have higher protein and fat percentages. Since puppy foods have formulas with different proportions than adult foods, always feed puppies puppy-specific food rather than adult food. Here are some of the best puppy food brands for golden retrievers:
Puppies need several small meals a day, while adults can eat about two meals a day.
Adults: What Is the Best Food for Golden Retrievers?
Adult golden retrievers need less protein and fat concentrations than growing puppies. When choosing a food for an adult golden retriever, consider these factors:
- Sustaining a healthy weight: Though dogs need fats in their diets, a diet too high in fat can cause unhealthy weight gain. Choose a food option with a reasonable ratio of fat to protein. One of the best foods to sustain a dog's healthy weight is Orijen Fit & Trim, which includes chicken, turkey, fish and eggs.
- Preventing health problems: Your dog's food should be well-rounded to boost the immune system and keep your pet healthy — make sure it has enough vitamins and minerals. You might opt for Blue Buffalo Livin' Large Food, designed to support large breed bone and joint health.
- Staying full and energetic: Look for natural ingredients. Foods with a lot of palatable fillers are unlikely to keep your dog full and energetic. For a very active dog, try Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Formula.
Seniors: What Is the Best Senior Dog Food for a Golden Retriever?
Like puppies, seniors need extra protein to sustain a healthy muscle mass. Some senior golden retrievers may experience weight gain as their metabolisms slow down. Others experience weight loss, struggling to digest food as well as they used to. Speak with your veterinarian to help you determine the best food for your senior golden retriever. Any specific health concerns may require a dietary change.
Most reputable dog food brands have options for senior dogs. One good choice is Wellness Complete Health Senior
, which includes ingredients like chicken, brown rice, peas, carrots and vitamin supplements . When switching your dog's food, make the change gradual to support digestive health.
When deciding when and how to feed your golden retriever, take note of several factors. Read the feeding guidelines on your chosen food brand, but keep in mind these are not universal. Your dog may need more or less food depending on its size, sex, activity level and health status. An average adult golden retriever needs to eat about two or three times per day
, adding up to about 1,300 to 1,700 calories
. Most dogs will overeat on a "free-feeding" plan.
Follow the adage to look at the dog, not the dish. Each dog is a unique individual with unique needs. Pay attention to your dog's weight, energy level and health indicators. If you can see your dog's ribs and vertebrae from a distance, you might need to increase daily food portions. If you cannot feel your dog's ribs and you notice fat deposits along the dog's back, you may need to decrease daily food portions. If you're unsure of your pet's calorie needs, consult your veterinarian.
Golden Retriever Allergies and Food
Dogs can develop food allergies at any age. Those sensitivities can cause short- and long-term health issues if left unchecked. Watch for these symptoms, which may indicate a food allergy:
- Digestion problems, including vomiting or diarrhea
- Itchy skin
- Red, watery eyes
- Dull coat
- Frequent ear infections
- Swollen ears, lips or eyes
If you notice any of these symptoms, take your golden retriever to the veterinarian and ask for an allergy test. Dogs can be allergic to plenty of common food ingredients, including beef, dairy, chicken, wheat and soy. You might try an elimination process to determine the cause of your dog's allergies, though first consult with your veterinarian before changing your dog's diet. A vet can rule out other possibilities, like infection or illness.
Health Concerns to Watch For
Diet and nutrition play huge roles in any animal's well-being. Inadequate nutrition can contribute to serious health problems, while a healthy, well-rounded diet can boost the immune system and help prevent health issues. Certain signs will help you determine the state of your dog's health. Look for these indications of a healthy golden retriever:
- A clean, shiny coat
- A consistent, healthy weight
- Normal urine and bowel movements
- Plenty of energy and a normal temperament
If any of these factors change, there may be health implications. For instance, if your normally friendly, energetic dog becomes lethargic and self-isolating, a health condition may be to blame. Drastic weight gain or loss can also indicate health issues. Here are some nutrition-related health concerns to watch out for:
- Obesity: Many dogs are overfed or under-exercised, causing obesity. An obese dog is more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and arthritis. The best dog food for an overweight golden retriever might be lower in fat, as reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise is the best way to curb obesity. Remember to regulate treats and snacks, as well.
- Pancreatitis: A diet too high in fat can cause pancreas inflammation, which is painful and dangerous. Look for signs of a hunched back or bloating, and take your dog to the vet right away if you suspect your pup has pancreatitis.
- Bladder stones: Though minerals are essential in a dog's diet, a high concentration can be dangerous. An excess of minerals and other substances can cause bladder stones. You may need to reduce the calcium and phosphorus content of your dog's diet.
- Heart disease: An imbalanced diet can cause heart problems. Be sure to regulate your dog's sodium levels and consult with your vet to determine other steps to take to keep your pet's heart healthy.
If you provide a balanced diet and plenty of exercise, you can promote your dog's health. Keep in mind, a female adult golden retriever should weigh about 55 to 65 pounds
, while a male should weigh about 65 to 75 pounds. Weight can vary between individuals, but weighing far too much or far too little can mean health problems. Remember, every dog is different. If you suspect any health problems, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Learn More About Golden Retriever Care With Golden Meadows Retrievers
Your golden retriever's health is important to you, which is why deciding on the right dog food is a priority. A healthy diet makes a huge difference for your dog's immune system, muscle development, energy, temperament and overall well-being. When choosing the best healthy dog food for golden retrievers, pay close attention to the ingredients, labels and language choices. Look for wholesome ingredients and keep an eye on your dog's appearance and behavior to ensure the diet you choose keeps your pup happy and healthy.
Diet is only one element of a healthy, happy dog. To learn more about golden retriever care, check out our dog blog
. Here at Golden Meadows Retrievers, we're golden retriever specialists. We're members of the Golden Retriever Club of America and the International All Breed Canine Association (IABCA). We understand golden retriever needs, and we can give you expert advice about their care. If you have any questions, or if you're interested in adopting one of our puppies, contact us at Golden Meadows Retrievers