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The Golden Retriever is consistently ranked among the top three dog breeds in the United States, according to AKC registration statistics. These dogs are known for their soft golden coats, gentle temperaments, and goofy personalities. But do they need special food? What is the best dog food for Golden Retrievers?
Though all dogs are prone to certain health issues, Golden Retrievers are plagued by genetic joint problems, various forms of cancer, and allergies. Choosing a high-quality dog food for your Golden may also reduce his or her risk for health problems.
Halo Holistic Chicken Recipe Large-Breed Dry Food
This holistic crunchy dry dog food features real chicken as its main ingredient.
Unfortunately, many of these conditions are undetectable in growing puppies, which is why responsible breeding practices are so important. While Golden Retriever puppy food won’t necessarily eliminate these risks in your golden puppy, starting them off with the right nutrition will help set them up to face whatever health issues they may face as an adult.
In this article, we’ll talk about the unique dietary requirements of Golden Retrievers to help you pick the best food for your dog. You’ll also see our top picks.
Do Golden Retrievers Need Special Dog Food?
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, adult dogs require a minimum of 18% protein in their diet, and puppies need at least 22%. Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles in puppies and, in adults, supports lean muscle maintenance. For most dogs, higher protein content is a good thing.
Fat provides your dog with a concentrated source of energy in the form of calories and should make up at least 8% of the diet for puppies and 5% for adult dogs. This is where your Golden Retriever’s needs start to differ.
Small dog breeds have faster metabolisms and need a higher concentration of calories in their diet. For large breeds like the Golden Retriever, however, excess calories can lead to unhealthy weight gain, which increases the risk for other issues like bone and joint problems. For this reason, Golden Retrievers need a protein-rich dog food with low-to-moderate fat and calorie content.
What about growing puppies?
A puppy’s needs for protein and calories are higher than an adult’s, but large-breed puppies need to be kept on a calorie-controlled diet to prevent them from growing too quickly.
According to AAFCO nutrient profiles, they also need lower calcium and phosphorus levels to reduce the risk for joint issues. So, yes, it’s good to look for a Golden Retriever puppy food that’s right for your growing pup.
What to Look for in a Good Golden Retriever Food
To ensure that your golden retriever’s basic nutritional needs are met, it’s best to choose a large-breed dog food formulated for his life stage.
Here are some other things to look for in a good dog food for Golden Retrievers:
- Made from wholesome, natural ingredients with no fillers, by-products, or artificial additives
- Rich in lean protein from high-quality animal sources like poultry, meat, and fish
- Limited fat and calorie content to control growth in puppies and maintain lean mass in adults
- Controlled calcium and phosphorus levels with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health
- Nutritionally complete and balanced according to AAFCO nutrient profiles
In addition to making sure your Golden Retriever’s food meets these requirements, you should also check to see if it comes in a bigger kibble size.
Large and deep-chested breeds have a high risk for bloat which is exacerbated by eating too fast or eating too much at once—bigger kibble means that your dog gets the same nutrition in smaller portion sizes.
Are Grain-Free Dog Foods Safe for Golden Retrievers?
Over the past year or so, there has been a lot of debate surrounding grain-free diets for dogs. It began in July 2018 when the FDA announced that it had received several reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, related to grain-free diets.
In response to these reports, the FDA launched an investigation with the following results:
- Out of 300 reports of DCM, 90% of dogs eating a single primary diet were fed grain-free food.
- Some reports involved multiple affected animals (both dogs and cats) in the same household.
- These reports spanned a variety of breeds, not only large and giant breeds that are known to have a genetic predisposition to DCM.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is not a condition typically seen in Goldens, but one vet at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who has a Golden himself, began seeing an increase and has been studying DCM in the breed, often in dogs following a grain-free diet and linked to a taurine deficiency.
What does this mean for your Golden Retriever?
The FDA has yet to issue an official statement, but experts like Dr. Lisa M. Freeman suggest that the correlation with DCM “may be due to ingredients used to replace grains in grain-free diets but may also be due to other common ingredients commonly found in BEG [boutique, exotic, grain-free] diets, such as exotic meats, vegetables, and fruits.”
Feeding a grain-free diet is still a personal decision, but keep in mind that these diets are not inherently healthier than grain-inclusive diets. The exception is for dogs who are allergic or sensitive to grains, in which case a grain-free diet may be recommended.
The Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers
Though breed-specific dog food formulas might be fine for your dog, it’s better to understand your dog’s nutritional needs and make an informed decision based on that. Keeping in mind your dog’s age, breed size, and activity level will help you make the best choice.
With that in mind, these are our top picks for the best dog food for adult Golden Retrievers.
Formulated for digestibility, this holistic natural dog food recipe features real chicken as the main ingredient, acting as both a lean source of protein and a natural source of joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin for your Golden Retriever.
Halo Holistic Chicken Recipe Large-Breed Dog Food for Golden Retrievers
This holistic crunchy dry dog food features real chicken as its main ingredient.
A nutritious blend of high-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw bites of real meat, this recipe provides the nutritional benefits of raw food with the convenience of dry food.
Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Large-Breed Recipe Dry Food
This protein-rich dry dog food contains small freeze-dried raw bites of real meat mixed in with freeze-dried coated kibble.
Pasture-fed lamb is the protein-rich foundation of this large-breed recipe, balanced with whole brown rice, whole grain oatmeal, and assorted vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure optimal nutrition.
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large-Breed Adult Lamb & Rice Recipe
This large breed recipe contains lamb as its main source of protein and glucosamine and chondroitin to support a dog’s joint health.
With chicken meal as a concentrated source of lean protein, this recipe is also fortified with joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin as well as chelated minerals.
Earthborn Holistic Large-Breed Dry Food
Formulated without peas, lentils, or legumes, this holistic recipe features chicken meal, whole grains, and a mix of fruits and veggies, among its ingredients.
Not only is this large-breed grain-free recipe loaded with lean protein, but it’s fortified with natural fibers, digestive enzymes, and probiotics to ensure healthy and regular digestion.
Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed Adult Health Chicken Meal and Lentils Recipe
The large kibble size of this grain-free formula is ideal for large 50+ pound-sized Goldens.
Large breeds like Golden Retrievers have a higher risk for obesity, which makes this healthy-weight formula, featuring lean chicken and 25% less fat, an excellent option.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Healthy Weight Grain-Free Chicken Recipe
This low-fat weight management dog food is grain-free and contains lean chicken as its primary source of protein.
Golden Retrievers eat a lot, so if you’re concerned with cost, this recipe is highly affordable and designed to help large-breed dogs maintain lean muscle and healthy body weight.
Simply Nourish Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Large-Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
For Goldens who eat a lot, this chicken and brown rice dry dog food offers a great value for its affordable price.
If food allergies and sensitivities aren’t a factor, this dry dog food recipe is a protein-rich source of quality nutrition that’s also limited in fat and calories to help your Golden Retriever maintain their weight as they get older.
Victor Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food for Golden Retrievers
This weight management dry dog food is intended for senior-aged dogs and contains ingredients to help support their joint health.
Best Food for Golden Retriever Puppies
These dog foods for puppies will start your Golden Retriever off right:
This dog food is formulated to support your Golden Retriever puppy’s growth and development without going overboard on fat or calories; the recipe features fresh chicken and digestible brown rice.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large-Breed Puppy Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe
Featuring deboned chicken as its first ingredient, this puppy recipe offers a wholesome balance of protein, whole grains, and vitamins and minerals.
If you already know that your puppy is sensitive to grains, this chicken and sweet potato recipe is an affordable option formulated specifically for large-breed puppies.
American Journey Chicken and Sweet Potato Dog Food for Golden Retriever Puppies
If your puppy is sensitive to grains, this chicken and sweet potato recipe is a good choice, since it’s free of grains, wheat, soy, and corn.
Made with fresh chicken as a lean source of protein and chicken meal to provide glucosamine and chondroitin, this dog food for puppies will get your Golden Retriever off to a healthy start in life.
Nutro Ultra Large-Breed Puppy Recipe
This chicken-based puppy recipe is formulated to support the energy needs of young Goldens and other large breed puppies.
All dogs have the same basic nutritional needs when it comes to protein, fat, and essential nutrients. As you’ve learned here, however, there are some disparities among breeds of different sizes.
To learn more about the nutritional needs of large dogs, check out our guide to the best dog food for large dogs here.
Now that you know more about the best food for Golden Retrievers, how about a little something for yourself?
A refreshing drink from this mug can be your reward for doing all the research on the best dog food for your golden best friend.
Coffee With My Golden Mug
This fun coffee cup is a must-have for any Golden Retriever lover.