Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Lisa Melillo
There’s a reason golden retrievers are the third most popular dog breed in America. These loving, loyal pups make great companions for families and individuals alike. They’re playful but obedient, athletic but gentle, and always eager to please.
If you’re lucky enough have a beloved golden in your life, it’s no surprise that you want to do everything in your power to prolong the time you have with your best friend. One of the best ways to ensure health and happiness for golden retrievers is by making sure they get the right nutrition. Choosing your golden retriever’s diet doesn’t need to be complicated; a bit of knowledge is all you need to make the right decisions about how to feed your pup.
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What Kind of Dog Food Should My Golden Retriever Eat?
As an active dog breed, golden retrievers should be fed dog food with plenty of protein. Most vets recommend that this protein comes primarily from animal sources, which contain essential amino acids and other nutrients that will help support your golden retriever’s muscles, skin and coat, digestive system, and overall wellbeing.
Some dog food manufacturers promote breed-specific formulas for golden retrievers. While this is helpful in identifying some types of food that are beneficial to the breed, keep in mind that these labels are primarily a marketing tool. You don’t necessarily need to choose a recipe labeled for golden retrievers to give your dog the nutrients he needs.
Do Golden Retrievers Have Special Nutritional Requirements?
Due to breed genetics, there are a few specific nutritional requirements to keep in mind when deciding how to feed your golden retriever. These pups tend to be more susceptible to food sensitivities, so you may need to try eliminating certain ingredients if your dog shows signs of an adverse reaction to his food.
Since golden retrievers need sufficient protein in their diet, you should review the first five ingredients of any dog food you purchase to see how many ingredients are animal-based and how may contain grains. Most vets recommend avoiding foods in which two or more of the first five ingredients are grains for golden retrievers.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the specific health concerns and allergies that can affect golden retrievers.
7 Best Dog Foods for Golden Retrievers
Our experts have performed hours of research on which dog food brands meet the specific nutritional needs of golden retrievers. Each of these formulas contains the right balance of protein and nutrients to keep your golden in excellent health for years to come.
Fresh is better than dry kibble. NomNom is the best fresh dog food for your golden retriever! It gives you higher quality ingredients and better convenience through customized meal plans. Get 50% off by clicking here or the coupon link below.Coupon: 50% off NomNom
Fresh dog food company NomNom makes four recipes created by a board certified veterinary nutritionist. The meals are shipped chilled on dry ice, not frozen, within days of preparation to make sure your dog is getting the highest possible quality nutrition. In each formula you’ll find whole meat and vegetable ingredients, healthy fats, and a custom blend of essential vitamins and minerals.
Not sure which recipe your golden will love? Try a variety pack with samples of each flavor. The company also makes beef and chicken jerky treats that are entirely free of preservatives and additives.
First 10 Ingredients: Ground beef, russet potatoes, eggs, carrots, peas, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, fish oil, sunflower oil
- Contains one (1) 30 lb. bag of NUTRO ULTRA Adult Dry Dog Food with a Trio of Proteins From Chicken, Lamb...
- Features trio of protein from chicken, lamb, and salmon—chicken is the #1 ingredient—specially...
- Our premium dog food kibble is made with high-quality ingredients and provides complete and balanced...
NUTRO’s commitment to dog owners is to provide clean recipes made from real, recognizable ingredients. They use only non-GMO food sources and never include wheat, corn, soy, or chicken by-product meal.
The ULTRA line consists of 14 different dry foods and 14 wet foods with different formulas and flavors that are great for golden retrievers. Four of the dry food recipes are grain free, and you’ll also find options specifically made for large breeds like goldens.
First 10 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, Lamb Meal, Natural Flavor, Salmon Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Sunflowersal Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)
Crave Lamb and Venison
- Contains one (1) 22 lb. bag of CRAVE Grain Free Adult Dry Dog Food with Protein from Lamb —for any size...
- CRAVE recipes are always crafted with real, high-quality animal protein, no grain, and the full meaty...
- Made with 34% high protein, to support a strong, lean body
We’ve written about Crave dog food before and consider it a staff favorite here. The philosophy behind the brand is to tap into dogs’ wild ancestry by giving them diets consisting primarily of meat protein sources.
For golden retrievers, we particularly recommend the Crave Lamb and Venison recipe. This dry food contains 34% protein to help fuel your golden’s muscle growth. The recipe is also grain free and full of health-boosting ingredients like chickpeas, alfalfa, and flax.
First 10 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas, Split Peas, Pork Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Potatoes, Lamb Meal, Venison Meal, Pea Protein
Diamond Skin and Coat
- High quality protein made with wild caught salmon and zero grains, designed for all life stages, optimal...
- Premium ingredients with added vitamins & minerals; superfoods for hard-working antioxidants; fatty acids...
- Nutrient rich and HIGHLY digestible with PROPRIETARY, species specific, probiotics that survive and...
One of the signature characteristics of golden retrievers is their silky soft golden coat. To keep your pup’s fur gleaming, dog food company Diamond has created the Skin and Coat formula. It’s designed for dogs with food-related skin sensitivities, which are somewhat common among golden retrievers.
This grain-free recipe includes salmon as its main protein source, which is high in the omega-3 fatty acids that promote skin and coat health. You’ll also find antioxidants from superfoods like kale, blueberries, and coconuts.
First 10 Ingredients: Salmon, fish meal, potatoes, lentils, peas, pea flour, dried yeast, canola oil, flaxseed, tomato pomace
Acana Freshwater Fish
- One (1) 25 lb bag of ACANA Grain Free* Freshwater Fish Recipe Dry Dog Food
- High protein dog food recipe features raw rainbow trout, catfish & freshwater drum and is balanced to...
- A freeze dried dog food coating made of cod adds rich flavor dogs crave, while antioxidant-rich...
Some golden retrievers develop sensitivities to certain types of meat. If this affects your golden, you may struggle with how to make sure they’re getting enough animal protein in their diet. The Acana Freshwater Fish formula is a great solution. At 29% protein, the food consists of 60% fish protein ingredients and 40% fruits and vegetables. There’s no grain, gluten, or potato, additional common allergens.
Thanks to the main fish ingredients – which include trout, catfish, and perch – you’ll find abundant skin-nourishing healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. These ingredients have been proven to soothe itchy or flaky skin and support a softer, healthier coat.
First 10 Ingredients: Rainbow trout, whole catfish, catfish meal, whole red lentils, whole pinto beans, whole green peas, catfish oil, whole green lentils, whole chickpeas, whole yellow peas
Taste of the Wild Ancient Stream
- Taste of the Wild with Ancient Grains Ancient Stream with SMOKE-FLAVORED SALMON dry dog food; REAL FISH...
- Nutrient-rich and provides the energy to thrive; vitamins and minerals from SUPERFOODS and ANCIENT...
- Each serving includes high levels of species-specific, K9 Strain PROPRIETARY PROBIOTICS - plus...
Another seafood-based option is Taste of the Wild’s Ancient Stream formula. This dog food is developed by the same parent company as Diamond with the goal of providing a high-quality yet affordable food. The recipe gets its protein from salmon and includes ancient grains like sorghum and quinoa. In addition to all-natural ingredients, the formula includes additional supplements that are essential to your golden’s health, like probiotics and an omega fatty acid blend.
First 10 Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, ocean fish meal, grain sorghum, millet, cracked pearled barley, dried yeast, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), brown rice, smoked salmon
Solid Gold Buck Wild
- NATURAL & GRAIN FREE - Buck Wild dry dog food is a gluten and grain free dog food packed to the core with...
- AMERICA'S FIRST HOLISTIC PET FOOD - Solid Gold has been delivering transformative nutrition for your pet...
- POWERFUL SUPERFOOD BLEND - Feed your active dog food that will keep them hearty & healthy - our blend of...
Solid Gold is a dog food maker that promotes canine gut health through a balance of superfoods, probiotics, and mega fatty acids. The Buck Wild recipe is both grain and gluten free, eliminating many potential triggers for digestive troubles in golden retrievers. Its first ingredient is venison, an easy-to-digest animal protein source which is complemented by turkey and chicken. You’ll also find digestion-supporting high-fiber ingredients like peas and pumpkin.
First 10 Ingredients: Venison, Turkey Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Chickpeas, Lentils, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Eggs, Pumpkin
How Should I Feed Golden Retriever Puppies?
Golden retriever puppies need to eat plenty in order to support rapid growth and development in the early stages of their life. However, what most parents don’t know is that it’s actually important to control your puppy’s growth rate by making sure not to overfeed him.
Golden retrievers that are overfed as puppies and grow too fast have a higher risk of developmental abnormalities like hip dysplasia. Ask your vet exactly how much to feed your golden pup to make sure you’re not overfeeding or underfeeding.
No matter what volume of food you’re giving your golden retriever puppy each day, you should make sure to space it out between three meals for the first few months. This allows blood sugar to remain stable and reduces the risk of hypoglycemia. At three to six months, you can reduce this to two times a day.
Common Health Problems of Golden Retrievers
Responsibly bred golden retrievers should have a relatively low risk of developing serious health problems. That being said, there are still a few things to look out for. These health issues have above-average presence in goldens.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia: This condition affects your golden’s joints and is caused by abnormal development during the puppy stage. Your vet can screen for hip and elbow dysplasia with a simple examination once the dog is near full growth.
- Lymphoma: Lymphoma is unfortunately a fairly common disease for golden retrievers. It’s a type of cancer that begins in the lymphocyte cells, part of your dog’s immune system, and can spread to the rest of the body. Getting a dog with good genetic history is an important factor in avoiding lymphoma.
- Hypothyroidism: Just like humans, dogs have thyroid hormones that, when too low, lead to hypothyroidism. This condition affects up to 25% of golden retrievers, but can be easily treated with medication.
- Skin problems: Golden retrievers are genetically predisposed to a skin condition called atopic dermatitis. The allergy is often triggered by food sensitivities, although other environmental allergens can play a role. This is why it’s important to make sure your golden is eating a food free from common allergens.
- Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM): In 2019, the FDA reported several cases of canine DCM linked to certain brands of grain-free dog food. Golden retrievers made up a vast majority of the cases of the disease, which affects the heart muscle and reduces its ability to pump blood. Check our report to see whether you need to make any adjustments to your golden’s diet.
Common Food Allergies for Golden Retrievers
As we’ve mentioned, food sensitivities are a major concern for golden retrievers, and can lead to skin problems, digestive issues, and other health concerns that cause discomfort. Here are the most common ingredients to avoid if you suspect your golden retriever is suffering from a food allergy:
- Other animal proteins
How Can You Tell If Your Golden Retriever Has a Healthy Diet?
Since golden retrievers most frequently experience skin and coat issues in response to dietary issues, the best way to tell if your pup is eating a healthy diet is to look for these physical signs.
Watch out for excessive itching, scratching, and biting, as well as any lesions or crusted areas of the skin. Your golden’s coat should be thick, full, and shiny; any thinning or loss of hair may be the result of an unhealthy diet.
Of course, this isn’t the only way to monitor your golden retriever’s health. As long as your pup is active, happy, and gets a good bill of health from the vet, you’re probably doing a great job with his diet.
The History of Golden Retrievers
The golden retriever was first bred in Scotland in 1897 by a man named Dudley Marjoribanks, who acquired a yellow puppy that had come from a litter of otherwise black wavy-coated retrievers. He bred the dog with a tweed water spaniel and continued to breed the descendants with dogs from the same two breeds.
Golden retrievers were first recognized by the AKC in 1911 and soon became beloved hunting dogs. They also began to make appearances in dog shows and obedience competitions and were trained to become service dog. Today, golden retrievers serve many purposes: they are family companions, guide dogs, therapy animals, search and rescue assistants, and so much more.