Finding the Best Dog Food for Your Golden Retriever

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Just like any other dog, Goldens are subject to some inherent health risks and concerns, and one of the best ways to avoid future complications is by feeding them a balanced diet of high-quality food. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the best dog food for Golden Retrievers, as well as some tips you should know about these dogs and their diet and nutrition.

When you close your eyes and think of the term “man’s best friend,” there’s a strong chance the dog you see in your mind is a beautiful, fluffy golden retriever.

These gentle giants are some of the most popular and well-loved dogs in the world. Their sunny disposition and fun-loving personalities make them an ideal pet for any family.

Fast Facts

Golden retrievers usually weigh within the 55-75 pound range and reach a height between 22 and 24 inches.

As you’d imagine, female goldens are on the lower side of that range while their male counterparts tend to be on the higher side. That said, this is simply a rough guide, and it’s not uncommon for some goldens to grow larger and taller than the average.

The typical golden retriever lives to age 11, which is about the average age of most large dog breeds.

Happy Golden Retriever

A Golden’s Caloric Needs

Golden retrievers run the gamut from incredibly energetic and active to more docile and subdued, so each dog’s caloric requirements are going to vary based on their personality and activity level.

An average-sized golden that’s not very active will need anywhere between 1,000-1,300 calories a day. Meanwhile, a very active golden retriever will need somewhere in the 1,350-1,750 calorie range.

Not only will you need to adjust your golden’s caloric intake based on their activity level, but you’ll also need to adjust it based on their size as well. If your golden is big for the breed, extra calories are in order. If they’re small for the breed, they should be eating less. Finally, whether or not your dog has been spayed or neutered also plays a small role in their ideal caloric intake.

A calorie calculator, like this handy one from the Pet Nutrition Alliance, can help you pinpoint your dog’s caloric requirements. This calculator is also helpful if your dog is a bit overweight and you’re looking to reduce their food intake to help them lose weight.

Nutrition Recommendations for Goldens

AAFCO, the regulatory organization that establishes regulations for pet food and animal feed places the greatest emphasis on protein. They suggest that puppies maintain a diet of at least 22% protein, while older dogs need a diet of at least 18% protein. AAFCO also suggests a diet that contains around 8% fat for puppies and 5% for adult dogs.

These figures are treated as a benchmark, and most quality pet food manufacturers exceed these figures. Beyond fat and protein, there are some other important ingredients to look for when shopping for dog food.

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Golden Retriever Puppy

What’s in a Good Food for a Golden Retriever?

To achieve a balanced diet, your pet’s food should include a well-balanced blend of protein, fat, complex carbohydrates and fiber. In the best food for golden retrievers, these four components will work together to provide your pup with a nutritious and balanced diet.

High Protein

Just like humans, the centerpiece of your golden’s meals should be protein.

As we discussed, your golden will need a minimum of 18-22% protein in their diet. For a particularly large or active golden, that number should be even higher.

As a rule of thumb, when your shopping for dog food, take a look at the first three ingredients on the list. All three of those ingredients should be a protein, and if they aren’t, it’s best to move on to another food.

Remember, not all proteins are created equally. If possible, look for food that uses whole meats, such as beef, poultry or fish. Foods that contain meat digests or meat by-products are low quality and should be avoided.

For whatever reasons, goldens seem to really love salmon. Try and incorporate salmon into your golden’s diet wherever possible.

Fats

While your dog’s food should have far less fat than protein, fat does make up a key component of your dog’s diet.

Not only does fat help to give food its taste and texture, but fat is a necessary macro-nutrient that helps your dog thrive. Fats such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 help give your pup their signature, lustrous coat and also promote healthy skin and nails. Fats can also improve cardiovascular function, and they help to lower the risk of your dog developing cardiovascular disease.

For an adult golden, about 5% of their diet should be made up of fats. For puppies, around 8%.

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs are another part of your dog’s ideal diet, although they’re much less important than fat and protein are. When it comes to carbohydrates, it’s all about knowing what to avoid.

Complex carbs such as carrots, apples and sweet potatoes all make a great addition to your dog’s diet within moderation. Meanwhile, other carbs, such as soy, wheat, corn or excess sugar are far less useful. Those kinds of ingredients are fillers designed to bulk up the bottom line for the manufacturer without adding any sort of value for your dog.

Fiber

Fiber plays several key roles for your pet. It helps to keep them regular, promotes gastrointestinal health and it can also help dog’s feel satiated, which is particularly helpful if your pup is on a weight management diet.

Most of the time, you won’t have to worry about adding additional fiber to your dog’s diet, as they’ll be getting enough from ingredients in their food such as apples and beets. But, there may be times when additional fiber may be helpful for your dog. Check out what Dr. Tim Hunt has to say about fiber for dogs at Chewy.

Old Golden Retriever

A Golden’s Unique Needs

While Goldens are known as a relatively healthy dog breed, there are a few medical conditions they’re predisposed to. While some conditions, like hypothyroidism or hip and elbow dysplasia, are difficult to predict or protect against, there are other common conditions which can be prevented through proper diet and eating habits.

Cancer

Nearly 60% of golden retrievers die from cancer. The causes for cancer are many, and in most cases, there’s nothing that could have been done to prevent it, there’s one thing you can control which may help your dog avoid cancer: proper diet.

Lower quality dog foods often contain ingredients which have been linked to cancer, and avoiding them is the best action you can take to help your dog avoid developing cancer. Avoiding foods with artificial ingredients, colors, fillers or preservatives is a great way to limit the likelihood of your golden developing cancer.

Cardiovascular Disease

While goldens are prone to developing cardiovascular disease, you can mitigate this risk tremendously by keeping your dog at a healthy weight that’s in line with your vet’s recommendations. A healthy dog at the right weight is far less likely to develop a heart condition as they get older.

If you notice your dog trending a bit towards the heavier side, don’t wait, consult with your vet about putting them on a diet for weight management.

Allergies

Golden’s are also prone to allergies. Often, their diet is a cause of these allergies.

Common signs that your dog has allergies include hair loss, excessive scratching, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Unfortunately, since our dogs can’t tell us what’s bothering them, diagnosing their allergies can be a bit tricky. Most of the times, their allergic reaction can be attributed to one or more of the ingredients in their food. Most often, fillers like corn or wheat are to blame. This is one of the reasons why feeding your dog a quality food that doesn’t contain fillers is important.

Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers

Now that we’ve covered what you’ll need to know about your dog’s diet, and what you should look for in food for them, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the best options on the market today.

American Journey Grain Free Dog Food – Salmon & Sweet Potato

Rating: 5/5 Stars

First five ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes

American Journey Grain Free Dog Food - Salmon & Sweet PotatoWhen it comes to dog food, you can feel good about giving your golden, American Journey checks off every important box. While there are tons of different options on the market, this may be the best dog food for golden retrievers that are currently available.

First, we’ll start with the ingredients. All of the major ingredients in this food are whole proteins and tasty vegetables. Salmon, chicken, and turkey represent the three top ingredients. From there, you’ll find things like peas, sweet potatoes, blueberries, carrots, dried kelp, and beet pulp.

All of these ingredients work in concert to deliver food that’s high in protein and fat, with the right amount of fiber and carbohydrates to keep your dog at their best. Most importantly, American Journey’s foods are free of grain such as wheat, soy or corn, making it an ideal choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs or food allergies.

American Journey also loads their food with other important vitamins and nutrients. It’s rich in antioxidants, which help support a healthy immune system. This food is also loaded with omega fatty acids which support healthy skin and coat. DHA is also included to support healthy brain and vision development.

American Journey is manufactured in America with all American made ingredients wherever possible. At a price of around $1.66/lb, it’s also one of the most affordable high-end dog foods available.

Pros

  • Loaded with premium animal proteins
  • Completely grain-free
  • Ideal for active dogs
  • Contains beneficial nutrients vital to your dog’s health
  • Affordable

Cons

May be too high in fat for a heavier dog

Taste of the Wild Wetlands Grain-Free Dog Food

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

First five ingredients: Duck, Duck Meal, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas

Taste of the Wild Wetlands Grain-Free Dog FoodFor the dog with a discerning palate, this duck dog food from Taste of the Wild may be a perfect choice.

This is a protein and fat-packed food that delivers wholesome nutrition with a tasty blend of poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables. The primary ingredients are duck, duck meal and chicken meal. This food also contains roast quail, roast duck, smoked turkey, and ocean fish meal.

Beyond proteins, this food is also packed with the fruits and vegetables your dog needs to thrive, including peas, potatoes, blueberries, and raspberries. Taste of the Wild is also packed with the vitamins and minerals your dog needs, such as vitamin C, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants.

Taste of the Wild also includes a prebiotic and probiotic blend designed to promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system. Chelated minerals are also included to help your pup better absorb the proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals in the food.

Pros

  • Packed with protein from real ingredients
  • Includes prebiotics and probiotics
  • Ideal for active dogs
  • Affordable

Cons

  • May be too high in fat for a heavier dog

Wellness CORE Original Recipe Grain-Free Dog Food

Rating: ⅘ stars

First five ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Potatoes

Wellness CORE Original Recipe Grain-Free Dog FoodThis grain-free food from Wellness CORE is packed with the ingredients that are critical to your pup’s health and well-being.

The majority of the protein in this flavor is derived from poultry, namely turkey and chicken. It’s also packed with fruits and vegetables which provide your pup with the vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants they need to thrive.

This food is especially well suited to goldens as it contains glucosamine and chondroitin which promote bone and joint health. Wellness also includes omega-3s to promote healthy skin and coat, probiotics to promote healthy digestion and immune health and a litany of different fruits and vegetables which provide vitamins and nutrients.

Wellness CORE is free of meat by-products, grain, artificial flavorings, colorings, or preservatives. It’s certainly food you can feel good about giving your dog.

In this case, quality comes at a steep price, and Wellness CORE will set you back about $2.42/lb, which is much more expensive than some of the other foods we’ve covered thus far.

Pros

  • Packed with protein
  • Ideal for active dogs
  • Gluten free
  • Contains probiotics

Cons

  • Expensive

Horizon Legacy Grain-Free Puppy Food

Best Puppy Food For Golden Retrievers

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

First five ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Pea Starch

Horizon Legacy Grain-Free Puppy FoodIf you’re looking for a protein-packed food for your golden puppy, Horizon has you covered with their Legacy brand of food.

This food is designed to provide your puppy everything it needs to grow and thrive. Horizon uses ingredients that pet owners can feel good about giving to their dog, and they source most of their ingredients locally.

This food derives most of its protein from chicken, chicken meal and turkey. Beyond that, it’s also packed with the kind of fruits and vegetables that provide your pup with the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they need.

Beyond protein, you’ll find a healthy dose of omega III fatty acids in the form of salmon oil, as well as carrots, apples, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, and blueberries. There’s also a probiotic blend designed to promote healthy digestion and immune support.

This is a truly premium dog food down to the price tag, and it will run you about $2.84/lb which is significantly more than some of the other foods we’ve covered. But, if you’re looking for the best possible option for your puppy, this may be it.

Pros

  • Packed with protein
  • Rich in omega III and antioxidants
  • Contains a probiotic blend
  • Provides balanced nutrition for growing goldens

Cons

  • Very expensive

Blue Buffalo Rocky Mountain Recipe Senior Dog Food

Best Senior Dog Food For Golden Retrievers

Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

First five ingredients: Deboned Beef, Chicken Meal, Peas, Tapioca Starch, Pea Starch

Blue Buffalo Rocky Mountain Recipe Senior Dog FoodAs your dog gets older, their needs change, and it’s up to you to provide them with food that’s going to keep them thriving at an advanced age. Blue Buffalo’s Rocky Mountain Recipe for senior dogs may be a good choice for your senior golden.

Most of the protein in this food is derived from beef and chicken, although it also gets a protein boost from peas, pea starch, and pea fiber.

It’s packed with omega III’s to promote healthy skin and coat, and vegetables and fruits like spinach, pumpkin, apples, and blueberries. This food also includes Blue Buffalo’s patented LifeSource bits, which promote immune system health while providing older dogs with the vitamins and antioxidants they need to thrive.

Minerals like calcium and phosphorus help to promote healthy bones while glucosamine and chondroitin help promote healthy joint and hip function. All of the ingredients work together to provide your pup with the energy they need to stay active as they get older.

Like all of the other foods we’ve discussed, Blue Buffalo is also grain free. At just over $2 per pound, this food falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to premium dog food price.

Pros

  • Promotes healthy bones and joints for older dogs
  • Promotes heart health
  • Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

Cons

  • Derives some of its protein from peas instead of whole meats
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