The 7 Best Dog Foods for Golden Retrievers (2021 Reviews)

Golden Retrievers are famously upbeat, loyal, and intelligent animals. Whether as a companion or addition to a family with small children, Goldens continue to be one of the top pet choices for millions of families around the country.

The food you give your dog has a major impact on their health and wellbeing, so it’s important to choose the right option. To help, we researched hundreds of products and thousands of verified reviews to find the 7 best dog foods for Golden Retrievers available now. Here’s our list:

Top Picks for Dog Food for Golden Retrievers

1. Purina Pro Plan Sport Formula Dog Food

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PetListed Verdict:

Purina Pro Plan Sport is made specifically for active dogs; perfect for a healthy, lively Golden. This food blends 30% protein and 20% fat for lean muscle, as well as EPA and glucosamine for joint heath (helpful especially as dogs get older, though important for every age). A number of customers have also noted that their dogs’ coats have become shinier by using this option. Pro Plan Sport is available in varieties including chicken, salmon & rice, and turkey.

Key Details:

  • Available in multiple recipes: grain-free chicken, chicken, salmon, and turkey
  • EPA, Glucosamine, Amino Acids
  • Meat is the #1 ingredient
  • Suitable for any age, from puppy through senior
  • Made in the USA

2. Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dry Dog Food

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PetListed Verdict:

One of the highest rated products we examined, Taste of the Wild is an all natural, grain free dog food with real salmon as the first ingredient. The food is packed with other healthy ingredients including fruits, vegetables, superfoods, and a probiotic for optimal immune and gut health.

Key Details:

  • Grain free, with no corn, wheat, or fillers
  • Salmon is the first ingredient
  • All natural with no artificial flavors or colorings
  • Includes vitamins, minerals, and probiotics for digestion health
  • Salmon oil provides “marine sourced” Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
  • On the pricier end of dog foods, considering the ingredients

3. Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Adult Dry Dog Food

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PetListed Verdict:

Purina One is a solid choice for those looking for high quality dog food at an affordable price. The food has 30% protein content, with real turkey as the first ingredient, and Omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy coat.

Key Details:

  • 30% protein content, made with real turkey and venison
  • Turkey is the #1 ingredient
  • Good for active adult dogs, with balanced nutritional content
  • Includes Omega-6 for healthy skin and coat
  • Well priced compared with other dog foods

4. Royal Canin Golden Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food

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PetListed Verdict:

Royal Canin’s Golden blend is a top choice for those looking for a premium dog food made especially for Golden Retrievers. It promotes healthy skin, coat, weight, and cardiac function. A heads up, this food is suitable for Goldens 15 months or older.

Key Details:

  • Food mixture made especially for a Golden Retriever diet
  • Promotes healthy cardiac function with added taurine, EPA, and DHA
  • Many dog owners have noted this food has helped clear up their dog’s gastrointestinal issues
  • Ideal for a shiny, healthy coats
  • Pricier than other brands on the market
  • Keep in mind: kibble bits are larger than other products
  • Not suitable for puppies

5. Diamond Naturals Adult Dry Dog Food – Large Breed

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PetListed Verdict:

For the price, Diamond Naturals packs a serious nutritional punch. Upon scanning the list of ingredients, many owners will find a long list of health forward foods including pasture raised lamb, kale, coconut, dried kelp, papaya, and chia seeds. This all-natural dry dog food also contains an abundance of essential vitamins to keep your Golden Retriever active and strong.

Key Details:

  • Pasture raised lamb is the first ingredient
  • Contains superfoods including: kale, chia seeds, pumpkin, yucca, coconut, quinoa
  • Dozens of vitamins including: zinc, copper, potassium, vitamin b1, vitamin a, vitamin b6
  • Solid price for the quality
  • Tailored for large breed dogs
  • No corn, wheat, or filler
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colorings

6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Dry Dog Food

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PetListed Verdict:

Blue Buffalo Wilderness dog food is formulated specifically for dogs that require high protein and high carbohydrate diets. This dry kibble features a mixture of meats including beef, chicken, lamb, and venison, as well as healthy carbs including peas and sweet potatoes.

Key Details:

  • Grain free, all natural
  • High protein (30%) and high fat (15%) content for maximum performance and lean muscle
  • Contains “LifeSource Bits”, a veterinarian approved mixture of vitamins, minerals, an antioxidants.
  • Pricier compared with other dry dog foods

7. Royal Canin Golden Retriever Soft Dog Food

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PetListed Verdict:

Looking for a high-quality wet food for your Golden? This Royal Canin canned option is similar to the dry kibble seen earlier on our list, and is specifically formulated for the needs of Golden Retrievers over 15 months of age.

Key Details:

  • Soft food in a loaf sauce
  • Formulated for Golden Retrievers 15 months and older
  • Heart healthy ingredients including taurine and L-carnitine
  • Can be fed alone or mixed with dry dog food
  • Includes dozens of essential vitamins and minerals

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A Guide to Buying Food for Your Golden Retriever

Feeding your dog is a complicated topic that any dog owner deals with eventually. The toughest part is that your dog is simply an individual; each has their own preferences as well as health needs. Not all high-end or low-end foods are necessarily good or bad for your individual pup.

Is Your Golden a Puppy, Adult, or a Senior?

Your Golden’s age is the first factor in considering what kind of food to feed them.

Food for Golden Retriever Puppies

Goldens fall into the “large breed category”, with large breed puppies having different nutritional needs than smaller breeds. For example, puppy food with high calcium and phosphorous can encourage bone growth too quickly for large breed puppies. A good large breed puppy food can offer these lowered levels while also keeping up with a growing dog’s needs.

If you’re shopping for a new puppy, we suggest speaking with your veterinarian first to make sure your dog is getting the nutrition they need.

Food for Adult Golden Retrievers

At the adult stage, look for the highest quality food that forms a complete and balanced diet for your Golden. We’ll go over the quality of ingredients later in this guide, but be sure to consider your dog’s preferences as well. Do they prefer fish, beef, or chicken? Small kibbles, big kibbles, mix of wet and dry? All of these are important.

Food for Senior Golden Retrievers

A senior’s diet ideally should be healthy and preventative. It’ll be higher in protein and may need to adjust how much fiber it contains. This diet may also involve supplements and other nutrients to minimize problems that crop up as your dog ages (such as obesity, joint, and health issues).

Again, it’s always smart to speak with your vet about an aging or senior Golden.

Types of Ingredients

The first thing to consider for a dog’s food is the quality of ingredients. Dogs, unlike cats, can derive nutrition from plants and vegetables.

Whether or not this makes them omnivorous is debated, but it does mean foods with vegetables and grains aren’t necessarily bad for your dog! In fact, dogs are healthiest with a varied diet. For example, foods featuring berries and vegetables can add essential minerals and vitamins to your dog’s diet.

That being said, as dogs are better adapted to carnivorous diets, look for foods that feature mostly animal-based proteins instead of plant-based proteins. Try and also stay away from large amounts of corn and soy in their food.

Reading the Nutritional Label

Food labels seem to all look the same, but there are two things that set them apart.

  1. A label with “Complete and Balanced”: food must meet AAFCO minimum requirements to fit the complete nutritional needs of your dog. Even if this sounds funny, this is a legitimate seal of approval to see! 
  2. Flavor Guidelines: there are actually guidelines to what a label can say about its flavor. Here’s what they look like, using venison as an example.
If it says Then it means
Venison

(without modifiers)

≥70% of the product

or 95% of the total weight (excluding water)

Venison as a modifier

(Plate, dinner, entrée, platter, etc.)

≥10% of the product

or 25-95% of the total weight

(excluding water)

With Venison ≥3% of the product
Beef Flavor Just enough to be able to taste (≤3% of the product)

Is Wet Food or a Raw Diet Better Than Dry Kibble?

Not necessarily. Some dogs prefer wet food, or have medical needs that require their food to be softer (such as having teeth removed). However many wet and dry foods have similar nutritional content.

Similarly, homemade/specialty prepared meals may have higher quality ingredients than some dry foods, but are not always better in terms of nutrition.

Raw diets do come with a number of pros. However, one thing to consider is that dogs can spread pathogens that don’t bother them, but can still make you sick. For example, while Salmonella may not get your dog sick, it can be passed onto you and your family after going through their system.

What About a Grain-Free Diet?

Only if your dog has allergies, and only if it’s a good quality food.

Grain-free diets have been hugely popular recently, but aren’t always the best or healthiest choice. Fillers that replace grains can often be less nutritious than their counterparts.

In the world of dogs, legume-based grain-free diets have been the center of controversy. Dogs fed these diets have been found to be lacking in taurine, which is essential to heart health. Too little taurine in a dog’s system can cause heart failure.

If you suspect your dog is allergic to grains, have a talk with your veterinarian about foods available that can fit your dog’s unique needs.

Golden Retriever Allergies & Food

If your dog is displaying symptoms of a food allergy, it could be caused by any food they consume, from wheat to meat. The best treatment is to visit your vet and discuss an allergy test or an elimination diet. There are also a number of dog foods for allergies that eliminate common dietary culprits.

Not sure if your dog has allergies? Remember that allergies can develop at any age. Here are signs you should get in touch with your vet:

  • Itchy skin
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Red underbelly
  • Dull coat
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Hives
  • Swollen ears, lips, eyelids earflaps

Other Health Issues for Goldens

Goldens aren’t pre-disposed to many health problems that are related to diet. Most common problems you’ll encounter, such as hypothyroidism, eye disorders, lymphoma, and skin problems are often caught in your yearly visit with your vet. Make sure to keep up with your annual visit as well as ask any questions you have about their health. If you notice odd behavior or new habits, bring them up! These are the best keys to ensuring your vet has everything they need to keep your pet healthy!

Nearly any large breed is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, and enthusiastic eaters are prone to obesity which can cause complications such as diabetes. These may never be an issue, but ensure they live longer and healthier lives by watching their weight. A healthy weight will reduce their chances of developing obesity-related complications as well as putting less pressure on their joints to minimize pain from dysplasia. Considering a dog joint supplement can also be a good idea.

How Often and How Much to Feed Your Golden Retriever

It depends on your dog! A puppy can eat up to four times a day until they’re 6 months. After that, reduce the number of feedings as your dog ages, until about 1 to 2 feedings a day by adulthood (adults are 2-3 years old in large breeds).

The frequency, as long as they are fed at least once a day, isn’t as big of an issue as much as how much they eat in total each day.

Your dog’s total intake should be based on their size and activity level. Dogs who have an active day outside should eat more, while dogs inside should see a reduction of food. You as the pet parent are the best judge for the amount.

Once you know what your dog looks like at a healthy weight, you can use common sense: Is he looking thin? Average? A little fluffy—and not in the furry kind of way?

How to Know if Your Golden Retriever is Overweight

Not sure how to tell if your pup is looking a little fluffy? To get a good idea, checking their weight can be done with a few quick observations.

  1. Their stomach, rather than being straight (overweight), should have a somewhat visible tuck toward the end.
  2. Their ribs should not be visible (underweight). However, you should be able to feel them. If you can’t feel all of them, your Golden is overweight.
  3. Is their body straight (underweight)? Is it round (overweight)? Is it curvy (healthy)?

If you have any concerns at all, this is a great topic to bring up at your next vet visit. If you’re not feeling confident, this is where having a reliable vet shines, since generalized advice can carry myths or tips that aren’t applicable, or your pup may have special considerations.

Do keep in mind: if you have a puppy, growth is so fast and disproportionate that it’s rare to have a problem with obesity. It’s unusual for a puppy to need a diet due to the volume of nutrients and calories their bodies can go through! If your pup is a little pudgy, don’t worry, they’re likely still working through it. If it doesn’t seem right to you, check in at your next appointment; puppies should have a vet visit at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and one year.

What to Offer Your Golden Retriever as Treats

If you’ve gotten this far, and you haven’t discovered any allergies or obesity problems (and your pup has been awfully good), it’s fun to treat them!

Foods you can treat your dog with

In addition to store bought treats, here are some foods you might find around the kitchen that you can indulge your pup with:

  • Apples (without the seeds)
  • Bananas (Packed with nutrients; high in sugar, so in moderation)
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries (packed with antioxidants)
  • Bread (plain, no spices or raisins)
  • Carrots (these can be used as an edible chew toy)
  • Cheese (if your dog isn’t lactose-intolerant)
  • Coconut (no shell)
  • Corn (no cob)
  • Eggs (cooked, plain, no spices)
  • Fish (plain, cooked, no bones; salmon and sardines are especially nutritious)
  • Ham (in moderation, it’s high in salt and fat)
  • Honey (in moderation, high in vitamins and helps with allergies)
  • Peanut Butter (raw, unsalted, free of xylitol; peanut butter is a great source of vitamins)
  • Pineapple
  • Popcorn (Unsalted, unbuttered, plain; contains nutrients supporting eye health)
  • Pork (plain, cooked; calorie dense, but high in amino acids and less likely to cause allergies)
  • Ripe, red tomatoes
  • Turkey (cooked, plain, no spices)
  • Watermelon (without rinds or seeds)
  • Wheat and grains (unless your dog is allergic)
  • Yogurt (if your dog isn’t lactose-intolerant)

Looking for something your dog might go crazy over? Freeze dried liver treats are cheap and can be broken up into small bits as a high-reward training treat.

We’ve also put together an entire list of our best approved healthy dog treats, that cover everything from fully vegetarian, to steak jerky. Take a look if that’s something you’re interested in.

Conclusion

There’s a lot that goes into a dog’s nutrition, so it’s easy to see why many people get overwhelmed by the process. Once you have a good food picked out, feeding your dog is simply a matter of maintaining their weight, keeping an eye on their health, and finding out what snacks you both love!

References

Food Selection

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/best-dog-food-choosing-whats-right-for-your-dog/

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-small-animals/dog-and-cat-foods

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-small-animals/feeding-practices-in-small-animals

Food Concerns

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/allergy-general-in-dogs

https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2017/01/food-allergies/

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-allergies-symptoms-treatment/

Weight Management and Snacks

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/human-foods-dogs-can-and-cant-eat/

Jessica is an animal lover living in Colorado who cannot help but collect and learn more and more about animals. She has been caring for cats, dogs, and fish since she was a child. As an adult, she’s also handled amphibians, dinoflagellates, dogs, fish, insects, and reptiles. Her newest friend is a St. Bernard and Pyrenees mix who keeps her two Labs busy.