7 Best Dog Foods for Golden Retrievers in 2023 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Categorized as Dog Supplies
best dog food for golden retrievers

One of the happiest and friendliest breeds of dogs there is anyone who owns a golden retriever wants to make sure that their furry little family member is getting the highest quality food possible.

With so options to pick on the market today, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when searching for the best dog food Golden Retrievers.

Here are our top choices:

Our Picks for The Best Dog Foods for Golden Retrievers

7 Best Dog Foods for Golden Retriever Reviewed

1. Royal Canin Golden Retriever

  • Suitable for: Adult
  • Caloric content (per kg): 276 kcal/cup
  • Form: Dry food
  • Type: Grain inclusive
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Brown Rice, Chicken By-Product Meal, Oat Groats, Brewers Rice, Wheat
  • Dry Matter Label Analysis: 26% protein, 11% fat, 57% carbs

Recognizing that golden retrievers are especially prone to a life-threatening heart problem (known as dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM), the Royal Canin has enriched its recipe with taurine, EPA, and DHA.

Its first ingredient is brown rice, which might alarm some dog parents. Rest assured that the rest of the ingredients are designed as intended to meet the needs of 15-month-old golden.

As evidenced by many owners, not only does this formula gives their goldies the energy and stamina they need, but it also helps to soothe and balance a sensitive stomach.

Key Details:

  • We like the many ingredients included in this dog food. They are carefully selected to suit the needs of golden retriever breed.
  • The formula also promotes healthy and keeps various skin infections at bay, including atopic dermatitis, ringworm, and yeast infection.
  • It has large kibble size so your golden will have to actually chew their food properly.

2. Royal Canin Medium Puppy

  • Suitable for: Puppy
  • Caloric content (per kg): 393 kcal/cup
  • Form: Dry food
  • Type: Grain inclusive
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Chicken Fat, Brewers Rice, Corn, Wheat
  • Label analysis: 33% protein, 20% fat, 43% carbs

This specialty formula has been designed specifically to meet the needs of medium-sized puppies that are a couple of months to one year old. All of the nutrition in this dog food is tailored to ensure that your puppies get everything they need to grow up to be a healthy adult golden.

Key Details:

  • Special high energy formula guarantees that your puppy has plenty of fuel to grow and develop and lead a happy and healthy life in the early stages of their development.
  • Many of the ingredients that make their way into this formula are carefully selected to promote high-quality immune system health, including a lot of ingredients rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals missing in other recipes.
  • There’s also a lot of support for healthy bone and joint growth in this particular puppy formula; this is especially important for medium-sized breeds like golden retrievers that are notorious for having problems like hip dysplasia or for bone density issues later on in life.
  • Your puppy will enjoy easier digestion with these protein sources and prebiotics, too, to make sure that all of the nutritional elements of this food make it into their system.

3. Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Senior 7+ Adult

  • Suitable for: Senior
  • Caloric content (per kg): 423 kcal/cup
  • Form: Dry food
  • Type: Grain inclusive
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Poultry By-Product Meal, Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal
  • Label analysis: 33% protein, 16% fat, 47% carbs

Senior dogs whose dietary needs are different from younger dogs require a formula that caters to their lifestyle and the set of health circumstances they may face.

You want to be sure that your golden is happy and healthy throughout the later years of their lives – staying fit and trim without having to cut back significantly on their daily caloric intake – and this recipe goes a long way towards doing precisely that.

Key Details:

  • This formula is built on the back of a high-quality chicken protein source, making it its number one ingredient so that you don’t have to worry about a lot of filler agents rounding out the food and compromising your golden’s health.
  • Botanical oils have been added to this senior formula to promote overall alertness, mental acuity, and mental sharpness.
  • There’s also a lot of EPA (a compound rich in omega-3 fatty acids) and glucosamine added, both of which have been explicitly included to improve joint health, joint mobility, and lubricate the creaky bones of older goldies.

4. Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach

  • Suitable for: Senior
  • Caloric content (per kg): 467 kcal/cup
  • Form: Dry food
  • Type: Grain inclusive
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Barley, Rice, Oat Meal, Canola Meal
  • Label analysis: 30% protein, 18% fat, 47% carbs

If your dog does have skin allergies or a sensitive stomach, it’s a good idea to choose a formula that can meet these specific issues, and the Purina Pro Plan Focus does a great job of calming your dog’s skin and stomach.

Key Details:

  • This recipe is made of wild-caught or farmed salmon – not salmon substitute or salmon byproducts. This means that the entire formulas built on the backbone of a high-quality meat that most veterinarians consider pretty neutral as far as diet sensitivities are concerned.
  • Prebiotic fiber elements are also included to improve overall digestive health and make it easy for your golden to enjoy their food without getting “bubbling guts.”
  • You won’t find any artificial flavors or colors added into this formula, either.

5. Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin Recipes

  • Suitable for: Adult
  • Caloric content (per kg): 382 kcal/cup
  • Form: Dry food
  • Type: Grain inclusive
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Yellow Peas, Cracked Pearled Barley
  • Label analysis: 23% protein, 13% fat, 58% carbs

Suppose your goldie isn’t wild about salmon (which isn’t all that uncommon, even with golden retrievers) but still has dietary sensitivities that you want to control as much as possible. In that case, the Hill’s Science is where you’ll want to focus your attention.

Key Details:

  • Chicken is the main backbone component here (real, whole chicken parts), a quality nourishment that pretty much every golden on the planet is going to enjoy.
  • Prebiotic fiber components will be added into the mix to balance out the overall gut microbiome inside of your dog, with a formula specifically tailored to adult dogs and their unique gut bacteria makeup in the digestive system.
  • It brims in Vitamin E and omega 6 fatty acids, helping to improve overall skin and coat conditions to avoid itchiness and irritation that can ruin the happiness of your golden retriever.

6. Dr. Gary’s Best Breed Dog Diet

  • Suitable for: Adult
  • Caloric content (per kg): 472 kcal/cup
  • Form: Dry food
  • Type: Grain inclusive
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Pearled Barley, Dried Beet Pulp, Sorghum
  • Label analysis: 29% protein, 17% fat, 50% carbs

Dr. Gary’s Best Breed is formulated specifically for active field dogs like golden retrievers and Labrador.

The dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 31% protein, 14% fat, and 46% carbs with chicken meal as its main ingredient and a natural source of glucosamine to help support joint health. It is also fortified with other healthy ingredients such as fish oil, flaxseed, green-lipped sea mussels, and taurine.

Key Details:

  • This recipe is loaded with organic whole grains like oatmeal and barley, which are a good source of key nutrients and contain valuable antioxidant properties.
  • Because it is made with a properly balanced fat to protein ratio (0.44) and controlled carbohydrate content, this recipe provides the necessary energy to help your golden stay active and enjoy life.
  • If you’re worried that some of the name brand dog foods are made outside of the USA, don’t be. All of the dr. Gary’s product line is made in Ohio, USA.

7. Eagle Pack Large Breed Chicken and Pork

  • Suitable for: Adult
  • Caloric content (per kg): 340 kcal/cup
  • Form: Dry food
  • Type: Grain inclusive
  • Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Pork Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Rice
  • Label analysis: 28% protein, 13% fat, 54% carbs

Although Eagle Pack may not offer as many products as other brands, you can count that each and every of their product is complete and balanced.

Formulated for Goldies in all life stages, the Eagle Pack adult recipe features chicken and pork meals as its primary sources of protein as well as wholesome grains, including grown brown rice, oatmeal, and dehulled barley.

Key Details:

  • This recipe derives the majority of its animal protein from chicken and pork meals. Together they contribute to a total crude protein of 26%.
  • It’s also beefed up with vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant blend to boost your Goldie’s immune system.
  • In addition, the combination of chicken fat and flaxseed help provide for healthier skin and coat.

What To Look For When Choosing a Dog Food for Golden Retriever?

Now that we’ve covered our top golden retriever food picks, let’s dive deeper into what you have to focus on when looking for the best food for your golden retrievers.

The FDA Alert on Grain-Free Dog Food

Over the last few years starting from late 2017, there has been a great controversy surrounding grain-free diets. 

The controversy began when some veterinarians noticed increased cases of heart disease (DCM) in dogs that aren’t typically prone to canine dilated cardiomyopathy after eating grain-free dog food.

The FDA finally caught up and launched their own investigation. The result of the investigation concluded that there is a significant correlation between grain-free foods and DCM.

Shortly after, in 2019, the agency announced 16 brand names that may be related to canine heart disease. Here’s the full list:

  • Acana
  • Zignature
  • Taste of the Wild
  • 4Health
  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Nature’s Domain
  • Fromm
  • Merrick
  • California Natural
  • Natural Balance
  • Orijen
  • Nature’s Variety
  • NutriSource
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

Click here to read the full article.

Though the FDA has not explicitly suggested dog owners change their dogs’ diet but to be safe, we have decided to exclude all the listed brands from our reviews.

“We’re not saying don’t use these brands, we’re just telling pet owners to work directly with their veterinarians because we’re still investigating,” Lindsay Haake, a spokesperson for the FDA, said.

Should You Still Feed Your Dog Grain-Free Diet?

Dr.Bruce Kornreich, a veterinary cardiologist at the Veterinary College of Cornell University, said dog owners need to think twice before giving their dogs grain-free diets.

“Unless the dog has a documented sensitivity to grains, it’s probably not worth the risk at this point to feed these products,” he said.

Dr. Anna Gelzer, a veterinary cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, said she has advised dog owners to switch their dog’s grain-free diet to the non-grain one.

“There’s no scientifically proven benefit to grain-free foods, so why take a chance?” she said.

Food Formula Composition is Critical

Right out of the gate, nothing is more important than choosing the right food composition for your dog.

If your dog is a puppy, look for a formula designed for puppies. You’ll want to be on the lookout for a dog food that includes a lot of extra protein for improved energy sources while cutting back significantly on the calcium and phosphorus levels.

Sometimes dog food companies will include extra calcium and phosphorus to support healthy bone growth, but with medium-sized breeds (like golden retrievers)
this can do more harm than good – causing havoc on their bone density and hip issues that they are already sensitive to as a breed.

If your golden is an adult, look for a formula that is as balanced as possible. The food should meet all of your dog’s nutritional needs and something that they really enjoy and look forward to eating.

Senior goldies have unique dietary needs that have to be met for them to lead happy and healthy lives. Look for Senior formulas that consist largely of protein, fiber, and extra water while minimizing fats and carbs.

And don’t forget to consider your dog’s specific medical needs and dietary sensitivities when you’re scouring the market to find the most suitable food for your golden.

Essential Ingredients Your Dog Food Should Include

As far as ingredients that your dog food should include are concerned, you want to make sure that:

  • Your dog food is primarily protein-based, insofar as the protein source is ALWAYS the number one ingredient listed in the ingredient list. Anything that doesn’t have a whole source of protein – real chicken, real fish, real turkey, etc. – but instead has a filler agent (like rice or barley) or a “meat by-products.”
  • Dry dog food should have a protein content that makes up at least 25% of the weight of the food itself. Anything less than that is really cutting corners and pushing filler products to the max, and probably should be avoided.
  • The first ten ingredients listed are going to make up 80% of the dog food that you are feeding your golden retriever. All of them should be high-quality, nutritionally dense, and add a lot to your golden’s overall health and wellness as opposed to being strict “filler agents.”
  • Steer clear of ANY dog food that uses unnamed sources or tries to weasel around not including whole, real chunks of protein in their dog food.
  • It’s always a good idea to pick dog foods that include fruits and veggies as well, particularly things like carrots, blackberries, and the like. These ingredients support your golden retriever’s health and wellness quite a bit, flooding their daily food with vitamins, minerals, and essential antioxidants.
  • Quality sources of carbohydrates are never a bad addition, either. It’s a good idea to go with grain-free choices whenever possible, but if you’re going with a grain-inclusive recipe you want to stick with high-quality grains like oats, barley, and brown rice.
  • Overall fat quantity should be limited to at most 20% of your dog’s daily diet. Figuring this number out is just as important as figuring out what your protein ratio is, so make sure that you zero in on this detail.
  • Golden retriever dog food options should contain critical micronutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B, and E.
  • Senior dog foods should have glucosamine, EPA, DHA, chondroitin, ALA, and other probiotics mixed right in.

Ingredients to Avoid

On the flip side of things, there are some ingredients you are going to want to stay away from.

  • Anything with the word “by-product”
  • Any artificial colors, chemicals, and preservatives
  • Any of the common allergenic food ingredients (particularly things like corn, soy, and wheat)
  • Any hormone or steroid that might mess with the hormonal balance of your golden retriever
  • Some of the more controversial ingredients like BHA or BHT, ethoxyquin, propyl gallate, propylene glycol, or TBHQ

It’s also vital that you stay on the lookout for some of the “weasel words” that dog food manufacturers use to describe corn.

Instead of telling your right away that corn is in the ingredients, they’ll try and say things like corn gluten, ground corn elements, corn barn, or maze. All of them are bad for your golden.

Your Dog’s Health Should Influence Your Food Choices

Your dog’s age, activity level, and overall health and wellness are other essential factors to consider when choosing dog food for your goldies.

You want to be sure that you take into account any of their dietary sensitivities and special needs. For example, if your golden has an itchy skin condition or other physical health issues like lethargy, low activity levels, heavy breathing, etc.

AAFCO Approved

Of course, all commercially available dog foods must be AAFCO approved. The AAFCO standard ensures the safety ingredients of the pet food. It also ensures that diets proposed by the dog food makers meet your dog’s nutrient profiles.

Meat vs. Meal

Most dog owners see meals on a dog food ingredient list and assume right away that the food is low quality.

But is that true?

Well, surprisingly, it can actually be the exact opposite. A high-quality meal can actually provide way more protein than the whole meat does.

Here’s the reason:

Whole meat is 70% water and 18% protein, while meat meal contains just 10% water and 65% protein! In other words, meat meal contains 300% more protein.

This result is achieved through a process called “rendering,” in which the meat is intentionally over-cooked to remove all excess water from it. 

However, not all meals are equally good.

Some meat meals are of very high quality while others are made up of waste materials like slaughterhouse waste, even worse, a few products can even have come from diseased or dying cattle.

The key point here is: 

A meat meal can only be as high quality as the raw materials that were used to make it.

To separate the high-quality meals from the low ones, you should avoid dog food brands with the words “by-product” on a label.

Here are some more words that you do not want in your pet food label:

  • Animal and animal by-product meal
  • Meat and its by-product meal
  • Chicken by-product meal
  • Bone meal

On the other hand, you will want to see the following ingredients included in the dog food product:

  • Chicken meal
  • Beef meal
  • Venison meal
  • Lamb meal

Closing Thoughts

You really can’t go wrong with any of the options we highlighted above when it comes to top dog food choices for golden retrievers today.

As far as the overall best dog food for your golden goes, you just can’t beat the Royal Canin Golden Retriever.

It uses high-quality ingredients only, is made 100% in the USA, and has a top tier reputation in the dog food business that’s head and shoulders above many other food producers.

The reliance on whole protein sources is something that separates Royal Canin from the rest of the pack. The total elimination of grains that compromise the immune system and cause digestive problems is another big perk, too. Go with it, and you’re sure to get your hands on top-tier dog food that your golden will love eating.

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