2020 Top Picks – The Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are the third most popular dog breed in the United States and for good reason. They’re loyal, intelligent, and goofy. You want your Golden Retriever to live a long and healthy life, and the food you feed is a big part of that. Let’s talk about the best dog food for Golden Retrievers.

Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers Buying Guide

Before we list our top picks for the best dog food for Golden Retrievers, let’s talk about the things you should be looking for in a dog food. This information will help you look more into our top picks to find the one that you think is best for your Golden and your budget.

Golden Retriever Nutritional Needs

While all dogs have similar nutritional needs, large breed dogs like Golden Retrievers have different nutritional needs than smaller dogs. That’s why you’ll find that many dog foods come in a variety specifically for large breed dogs. However, you may be able to meet your Golden’s nutritional needs with a food that isn’t designed just for large dogs.

To be sure that your dog is getting the right nutrition, look for the following things while searching for a good food for your Golden.

Low to Moderate Fat

Golden Retrievers are prone to obesity, so you want to avoid foods that are high in fat. However, fat is still an essential nutrient, so a super low-fat diet usually isn’t the best option, either (unless your dog is overweight and your vet recommends a low-fat diet to help them lose weight).

To help your Golden Retriever maintain a healthy weight, look for food that is 10-20% fat. If your Golden is a couch potato, look for food at the lower end of that range, while active pups will need a diet with more fat to fuel them.

Moderate to High Protein

Your Golden requires protein to build muscle. For adult Golden Retrievers, look for a food that has at least 25% protein. Super high-protein diets can sometimes be hard on your dog’s kidneys, liver, or digestive tract, though, so be cautious of that. High protein levels in commercial dog foods also tend to correlate to high fat levels.

Additionally, Golden Retriever puppies should not have food that’s too high in protein. It can cause them to grow too quickly, which may be a big contributing factor to hip or elbow dysplasia and other bone and joint conditions. If your Golden Retriever is less than a year old, look for a large breed puppy food to best meet their nutritional needs.

Calcium to Phosphorous Ratio

This is more important for Golden Retriever puppies. They need just the right amount of calcium in their food – 0.8%-1.2%. Too little calcium, and they won’t grow well. Too much calcium, and they grow too quickly and develop bone and joint problems.

Additionally, the ratio of calcium to phosphorous should be 1.1:1 to 2:1. If your Golden Retriever’s food doesn’t have enough phosphorous, it can cause their bones to become malformed in a condition called rickets. This tends to be more of a problem if you supplement your dog’s food with additional calcium, but not phosphorous.

Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are crucial for your Golden to have a healthy skin and coat. That’s because fatty acids are considered essential, but your dog’s body doesn’t make them; your dog must get them from their food. Golden Retriever puppies need an additional fatty acid in their food – DHA, which is required for brain and eye development.

Many dog foods tend to be high in omega-6 and low in omega-3. Look for a food that has a good balance of both, or consider adding an omega-3 supplement to your dog’s diet.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Sadly, Golden Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia, arthritis, and other joint problems. Glucosamine and chondroitin can help prevent and relieve joint pain. You can get it as a supplement, but it’s ideal if your dog can get those from their food.

The Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers

#1 – Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Adult Lamb & Rice Dry Dog Food

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Adult is a grain-inclusive formula with non-GMO ingredients. It contains glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints and antioxidants for a strong immune system. Additionally, this food is made in America. It’s important to note that every flavor contains chicken meal, so it isn’t appropriate for dogs who are allergic to chicken.

Key Features:

  • Lamb is the #1 ingredient
  • Includes natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints
  • Has essential antioxidants for a healthy immune system
  • Made with non-GMO ingredients
  • Made in the USA

First 5 Ingredients: Deboned lamb, whole brown rice, rice bran, chicken meal (source of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate), whole grain oatmeal

Customer Reviews: Most of the complaints are about shipping problems or the occasional bad bag. By and large, most dogs love this food, and there are multiple reviews mentioning how shiny their dog’s coat is on this food.

Final Verdict: Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Adult Lamb & Rice dry dog food is a well-rounded food that should help keep your Golden Retriever healthy and happy for years to come.

 #2 – Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food

If you prefer feeding your Golden Retriever a grain-free diet, Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free is a great choice. The food contains Blue’s LifeSource Bits, which are cooked at a lower temperature than the rest of the kibble to help maintain nutrients and moisture.

Key Features:

  • Contains Blue’s exclusive LifeSource Bits – a precise blend of vitamins, antioxidants,  and minerals to support life stage requirements, immune system health, and a healthy oxidative balance.
  • Grain-free
  • Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat health
  • No chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives.
  • Protein-rich

First 5 Ingredients: Deboned salmon, chicken meal (source of glucosamine), peas, pea protein, tapioca starch

Customer Reviews: Some dogs don’t like the taste of this food. Some dogs experienced allergic reactions or digestive trouble on this food. However, the vast majority of dogs who eat this food love the taste and do really well on it.

Final Verdict: If you’re looking for a good grain-free option for your Golden Retriever, we confidently recommend this one. However, it’s important to note that all the flavors include chicken meal, so it isn’t a good choice for dogs who are sensitive to chicken.

#3 – Halo Natural Dry Dog Food, Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe

Halo Natural Dry Dog is made from whole chicken and chicken liver. Not only does it not have meat by-products, but it doesn’t contain any meat meal, either. In addition to the whole meat, Halo Natural uses non-GMO vegetables and healthy grains.

Key Features:

  • Made with whole chicken and chicken liver, grains, and non-GMO vegetables
  • Highly digestible
  • No “meat meal” of any kind
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken liver, dried egg product, oat groats, pearled barley

Customer Reviews: Most of the complaints were before or due to a formula change a few years ago. However, most dogs love the taste of this food and do well on it, even dogs with allergies or sensitive stomachs.

Final Verdict: While this food isn’t formulated specifically for large breed dogs like Golden Retrievers, we still feel comfortable recommending it because of the quality ingredients and nutritional profile.

#4 – Merrick Grain Free Dry Dog Food

If your Golden Retriever is allergic to chicken, Merrick Grain-Free Dog Food might be your best bet. They have many different flavors, some of which are poultry-free. Whole meat is always the first ingredient, and nutrients come from fruits and vegetables rather than chemicals. Merrick is made in the USA.

Key Features:

  • Many flavors to choose from, some of which are poultry-free – great for dogs with food allergies
  • #1 ingredient: deboned meat, fish, or poultry
  • Leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin along with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Recipes include real, whole foods like peas, sweet potatoes, apples, and blueberries and contain zero fillers, preservatives, wheat, corn, soy, or gluten
  • Made in the USA

First 5 Ingredients: Deboned salmon, salmon meal, peas, sweet potatoes, potatoes

Customer Reviews: A lot of the negative reviews are about a recent price increase and the fact that the new packaging isn’t resealable like the old packaging was. However, most dogs love the flavor of this food, and owners report that their dogs have shiny skin and reduced allergies.

Final Verdict: If you’re looking for a grain-free diet, this is one of the best ones you’ll find for your Golden Retriever.

#5 – Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food Anchovy, Sardine & Salmon

If your Golden Retriever is prone to diarrhea or soft stool, Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food is an excellent choice. It’s formulated to be highly digestible with probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, and digestive enzymes. This grain-inclusive formula is made in the USA.

Key Features:

  • Premium protein from real anchovy, sardines, and salmon
  • Contains only premium, all-natural ingredients with no meat by-products, wheat, wheat-gluten, or artificial flavors, colors, or fillers
  • Great for dogs with allergies
  • Digestive health support focused around prebiotics, probiotics, natural fibers, digestive enzymes, and botanicals
  • Made in the USA

First 5 Ingredients: Anchovy, sardine, and salmon meal; oatmeal; ground brown rice; ground white rice; canola oil (preserved with natural mixed tocopherols)

Customer Reviews: Most of the negative reviews are more than a year old. The two most recent complaints were from people who received a damaged bag. The vast majority of dogs love the flavor and truly thrive on this food. There are many reports of dogs experiencing reduced itching and improved bowel movements.

Final Verdict: If your Golden Retriever is allergic to chicken but needs grain in their diet, this food is probably your best option.

#6 – Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Recipe

Does your Golden Retriever have food allergies? Trying to find a dog food without certain ingredients can be tricky. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diets are perfect for dogs with food allergies. They only have one meat and one vegetable, so they’re great for dogs with multiple sensitivities. Instinct also coats each piece of kibble with freeze-dried raw for a taste most dogs love.

Key Features:

  • Made with 1 protein and 1 vegetable – perfect for dogs with food allergies
  • No grain, eggs, dairy, chicken, fish, beef, sweet potato, chickpeas, potato, corn, soy, wheat, artificial colors or preservatives
  • Several different allergy-friendly meat sources to choose from, including lamb, duck, and salmon.
  • Every piece of kibble is coated in freeze-dried raw for nutrition and taste
  • Made in the USA

First 5 Ingredients: Lamb meal, peas, tapioca, pea protein, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid)

Customer Reviews: A handful of dogs experienced diarrhea or itching after eating this food. However, most of the reviews are about how dogs are finally experiencing relief from their food allergies, including one dog whose ears cleared up for the first time in 4 years.

Final Verdict: There is a chance this could upset your Golden’s stomach. However, if you suspect or know that your Golden Retriever has food allergies, this limited ingredient diet is one of the best you’ll find.

#7 – Taste of the Wild High Protein Real Meat Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food with Smoked Salmon

Taste of the Wild has provided excellent grain-free diets for dogs for many years. Now, they also offer those same recipes in grain-inclusive formulas. This high-protein food includes probiotics for digestibility and is made in the USA.

Key Features:

  • Grain-free and grain-inclusive options to choose from
  • Includes probiotics formulated specifically for dogs
  • Optimal levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • High in protein
  • Made in the USA

First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, ocean fish meal, grain sorghum, millet

Customer Reviews: Many dogs got sick when owners bought (or were accidentally sent) the new ancient grains version instead of the grain-free food they had been eating. However, most people reported that their dogs are thriving, regardless of whether they feed the grain-free or ancient grain formula.

Final Verdict: Whether you are looking for a grain-fee or grain-inclusive food for your Golden Retriever, Taste of the Wild has you covered. As an added bonus, the salmon flavor doesn’t have any chicken, so it’s great for Goldens with allergies.

Golden Retriever Health Issues and the Role of Food

Unfortunately, Golden Retrievers are prone to a variety of health issues, and how and what you feed your dog may impact their health. Here are some common Golden Retriever health problems and how they may be impacted by your dog’s diet.

Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia are conditions where a dog’s joint doesn’t form properly when they grow up. The condition is usually progressive and can lead to pain and lameness. It is genetic, which is why it’s crucial to research breeders before buying a puppy.

While hip and elbow dysplasia are genetic and progressive, glucosamine and chondroitin in dog food may help reduce joint pain, which makes them crucial ingredients in your Golden Retriever’s food.


Bloat is a life-threatening condition where a dog’s stomach fills with air and may rotate on its axis. This traps gas in the stomach and can cut off blood supply to the intestines. It’s often fatal, even in dogs who are rushed into surgery for the condition.

Preventing bloat is more about HOW you feed your Golden than what you feed them. Bloat can be triggered by eating a lot of food really fast, gulping air while eating, and being active right after eating. That’s why it’s best to feed your Golden at least twice a day, use a slow feeder bowl to prevent gulping, and don’t let your dog run around for an hour after eating.

Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis is a genetic heart condition where the valve controlling the flow of blood out of the heart becomes narrowed. Fiber and fatty acids may help reduce symptoms related to this health problem.


Unfortunately, Golden Retrievers are one of the breeds with the highest rates of cancer. 60% of Golden Retrievers die from cancer. Low-quality dog foods that consist primarily of filler ingredients may be one cause. Your dog’s food should contain all-natural, nutritious ingredients with a purpose rather than artificial or filler ingredients.

Thyroid Problems

Golden Retrievers are one breed that is highly prone to hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland is underactive. It causes unexplained weight gain, flaky skin, and other problems. Food ingredients that may help include antioxidants, fatty acids, fiber, and probiotics.

Eye Problems

Golden Retrievers are prone to several different eye problems. DHA (a fatty acid) and Vitamin A may help minimize your dog’s risk.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This clotting disease is genetic. Vitamin K helps blood clot, so you should look for it in your Golden Retriever’s food.

Feeding a Golden Retriever

Beyond specific health issues, there are things you should know about how and what to feed your Golden Retriever so they can live a long, healthy life.

Ingredients to Avoid

There are a lot of cheap filler ingredients that you do not want to see in your dog’s food. Why does it matter? Filler ingredients don’t add any nutritional value to the kibble They often can’t be digested, which means your dog will poop more. They may even make your dog sick. Avoid these ingredients:

  • Animal by-products. By-products are the parts of an animal that humans won’t eat, like beaks, hooves, and feathers. There is no nutritional value in animal by-products. They are added as a cheap way to bulk up kibble with inferior ingredients.
  • Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Look for all-natural ingredients and stay away from artificial ones. There is no benefit and high risk for including these ingredients.
  • Corn, wheat, or soy. These filler ingredients contain little nutrition and are common allergens. Your dog can’t digest corn any better than you can, and you’ve likely seen how well your own body digests corn.

How Often Should I Feed My Golden Retriever?

Golden Retrievers are prone to bloat, a condition where the stomach fills with gas. One way to help prevent bloat is to feed your Golden at least twice a day. The larger the meal your Golden eats in one sitting, the more air they are likely to swallow. Young Golden Retriever puppies may need to eat 3-4 times per day.

Are Grain-Free Diets Safe for Golden Retrievers?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found a possible connection between grain-free diets and an increased risk of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart condition, in dog breeds that aren’t usually prone to the condition. It’s not yet known if, why, or how grain-free diets contribute to this potentially lethal heart problem.

Some vets are recommending that dog owners avoid or stop feeding their dogs grain-free food. Talk to your vet about what they suggest. We have included both grain-free and grain-inclusive dog foods on our list, so you can choose what you believe is best for your dog.

Final Thoughts on the Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers

While there is no one best food that’s right for all Golden Retrievers, hopefully you can find one on our list that looks like the best choice for your dog and your budget. Your dog’s diet plays a big role in their overall health and wellbeing, so it’s worth it to do the research to find the best food for your Golden Retriever.

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