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The Best Food for Golden Retrievers: Nutrition and Diet Tips

Learn why good nutrition is so important for your dog as well as what you should look for and avoid when selecting the best food for a Golden Retriever.

A Golden Retriever lays in a field next to a tennis ball.

Learn why good nutrition is so important for your dog as well as what you should look for and avoid when selecting the best food for a Golden Retriever.

The Golden Retriever is one of the most lovable, loyal, and fun-loving dogs. It's no wonder this breed is so popular! If you're the proud owner of a Golden, you want to keep them as healthy and happy as possible for as long as possible. And one of the best ways to do that is through proper nutrition. 

Take a stroll through the dog food aisle at your local pet store or supermarket, or scroll the products on sites like Amazon and Chewy, and you'll easily be overwhelmed by the amount of choices you'll see. There are all sorts of different brands — Blue Buffalo, Purina Pro Plan, and countless others — not to mention grain-free diets, diets made for different types and sizes of dogs, and foods made for puppies or senior dogs.

How do you know what to choose?

Read on as we learn why good nutrition is so important for your pet as well as what you should look for and avoid when selecting your dog's kibble. Then, you'll be able to decide on the best food for your Golden Retriever. 

Why Is Pet Nutrition So Important?

best food for golden retriever: golden retriever laying down eating food from plate

Dogs have specific nutritional needs, like any animal. They need precise amounts of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy. A balanced diet is, to put it simply, key for a healthy life. 

Golden Retrievers need good food to: 

  • Grow properly: Nutrition is essential for proper growth, particularly during puppyhood but throughout life. Protein, in particular, builds your dog's muscles and tissues to help your dog grow healthy and strong.
  • Maintain a healthy immune system: Your dog's immune system uses nutrients to fight off diseases and purge the body of toxins and free radicals (harmful particles that cause cell damage). 
  • Provide energy: Protein and carbs provide your dog's body with the energy necessary for daily life. Whether you have a Golden Retriever puppy with a high activity level or an older Golden who prefers to lounge most of the day, their sole energy source comes from their food.
  • Keep the coat healthy: Food that contains the proper amounts of antioxidants and nutrients like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids makes for healthy skin and fur. A good diet keeps your dog's coat shiny and the skin properly moisturized. (Try Native Pet's Omega Oil to give your dog's coat an additional boost of nutrients!)
  • Maintain healthy weight: Quality dog food keeps your dog at a healthy weight by giving them the right amounts of nutrients without excess calories or unhealthy fat. Since obesity can result in everything from heart trouble and breathing problems to poor joint health and diabetes, it's wise to avoid it before it takes hold.

How to Choose the Best Food for Golden Retrievers

golden retriever with Native Pet pumpkin dog food in mouth

Image credit: @golden.macmillan 

When looking at the back label on a bag of dog food, it’s easy to get information overload. How do you know if the kibble you're holding is the best food for your Golden Retriever?

Here's what to look for when selecting a high-quality diet for your pet:

Wholesome, Natural Ingredients

Natural ingredients are always better than artificial ones. Artificial additives and meat byproducts have no nutritional value for your dog. Look for real chicken or chicken meal, beef or beef meal, etc. as the first ingredient in the list. (Meat meal is simply a dehydrated or ground version of the original meat and is safe for your dog and provides healthy protein.)

When it comes to non-meat ingredients like veggies, look for sweet potatoes, carrots, brown rice, and other "real" ingredients that you recognize. Try to steer clear of corn, soy, or wheat, which don't provide as much nutritional value. You might even see healthy fruits included in some dog food formulas, like blueberries, which provide healthy nutrients like antioxidants and amino acids.

Quality Animal Protein Sources

The phrase "meat by-product" refers to a meat substance made from internal organs, hooves, and other parts of the body that your dog really doesn't need to ingest. Try to avoid these, and opt for real meat or meat meal instead. There are foods made with chicken and chicken meal, fish and fish meal, beef and beef meal... the list goes on. 

Watch out for the phrase "by-product meal," which you might see on some dog food packaging. This is still a meat by-product. Even though the word "meal" is in it — it’s not the same thing as meat meals like high-protein chicken or fish meal.

Nutritionally Balanced Formulas

Phrases like "nutritionally balanced" and "nutritionally complete" might sound like marketing jargon, but they're valuable certifications by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Products with this designation can complete your dog's diet with no additional supplements or additions. So, it's a good idea to look for these phrases on dog food packaging. 

Supplements can further support most pets’ health. Want to improve your pet’s gut health? Try Native Pet's probiotic powder to create a thriving environment for healthy flora in the gut. This can help regulate your dog's bowel movements and promote digestion. If you'd like to support your dog's bladder function, our Bladder Chicken Chews are a great choice. They help build defense against frequent UTIs and can help with long-term urinary tract health.

Formulas for Size and Age

Adult Golden Retrievers are considered large breed dogs, which means they need large-breed formulas. Large-breed formulas are made with the specific nutritional requirements of bigger canines in mind, like a lower caloric density to match their slower metabolisms and added nutrients like glucosamine to aid in joint health, for example. The food is also made in larger pieces. 

Large, deep-chested breeds like the Golden Retriever are at a risk for a dangerous condition called bloat when they eat too fast. Large dogs tend to gulp down large amounts of small kibble at once, which increases the risk of bloat, while larger pieces force them to take their time when eating. Larger pieces mean your dog gets the same nutritional value in a smaller portion size, reducing the risk of bloat.

If you have a Golden Retriever puppy, make sure to feed them puppy food. Newborn and very young puppies may need to be bottle-fed, then your puppy will need to transfer from milk to wet canned food when they’re about 4-5 weeks old. 

Later, around eight weeks of age, they can start to transition to dry dog food, ideally a large-breed puppy formula. Keep talking with your veterinarian throughout your puppy's young life stages to make sure they’re getting the nutrition they need.

What About Grain-Free Dog Food?

golden retriever puppy eating dry dog food

You may remember hearing about grain-free dog foods in the news recently. Back in 2018, the FDA announced it was studying the possible connection between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a serious heart health issue. It seems that dogs eating grain-free food are correlated with a higher risk of developing DCM, although the FDA has not issued an official statement confirming this to date. 

A grain-free diet is not necessarily healthier than diets that include grain, so there's no reason your adult dog needs to eat grain-free food unless they're allergic or sensitive to grains. Talk with your veterinarian to find out whether or not a grain-free diet is a good choice for your pet.

What's the Best Food for a Golden Retriever?

best food for golden retriever: golden retriever laying down on bed with native pet relief

Image credit: @aryaandsamwell

The best dog food for your Golden Retriever might not be the same one that works for another Golden Retriever. It all depends on factors like your dog's age, weight, current health, allergies, specific nutritional needs, and others. However, generally speaking, the best food for a Golden Retriever contains natural, high-quality ingredients, uses real meat or a meat meal as the main protein source, is labeled as nutritionally balanced or complete, and is formulated for your pooch's age and size.

Avoid things like meat by-products, artificial flavors, artificial colors, fillers like corn and soy, and unnatural preservatives if at all possible. If your veterinarian confirms that your dog has an allergy to a certain ingredient, you'll obviously want to avoid it — some dogs that are sensitive to gluten may need to eat grain-free food, for example.

You should always contact your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist if you're unsure what the best food for your Golden Retriever might be. With expert advise, you can rest assured your dog is getting the very best pet food option for their needs.

To read more about your dog's health, nutrition, and wellness needs, visit the Native Pet blog.

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