Best Food For Adult Golden Retrievers (And What Not To Feed Them)

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In this post, I’m going to share with you how to choose the best food for your adult golden retriever.

Since their diet can have huge implications on their health, it’s important that you choose a high-quality dog food.

But with all of the options and opinions out there, how do you choose which one?

That’s exactly what you’re going to learn here.

In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know about choosing dog food:

To choose the best dog food for your adult golden retriever, talk to your vet, do your own research about the brands and the ingredients, talk with your breeder or other golden retriever owners, and see what your dog likes.

Golden retrievers are susceptible to heart problems and cancer, so boutique or exotic ingredients, and grain-free foods should be avoided.

We’ll dive into this in much more detail, but before we get started, here’s a disclaimer.

I am not a veterinarian and if you have any questions about dog food you should ask your vet.

They know your dog and their nutritional and health needs best.

However, you might have some questions like:

  • Why is food so important?
  • How do you read a dog food label?
  • What are some health issues that are related to your golden’s diet?
  • How much and how often should you feed your golden?
  • What about raw or homemade diets?

I’ll answer all of those questions and more.

Let’s dive in!

Why You Should Feed Your Golden Retriever A High-Quality Food

best adult golden retriever food

There are many benefits to feeding your dog a high-quality food, including:

  • Healthy coat
  • Joint health
  • Heart health
  • Some foods are linked to cancer
  • Healthy skin
  • Fewer allergies
  • Healthy digestive system

And since choosing their diet is one of the few things you have control over in regards to their health, you want to choose the best for them.

Now you might be thinking, isn’t high-quality dog food expensive?

It can be, but if you were to choose a low-quality dog food and save money up front, you’d probably spend those savings on vet bills down the road (not to mention having a potentially unhealthy dog).

Another question is, does food actually matter?

Sure, there are people who live long healthy lives that smoke, drink and eat fast food every day, but those people are the exception, not the rule.

If you want to give your dog the best chance at being healthy (and if you’re reading this, then I’m assuming you do), then you’re going to want to choose a high-quality dog food for your golden.

How Do You Choose A High-Quality Food For Your Golden Retriever?

Here are five ways to help you choose which brand of food to feed your golden retriever:

  1. Talk to your veterinarian
  2. Talk to your breeder
  3. Do research on your own
  4. Talk to other people with golden retrievers
  5. See what your golden likes to eat

Your veterinarian is the health expert and knows your dog best, so the first thing to do would be to ask them.

In addition to knowing your dog, they often know what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for other dogs, as well as what the research says about different diets.

If your breeder is reputable, they’ll also be a good resource.

They obviously have goldens of their own and are very invested in their health, plus they’ll likely speak with other breeders and golden retriever owners about what food is best.

And even if your breeder wasn’t good, or you rescued your golden, you can go to the websites of good breeders and often they’ll say what they feed their dogs there.

However, don’t just blindly follow your breeders advice.

Feeding dogs isn’t cheap and I’ve noticed some breeders are sponsored by some brands, so in that case, their judgment on food recommendations could be clouded by money.

Which leads me to the next point…

Doing research on your own is another good way to choose what to feed them.

Has a brand of food had lots of recalls in the past?

Is there any research about the ingredients in the food?

You can also learn how to read a dog food label (they can often be misleading) in our article about puppy food by clicking here.

Talking with other golden retriever owners can be helpful too, although be careful because many stories you hear may be anecdotal and some well-meaning people could give you misleading advice.

Finally, see what your golden likes to eat.

We had to switch our puppy, Oliver, to a new food when he was about 6 months old.

After we switched he became lethargic and we had to convince him to eat every meal.

We thought he was sick but our vet suggested we try a different food.

We switched again to a new food and he went back to being his crazy, ravenous self.

What Makes Food “High-Quality”

golden retriever food for adults

Unfortunately, when reading the ingredient list on a food label there’s no way to tell the quality of the ingredients.

Chicken from one brand could mean free-range, twice-daily-massaged, serenaded by John Mayer hens, while chicken from another brand could mean chicken roadkill outside of the egg-laying mill.

Dogs are omnivores, so a good dog food will have a mix of meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables with little preservatives, added salt, sugar, or artificial colors.

AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) regulates dog food so approved foods will have this on their labels: “(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.”

Talking to your vet and researching dog food brands can also help you determine which foods are high quality.

Golden Retriever Health Issues That Can Be Food-Related

There are several health issues that are relatively common among golden retrievers and many of those are linked to your dog’s diet.

Below are a few examples:

Obesity. Golden retrievers love food and they do have a tendency to become overweight if you feed them too much.

Joint issues. Golden retrievers are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and growing too fast because they eat too much can often make this problem worse (more on this in the next section).

Heart issues. There’s been a recent spike in DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) in golden retrievers and many researchers think it may be linked to eating BEG (boutique, exotic-ingredient, and grain-free) diets.

Skin issues. Golden retrievers are prone to hot spots and excess protein in their diets can be a factor that causes them.

Cancer. Cancer rates in golden retrievers are more than any other breed and the Morris Animal Foundation is conducting the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study where they’re studying 3,000 goldens to see if there are certain patterns (such as diet) that cause cancer.

Allergies. Many goldens suffer from food allergies.

How Much To Feed Your Adult Golden Retriever

How much to feed your dog will depend on the type of food they’re eating and their size and health.

Talking to your veterinarian and reading the label can help you determine how much to feed them.

It’s hard to say statements like, “Adult golden retrievers need to eat 3 cups per day,” because all goldens are different and all foods are different.

For example, one brand of food may have 300 calories per cup, while another brand may have 400 calories per cup.

And if a golden is overweight they’ll need to eat fewer calories than one that is in great shape and runs around the yard for two hours each day.

Work with your veterinarian and monitor your dog’s weight and energy levels to determine how much they should be eating.

The Dangers Of BEG And Grain-Free Diets

In recent years, DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) has increased in golden retrievers, according to this study.

There seem to be two potential causes of this.

  1. Taurine deficiency
  2. Eating BEG (Boutique, exotic-ingredient, and grain-free) diets

When they surveyed what these dogs were eating, “more than 90 percent of products were “grain-free”, and 93 percent of reported products had peas and/or lentils.”

So when choosing which food to feed your puppy, you may want to think twice before you decide to go grain-free.

What About Feeding Your Golden Retriever A Raw Diet Or Homemade Food?

Other diets in the study mentioned above included raw diets and homemade diets.

Here’s what Dr. Lisa Freeman had to say about it: “We also emphasize that changing to a raw or home-prepared diet may not be sufficient to improve cardiac abnormalities and may increase the risk for other nutritional deficiencies or infectious diseases.”

What We Feed Our Golden

After seeing the studies about DCM, talking to several veterinarians and golden retriever breeders, and trying a few other brands that Oliver didn’t like, we’ve settled on feeding him Royal Canin’s Adult Golden Retriever food.

He absolutely loves it and has been happy and healthy while eating it.

How To Switch Your Golden Retriever’s Food

Let’s say that after reading this post, you decided you wanted to switch foods.

Well, with dogs, it’s not as easy as just switching food from one day to the next.

Dogs have sensitive stomachs and if you just suddenly switch the brand of food, they’ll likely have diarrhea (learn from our mistake—we once switched foods too fast with Oliver and he (and we) felt terrible).

So how do you switch food?


You want to take about a week to switch from the old brand to the new brand.

For example, on day one, 90% of your golden’s meal might be the old food, and 10% would be the new food.

Day two: 75% of their meal would be the old food, and 25% would be the new food.

You would slowly increase the amount of new food you’re giving them and decrease the amount of old food until they’re fully transitioned.

This will decrease the chances of them having stomach issues.


best adult golden retriever food

Choosing which type of food to feed your golden may be one of the most important decisions you can make for them.

Here are five ways to help you find the best food for your golden retriever:

  1. Talk to your veterinarian
  2. Talk to your breeder
  3. Do research on your own
  4. Talk to other people with golden retrievers
  5. See what your golden likes to eat

What do you feed your golden?

Have any questions on what to feed them?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who needs to learn more about golden retriever food, please share this with them!

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6 thoughts on “Best Food For Adult Golden Retrievers (And What Not To Feed Them)”

  1. My golden is almost two years old. His favorite food is chicken and trying other meats can be a challenge. I started him out with all the puppy foods suggested from his vet since 11 weeks, and as time went on he refused his dog food. I always cooked for my dogs and I thought maybe he wants mommies dinners. so when he turned five months I slowly introduced chicken and eggs and some peas. he loved it. When he turned one he was eating salmon, some beef, mostly chicken. Today all he wants is chicken. He’s offered every vegetable he’ll eat, sweet potato, white, peas spinach carrots beets etc… some rice. Fruits are not his best choices so i buy the blues brand cookies that are yogurt and blueberry etc.. he likes that. Loves the milk bone bones and his dental bones. Drinks lots of water. He’ll be two soon and I was thinking that adding a bit of recommended dry food for a treat would be helpful to his diet. He’s a picky eater and knows what he wants. His weight and health is great. Ear issues from time to time, but always vet checked. What would you suggest for this very active energetic little boy?

  2. Have you ever dealt with a golden refusing food after a year or so. Our 1 1/2 year old has been fed Nutro (puppy then adult) since she was weaned. Suddenly, she’s not excited about feeding time anymore. We’ve talked to the vet about this! Any thoughts from a golden enthusiast?

    • Any dog (and especially high energy golden retrievers) that aren’t eating “could” have a major health issue or possibly your dog food went “bad”. Your vet should have done blood work and a complete physical to see why she wasn’t eating because dogs are not like adult humans that “just don’t feel hungry today”. They should always have a healthy appetite. I would take to another vet and also change dog food brands and add “treats” like Milk Bone or Blue Dog Bakery biscuits. Once your pup is eating dog food, add some human protein like lean cooked chicken, beef and scrambled or hard boiled eggs to the diet. Good luck and make sure you get your pup back to your vet and possibly another vet.

    • Your vet should have done blood work and a physical and advised on options for different foods. A golden not eating could be a sign of serious issues or just a minor issue, but they NEED to have an appetite. Might try another vet also. This needs to be solved, and soon.

    • Yes and I started cooking for mine and that made a world of difference. Chicken works every time with some peas. No butter or salt seasonings, just plain. Baked chicken or microwave chicken tenders, ad some sweet potato no syrup etc… Green beans are a favorite too> Good luck!


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