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Best Dog Food For Golden Retrievers: Puppies, Adults, Seniors & More


Last Updated: June 12, 2024 | 13 min read | Leave a Comment

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Golden Retrievers have ranked in the top five most popular breeds in the U.S. since the 1980s. As a proud golden owner, you know this intelligent, friendly, loyal, and fun-loving breed makes an amazing family pet. And you want to ensure that your furry family member stays as healthy as possible well into her golden years. The best way to do that is through a balanced, nutritious diet throughout your pup’s lifetime.

But with hundreds of dog food brands and formulas on the market, it’s a daunting task to find the right chow for your Golden Retriever during each life stage — and certain health issues are common with this breed. Fortunately, we’ve found the best dry dog food for Golden Retrievers to help you choose the ideal chow for your precious pup.

At A Glance: Best Dog Food For Golden Retrievers

PuppiesAdultsSeniorsSensitive SkinWeight Loss
The Farmer's Dog packagesBlue Buffalo Life Protection Senior Large BreedCanidae grain free limited ingredientHills Science Diet Dog Food
NutroThe Farmer’s DogBlue BuffaloCanidae PureHills Science Diet
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Note: All of the dog foods we’ve included in our reviews meet or exceed Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines, are made in North America and contain no by-products, preservatives, or artificial ingredients.

Nutritional Needs For Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers can reach up to 65 pounds (females) and 75 pounds (males) as adults and are muscular, energetic dogs with hearty appetites. They require a diet rich in animal protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates to fuel their size and energy levels.

Goldens also need a nutrient-rich diet packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep your dog’s disease-fighting immune system strong. High-quality food also helps lower the risks and symptoms of common health conditions with this breed, including elbow and hip dysplasia, allergies, atopic dermatitis, cancer, heart problems, and arthritis.

High Obesity Risk

Goldens are among the top breeds at risk for weight gain and obesity. According to data from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, nearly 63% of Golden Retrievers in the U.S. are overweight. A high-quality diet is particularly important to prevent obesity.

Taurine Deficiency In Goldens

Taurine, a sulfuric acid, is an essential nutrient for the heart health of this breed. Studies have shown that Golden Retrievers have a higher incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) caused by taurine deficiency than many other breeds.

Animal muscle tissue has the highest amounts of taurine compared to other ingredients in pet foods. So it’s important to ensure your golden gets plenty of animal protein. Many high-quality dog foods are also fortified with taurine.

Omega Fatty Acids

Due to their dense undercoats and long topcoats, goldens are also more prone to develop skin infections and hot spots. Feeding your furry friend a diet rich in omega fatty acids can go a long way in keeping her skin healthy to help prevent skin problems. They can also keep your golden’s signature coat and beautiful feathered tail as luxurious as possible.

Beyond Basic Ingredients

Golden Retriever dog looking up at bowl of kibble

All dog food should include protein, carbs, healthy fats, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. But many of the most nutritious premium dog foods are fortified with additional ingredients that have major health benefits for your furry friend. Here are a few you’ll want to look for and how they support your pup’s health. For your convenience, we’ve listed these premium ingredients in our reviews.

  • Fruits & vegetables: excellent natural sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support immune health
  • Fish oil and/or flaxseed (omega-3 and 6 fatty acids): brain and eye development, skin and coat health, joint and immune support
  • Glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate (often from chicken meal*): maintains healthy joints
  • Prebiotics & probiotics: support digestion and a healthy level of good gut bacteria
  • Taurine (see above): supports cardiovascular, eye, and brain health, immune system function, and benefits many other body functions 
  • L-carnitine: an amino acid derivative that helps the metabolism of fats (particularly beneficial for older, less active dogs) 
  • Organ meats: excellent source of premium quality protein and fat as well as vitamins A, B, D, and E, copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc
  • Chia seeds: rich in plant protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus

*A note about meat meal: Quality pet food brands often use meat meal in their recipes, which can be a very healthy source of protein for your pup (as long as the “meat” is named, e.g., chicken meal, lamb meal, etc.). A meal can be made from the meat, tissue, organ meat, bone, stomach, and intestines of the named animal. But meal doesn’t include by-products like hair, feathers, beaks, heads, blood, hooves, hide trimmings, etc.

Best Food For Golden Retriever Puppies

Large-breed puppies, like goldens, experience rapid growth rates until about eight months, making them more sensitive to excessive or deficient calories and nutrients. Scientists have found that puppy food with higher fat, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D can cause improper skeletal development in large-breed puppies. And this can lead to a greater risk of joint problems such as hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Therefore, it’s important to feed your Golden Retriever puppy food specially formulated for large breeds to ensure she’s getting the ideal balance of nutrients and calories. (And don’t supplement your puppy’s diet with added nutrients.) You’ll also need to keep your golden on puppy food until she’s nearly fully grown, around 18 months.

Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy (Grain-Inclusive)

Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy (Grain-Inclusive)

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Give your little one a healthy start to life with this Nutro puppy food formulated for large breeds. The first ingredient is real chicken, which includes easy-to-digest nutritious whole grains, fruits and veggies, antioxidants, and more. And with no by-products, corn, wheat, or soy, this Nutro formula is great for puppies with sensitive skin and stomachs. Another bonus, all ingredients are non-GMO.

  • First 5 ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, whole grain sorghum, whole grain brown rice, and whole grain barley
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from fish oil), chia seeds, glucosamine, and chondroitin
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 26% (min); crude fat 14% (min); crude fiber 3% (max)
  • Calories: 379 kcal/cup


Orijen Large Breed Puppy (Grain-Free)

Orijen Large Breed Puppy (Grain-Free)

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Orijen crafts its pet food based on the philosophy that our pets should eat the diet that evolution and nature intended. Therefore, their dog and puppy food contains 85% premium animal ingredients, including highly nutritious meat, organs, and bones. This grain-free, large-breed puppy formula features free-run poultry and wild-caught fish, so it’s loaded with lean protein and omega fatty acids from multiple fish sources.

Instead of grains, this food contains a variety of lentils, beans, and chickpeas as carbohydrate sources. And seven different veggies and fruits, such as collard greens, pumpkin, and blueberries, give this formula a super nutrient boost. Although it’s pricey, many pup parents love Orijen. If you’re wary of grain-free dog food due to the potential risk of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), Orijen has recently released a line of grain-inclusive puppy chow and dog food.

  • First 5 ingredients: chicken, turkey, flounder, whole mackerel, and chicken liver
  • Formula highlights: high-protein, organ meats, taurine, glucosamine, prebiotics, probiotics, and DHA & EPA from fish
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 38% (min); crude fat 16% (min); crude fiber 4% (max)
  • Calories: 451 kcal/cup


Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy (Grain-Inclusive)

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy (Grain-Inclusive)

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This Blue Buffalo recipe is a more affordable premium puppy food that’s an extremely popular pick. To give your golden puppy an excellent balance of nutrients and a super immune boost, it’s fortified with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and chelated minerals formulated by animal nutritionists specifically for large-breed puppies.

Real deboned chicken is the first ingredient, and it contains nutritious whole grains for carbo fuel (no corn, wheat, or soy here). It also includes carrots, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and cranberries as well as other special ingredients for your growing puppy’s optimal health and development.

  • First 5 ingredients: deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, oatmeal, and barley
  • Formula highlights: fish oil (DHA & ARA), flaxseed, taurine, prebiotic, probiotics, and L-carnitine
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 26% (min); crude fat 15% (min); crude fiber 5% (max)
  • Calories: 386 kcal/cup


Best Adult Dog Food For Golden Retrievers

Throughout your golden’s adulthood, a major focus on diet should involve weight management, especially since goldens can gain too much weight easily. Avoid foods with fillers, preservatives, and artificial ingredients to keep your pup fit. Just a few extra pounds can increase the risks of heart and orthopedic problems common in this breed.

The Farmer’s Dog (Grain-Free)

Dog with a box of The Farmer's Dog

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The Farmer’s Dog offers fresh, human-grade meals using whole-food animal protein, vegetables, and fruits, all fortified with an ideal blend of vitamins and minerals for your pup’s life stage and specific needs (including taurine for goldens). A huge plus, they pre-portion and personalize all recipes. All you have to do is fill out a brief survey, which includes your dog’s age, breed, current weight, body shape, and whether she has any health conditions.

They offer grain-free beef, chicken, pork, and turkey recipes developed by board-certified American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) nutritionists and flash-frozen to preserve nutrients and freshness. While The Farmer’s Dog requires a subscription, they regularly deliver your pup’s super healthy meals to your door, and you can cancel anytime. Each recipe includes different ingredients, but here’s their turkey formula.

  • First 5 ingredients: USDA turkey, chickpeas, carrots, broccoli, and spinach
  • Formula highlights: human-grade & whole-food ingredients, fish oil, and taurine
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 38% (min); crude fat 26% (min); crude fiber 2% (max)
  • Calories: not available


  • Starting at $2/day for small dogs, but varies based on each dog’s weight, age, and other factors (e.g., $51.74/week for mixed-breed male, one-year-old, 38 pounds, healthy size, neutered, no health problems, or allergies) 

Our readers have access to 50% off your first box. No code is needed; just use this link, and the discount will be applied!

Full Review Of The Farmer’s Dog

Wellness CORE Large Breed (Grain-Inclusive)

Wellness large breed adult dog food

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Wellness is well-known for creating dog food that provides whole-body nutritional support. An excellent choice for goldens, this particular formula is designed to optimize energy levels, support a strong immune system, ensure skin and coat health, and much more. It’s chock full of premium protein, healthy grains, and multiple fruits and veggies, such as spinach and blueberries.

  • First 5 ingredients: deboned chicken, chicken meal, ground brown rice, barley, and peas
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from salmon meal and flaxseed), glucosamine, chondroitin, taurine, and probiotics
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 26% (min); crude fat 12% (min); crude fiber 5% (max)
  • Calories: 340 kcal/cup


Taste Of The Wild Pacific Stream (Grain-Free)

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Smoke-Flavored Salmon Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

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If your golden suffers from allergies or has sensitive skin, you may want to try this premium recipe that replaces the usual allergy suspects (chicken and beef) with real salmon as the primary ingredient. It’s also a great option for pups with a grain intolerance or sensitive stomach. The combination of fish, legumes and super healthy fruits gives your furry friend everything she needs for a strong immune system, healthy skin, and much more.

  • First 5 ingredients: salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, peas, and pea flour 
  • Formula highlights: limited ingredients, omega fatty acids (from real fish), taurine, prebiotics, and probiotics
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 25% (min); crude fat 15% (min); crude fiber 4% (max)
  • Calories: 408 kcal/cup


Diamond Naturals Large Breed (Grain-Inclusive)

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Looking for high-quality but budget-friendly dog food? Diamond Naturals could be just the ticket. This holistic kibble is formulated specifically for large-breed adult dogs. It features real cage-free chicken as the first ingredient, easy-to-digest whole grains (no corn, wheat, or soy), and plenty of whole fruits and veggies. And if your golden is sensitive to chicken, this formula is also available in lamb.

  • First 5 ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, cracked pearled barley, and ground white rice
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from flaxseed), chia seeds, taurine, glucosamine, chondroitin, prebiotics, probiotics, and L-carnitine
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 23% (min); crude fat 13% (min); crude fiber 3.5% (max)
  • Calories: 397 kcal/cup


Best Senior Dog Food For Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are generally considered seniors around eight or nine years old. Senior dogs have different nutritional needs than adults, so it’s important to switch your pup’s diet, especially if your furry friend isn’t as active as she used to be. Senior dog food can also help keep your obesity-prone golden from gaining weight as she slows down.

This is also the time dogs begin showing signs of aching joints. Since goldens are prone to arthritis, like other large-breed dogs, a diet fortified with ingredients for joint health can help with aches and pains and improve mobility. Some aging dogs also develop more sensitive stomachs, so you may need to find a food that’s easier to digest.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Senior Large Breed (Grain-Inclusive)

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Senior Large Breed (Grain-Inclusive)

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This reasonably-priced premium dog food from Blue Buffalo is formulated for the nutritional needs of older large-breed dogs. It contains fewer calories and less fat and protein content than adult food, making it a fantastic weight-management food for less-active goldens. Real chicken, wholesome grains, fruits, veggies, Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits, and other special ingredients provide your pup with the optimal nutrition to help fight off diseases and support her mobility as her body ages.

  • First 5 ingredients: deboned chicken, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, and chicken meal
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from fish oil and flaxseed), taurine, glucosamine, chondroitin, prebiotics, probiotics, and L-carnitine
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 18% (min); crude fat 10% (min); crude fiber 7% (max)
  • Calories: 342 kcal/cup


Go! Solutions Carnivore Grain-Free Senior

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With 32% protein, this grain-free formula is ideal for older goldens who are still pretty active. More than 85% of the protein comes from real, premium-quality chicken, turkey, and duck (all cage-free) and salmon, trout, and herring. It’s also packed with plenty of fruits and vegetables, pumpkin, carrots, and cranberries, to name just a few. Most customers say their pups love this recipe. And many say it improved their digestion.

  • First 5 ingredients: chicken meal, turkey meal, salmon meal, de-boned chicken, and de-boned turkey
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from real fish, salmon oil, and flaxseed), taurine, green-lipped mussels, glucosamine, chondroitin, prebiotics, probiotics, and L-carnitine
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 32% (min); crude fat 14% (min); crude fiber 4.5% (max)
  • Calories: 394 kcal/cup


Diamond Naturals Senior (Grain-Inclusive)

Diamond Naturals Senior (Grain-Inclusive)

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This affordable senior dog food certainly doesn’t skimp on quality. Made with real, cage-free chicken, easy-to-digest whole grains (no corn, wheat, or soy), and plenty of antioxidant-rich real fruits and vegetables, you can feel good about giving your golden a premium diet while saving some money. It also has an excellent balance of protein and fat levels and lower calories for the needs of aging pups.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, cracked pearled barley, and ground white rice
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from flaxseed), chia seeds, taurine, glucosamine, chondroitin, prebiotics, probiotics, and L-carnitine
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 25% (min); crude fat 11% (min); crude fiber 3% (max)
  • Calories: 347 kcal/cup


Best Dog Food For Golden Retrievers With Allergies

Skin allergies and other skin problems are fairly common for Golden Retrievers. If your pup suffers from chronic itchy skin, certain ingredients in her dog food or environmental allergens, such as dust mites or pollen, could be to blame. A limited-ingredient diet containing a novel protein (one she’s never eaten before) could help ease her skin troubles. You may also want to consider a dog allergy supplement, with your vet’s okay.

If you suspect your Golden has a food intolerance or is allergic to environmental factors, you may want to consider an at-home dog allergy test to uncover the source of her skin issues. All you have to do is send a saliva or hair sample to the company’s lab and get results within a few weeks. You can then share these results with your vet to help further narrow down possible causes.

Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient (Grain-Free)

Canidae Pure Salmon & Sweet Potato

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The two most common proteins in dog food, chicken and beef, are also frequent allergens. Switching your pup to one of Canidae’s Pure Limited Ingredient adult recipes may help your pup. We recommend the salmon formula for goldens, but it also comes in novel-protein recipes, such as bison, duck, wild boar, lamb, and goat & venison. 

All formulas are grain-free (no corn, wheat, soy, or fillers) and contain only seven to 10 whole-food ingredients, which lessens the chance that your pup has insensitivities to what’s included. However, Canidae Pure recipes are a bit higher in calories, so you need to make sure you’re not overfeeding your pup.

  • First 5 ingredients: salmon, salmon meal, menhaden fish meal, lentils, and sweet potatoes
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from real fish), taurine, glucosamine, chondroitin, prebiotics, and probiotics
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 32% (min); crude fat 14% (min); crude fiber 4.5% (max)
  • Calories: 459 kcal/cup


Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach (Grain-Inclusive)

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach

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Many veterinarians recommend this line of Purina Pro Plan formulas for dogs with skin and stomach problems. All formulas contain no soy, wheat, corn, or artificial ingredients that can often cause itchy skin. For your adult Golden Retriever, we recommend the salmon and rice formula. Although, if your golden has weight issues, this formula is high in calories so you may want to look for another food.

Purina’s Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach dog food is available in several different formulas. Here’s the breakdown for their adult salmon and rice recipe, which gets the best customer reviews from this line.

  • First 5 ingredients: salmon, barley, rice, oatmeal, and canola meal
  • Formula highlights: omega fatty acids (from fish oil), glucosamine, prebiotics, and probiotics
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 26% (min); crude fat 16% (min); crude fiber 4% (max)
  • Calories: 467 kcal/cup


Best Food For Overweight Goldens

If your golden has gotten a bit rotund (as this breed is prone to do), it’s important to transition her to a weight management diet. Extra weight can exacerbate many health risks that goldens already face, including heart and joint problems. Be sure to check with your vet about a safe weight-loss plan, and make sure you’re giving your pup plenty of exercise.

Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight (Grain-Inclusive)

Hill's Science Diet Perfect Weight (Grain-Inclusive)

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Many veterinarians recommend Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight dry dog food for a healthy weight loss diet. In clinical studies, more than 70% of dogs lost weight within 10 weeks of this diet. Featuring reduced calories, lower fat content, and lean protein, this formula can help your tubby golden shed those extra pounds. Although it’s on the pricey side, many customers said it’s effective for weight loss and their dogs love the taste.

  • First 5 ingredients: chicken, cracked pearled barley, brown rice, pea fiber, and corn gluten meal
  • Formula highlights: low-calorie and fat content, omega fatty acids (from flaxseed), coconut oil, and L-carnitine
  • Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 24% (min); crude fat 9% (min); crude fiber 5% (max)
  • Calories: 299 kcal/cup


Should I Consider A Hip & Joint Supplement?

Since Golden Retrievers are at a higher risk for developing elbow and hip dysplasia and arthritis, you may want to consider adding a daily joint supplement to your furry friend’s diet. The best dog joint supplements may help reduce the symptoms and severity of these inherited health problems. As with all supplements, you should first get your vet’s approval.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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