Top 32 Foods for Your Golden Retriever at All Ages

“A dog is a man’s best friend,” goes the saying, but your golden retriever is more than that – he’s true family – more so than many realize. They have similar nourishment and dietary restrictions, the same diseases, weight problems, and even joint aches and pains. That’s why they require such special care.

The top 32 foods for your golden retriever at all ages: Top foods include Diamond Naturals, Merrick, and Nutro. Most brands also have age-appropriate blends, including:

Brand Age
Blue Buffalo puppies
Royal Canin Eight weeks to 15 months
Eukanuba 15 months or older
Primal Transitional, all stages
Health Extension Adults, puppies
Wellness Core Seniors

Did you know that blueberries are packed with antioxidants? That’s why they’re an ingredient in dog food along with a multitude of vegetables, vitamins, minerals, and even probiotics. If you want to learn about more great foods to feed your golden, you’ve come to the right place.

32 Foods for Your Golden Retriever at All Ages

A study published in the research journal PLOS ONE found that some grain-free dog food brands were linked to “taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy” (DCM) in breeds not disposed to it – including golden retrievers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration even issued an alert to pet owners.

It is this kind of information that loving pet owners want to learn about so they can make sure their dog is getting everything it needs, as well as steering clear of diet-related potential health issues.

“…We need to pay close attention to what we are feeding our dogsa healthy nutrient profile backed by expert formulation and research is of paramount importance.”
 – Joshua Stern, Veterinary Cardiologist, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

Now that we’ve seen how important it is to choose the right types of food for your retriever, we’ll look at the most popular brands by age-group to see what they have to offer. Particularly, we’ll explore the top comparative ingredients so you can make the best decision.

6 Foods for Your Golden Retriever from Puppy to Adolescence

This list has a wide variety of brands to show what is common across the board and how they compare. Many are listed because they either work well for allergies or are well-priced, organic, or nutritious.

Only the most readily identifiable foods are mentioned (not scientific names, powders, or extracts), which doesn’t mean the brand listed isn’t nutritious or healthy. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian.

Your puppy needs foods that are geared to his growing needs, including growth spurts. He or she should be fed at least three times a day and should not transition to adult foods until they’re at least one-year-old.

#1 Royal Canin Golden Retriever Dog Food

Royal Canin formula is designed to help build your puppy’s immune system and has kibbles in the right size, shape, and texture for their nozzles. It’s great for puppies from 8 weeks to 15 months.

Main ingredients: corn, wheat, rice, beet, fish oil

Vitamins: vitamins E, C, B16, B1

Other: contains probiotics (promotes intestinal health)

Brand: Royal Canin Golden Retriever Puppy Dry Dog Food

#2 Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed

Blue Buffalo has real chicken, digestible brown rice, and whole grains. It’s formulated to support muscle growth and retinal health. The blend promotes cognitive function and immune health.

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, oatmeal, barley, pea protein, peas, chicken fat, fish meal

Vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, spinach, beets, kelp, yucca, sweet potatoes, and parsley

Fruits: blueberries, cranberries

Vitamins: vitamins C, B3, B5, D3, B12, B2, B7, B6, B9

Excludes: no by-products, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives

Other: omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, fish oil

Brand: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice

 #3 Diamond Naturals

Made with real lamb, vegetables, and minerals that help with a healthy digestive system.

Main ingredients: lamb, lamb meal, ground white rice, peas, barley, chicken fat

Vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, spinach, kelp, yucca, pumpkin, flaxseed

Fruits: papaya, blueberries, oranges

Vitamins: E, B1, B2, D, B6, B12

Excludes: corn, wheat, artificial colors, preservatives, flavoring

Other: coconut, fatty acids, and probiotics

Brand: Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Food Real Lamb

#4 Royal Canin

Made specifically for golden retrievers, it’s for dogs over 15 months old and contains EPA, DHA, and taurine, which is heart-healthy. The kibble size, shape, and texture encourage chewing.

Main ingredients: chicken meal, brown rice, oat groats, wheat, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, chicken by-product meal, fish oil

Vegetables: dried tomatoes

Vitamins: E

Other: omega fatty acids

Brand: Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Large Breed

#5 Wellness Large Breed Complete

This food has DHA, which promotes brain health and is heart-healthy. Ideal for large-breed puppies in the first year of life.

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, ground brown rice, peas, salmon meal, oatmeal, barley, oats, chicken fat, salmon oil

Vegetables: carrots, spinach, yucca, sweet potatoes

Fruits: apples, blueberries

Vitamins: C, D3, Iron, B12, iron

Excludes: no corn, wheat, soy

Brand: Wellness Large Breed Complete Chicken, Brown Rice, and Salmon

#6 Nutro Max Natural

Made with farm-raised chicken and whole grains, it’s nutrient-dense and formulated for large breed puppies.

Main ingredients: chicken meal, whole grain oatmeal, chicken fat, chicken, flaxseed, chickpeas, whole brown rice, fish oil

Vitamins: E, B2, B12, B6, B1, D3, A

Excludes: artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, chicken by-product, corn, wheat, soy protein

Brand: Nutro Max Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food

6 Foods for Your Adult Golden Retriever Dog

As your pet grows, you’ll need to adjust his or her dietary needs. You will also see that the type of ingredients shifts to accommodate their age and what’s now best suited for them.

#1 Wellness Complete Health

The Wellness Complete has nutrients for a large, full-grown retriever.

Main ingredients: chicken, whitefish, chicken meal, ground brown rice, oatmeal, oats, ground brown rice, ground barley, peas, chicken fat, salmon meal

Vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes

Fruits: apples, blueberries

Vitamins: E, C, D3, B12

Excludes: no meat by-products, wheat, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Brand: Wellness Complete Health Natural Adult Chicken and Brown Rice

#2 Horizon Complete Large Breed

Horizon Complete is grain-inclusive and low on the glycemic index to help regulate your pet’s blood sugar. It has dietary fiber to help with digestive health.

Main ingredients: chicken meal, whole grain barley, whole grain rye, whole grain oats, and chicken fat, flaxseed, salmon oil

Vegetables: carrots, alfalfa meal, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage

Fruits: apples, blueberries

Vitamins: A, D3, E, B12, C

Excludes: corn, tapioca, potatoes

Other: has egg product

Brand: Horizon Complete Large Breed Adult

#3 Fromm Adult Gold Large Breed Formula

Fromm is known for its high-quality protein, including premium-quality duck, lamb, and chicken.

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, chicken broth, oats groats, barley, whole oats, brown rice, potatoes, salmon oil, chicken fat, chicken liver, fish meal, salmon oil, duck, lamb

Vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, celery

Excludes: corn, wheat, beet pulp, artificial flavoring, colors

Other: probiotics, dried egg product

Brand: Fromm Adult Gold Large Breed Formula

#4 Eagle Pack

This grain-inclusive diet support adult large breed dog over 50 pounds.

Main ingredients: chicken meal, pork meal, ground brown rice, oatmeal, rice, barley, chicken fat, flaxseed

Vitamins: E, A, C, D3, B12

Excludes: corn, meat by-products, flavors, preservatives, artificial colors

Other: glucosamine hydrochloride

Brand: Eagle Pack Natural Dog Food Chicken and Pork

#5 Eukanuba

Eukanuba has and enough protein to help support muscles, healthy digestion, and joint and bone health. This diet had DHA and is for dogs 15 months or older and weighing over 55 pounds.

Main ingredients: chicken meal, lamb, lamb meal, cornmeal, fish meal, rice, cornmeal, chicken fat, wheat, beet, egg, and fish oil, chicken by-product meal, whole grain barley

Vitamins: B12, B1, B2, D3, B6, E

Other: probiotics, glucosamine, chondroitin, dried egg product

Brand: Eukanuba Large Breed Adult Dog Lamb and Rice

#6 Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed

Nutro for large breed adult dogs has pasture-fed lambs and is formulated to support your pet’s bones and joints.

Main ingredients: lamb, lamb meal, whole brown rice, chicken meal, whole grain oatmeal, rice bran, split peas, chickpeas, chicken fat

Vitamins: E, B12, B2, B1, B6, D3

Excludes: GMO ingredients

Other: glucosamine and chondroitin

Brand: Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult Large Breed

6 Foods for Your Senior Golden Retriever

It’s around this time that your pet slows down and may not need the same nutrients he or she once did. Be sure to maintain an exercise schedule and continue to offer them high-quality foods to avoid the many diseases that befall these beautiful creatures.

#1 Blue Buffalo Life Protection

The formula is designed for large breed and has real meat, whole grains, and antioxidants to support senior dogs.

Main ingredients: chicken, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken meal, peas, flaxseed, chicken fat, fish oil

Vegetables: potato starch, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, kelp, yucca

Fruits: blueberries, cranberries

Vitamins: E, B3, B5, B2, D3, B12, B6, B9

Excludes: corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal

Others: glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 and t fatty acids

Brand: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Senior Chicken and Brown Rice

#2 Nutro Max Senior

These are U.S. farm-raised chickens, and the formula is tailored to large breeds. Nutro only uses natural ingredients that they buy directly and can trackback to suppliers.

Main ingredients: chicken, rice, chicken fat, chicken, pea, flaxseed, fish oil, whole grain oatmeal, whole brown rice

Vitamins: E, B2, B12, B6. B1. D3

Excludes: soy, chicken by-products, corn, wheat, artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, soy protein

Others: GMO-free, glucosamine, chondroitin

Brand: Nutro Max Natural Adult Dog Food

 #3 Wellness Complete Health Natural

Wellness Complete is a blend of authentic ingredients for the nutritional support of aging dogs. It helps maintain weight and supports skin, bone, and joint health.

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, ground barley, ground brown rice, sweet potatoes, whitefish, chicken fat

Vegetables: carrots, spinach

Fruits: apples, blueberries

Vitamins: A, C, D3, B12

Excludes: wheat, soy, meat by-products, corn, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives

Others: glucosamine, chondroitin

Brand: Wellness Complete Health Natural Chicken and Barley

#4 Victor Senior Healthy Weight

Victor Senior has a nutrient-dense recipe for older dogs to support overall weight, joint health, and a healthy immune and digestive system. Made with gluten-free grains and for dogs with allergies to other meat proteins.

Main ingredients: beef, whole grain brown rice, whole grain millet, chicken fat, fish meal, chicken meal, port meals, peas,

Vitamins: E, B12, A, S3

Others: glucosamine, chondroitin

Brand: Victor Senior Healthy Weight

#5 Royal Canin Large

Royal Canin Large is designed for large dogs 8 years and older and weighing 55-100 lbs. The formula supports bones, jones, and digestive health with easy to digest kibbles.

Main ingredients: chicken by-product meal, rice, wheat, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, corn, brown rice, wheat gluten, fish oil

Vitamins: B6, B12, D3

Others: glucosamine, chondroitin,

Brand: Royal Canin Health Nutrition Large Aging

#6 Black Gold Explorer Mature

Black Gold is a 7+ formula for senior dogs and has DHA and EPA along with oatmeal for sensitive stomachs. The formula helps boost a stronger immune system.

Main ingredients: chicken meal, brown rice, barley, beef meal, oatmeal, chicken fat, flaxseed, salmon oil, dried eggs, fish meal

Vegetables: sweet potatoes, spinach

Fruits: cranberry, blueberries

Vitamins: A, D3, E, B12

Excludes: corn, wheat, soy, by-products, artificial colors, preservatives

Other: omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, prebiotics

Brand: Stella & Chewy Freeze-dried Raw Stella’s Super Dinner

BONUS: 2 Foods for Your Golden Retriever at Any Age

#1 Sport Dog Food Active Series Dock Dog

Sport Dog is grain-inclusive and contains protein from low-ash animal sources. Great for dogs with digestive sensitivity.

Age: Adults and puppies, all stages

Main ingredients: buffalo meal, oatmeal, pork meal, catfish meal, salmon oil, pumpkin meal

Vegetables: dried sweet potato, cassava root

Vitamins: Vitamins E, B3, B5, D3, B2, B12

Excludes: artificial preservatives, fillers, by-products, flavors, corn, soy, GMOs, wheat, eggs, egg product

Other: has coconut oil, probiotics

Brand: Sport Dog Food Active Series Dock Dog

#2 Dr. Gray’s Best Breed Field Dry Dog Food

Dr. Gray’s is grain-inclusive, has chicken protein, and is holistically formulated. It supports healthy bone growth, strong muscles, and proper joint health.

Age: Adults and puppies, all stages

Main ingredients: chicken meal, brown rice, oatmeal, dried beet pulp, chicken fat, fish meal

Vitamins: has D3, D, E

Excludes: no corn, wheat, gluten, artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors

Other: includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, glucosamine, flaxseed, egg product

Brand: Dr. Gray’s Best Breed Field Dry Dog Food

12 Grain-free Golden Retriever Dog Foods

As we’ve mentioned previously, some veterinarians are recommending pet owners stay away from grain-free options. But the correlation with diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is still being contested.

“[DCM] may be due to ingredients used to replace grains in grain-free diets but may also be due to other common ingredients commonly found in BEG diets, such as exotic meats, vegetables, and fruits.”-Lisa Freeman, DVM, Ph.D., DCS, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University

Below is a grain-free list for pet owners who use it as part of their family member’s diet and for those with known grain allergies.

#1 Health Extension

There are no added hormones or rendered animal fats, and it is made for dogs with allergies and sensitive digestive tracts.

Age: Adults and puppies, all stages

Main ingredients: organic chicken, chicken meal, turkey, turkey meal, potatoes

Vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, spinach, beets

Fruits: blueberries, cranberries

Vitamins: A, E, D, C, B12, D3

Excludes: corn, grains, wheat, soy, artificial preservatives, colors, dyes, gluten, sugar

Other: omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar

Brand: Healthy Extension Grain Free Chicken and Turkey

#2 American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato

Age: puppies

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, peas

Excludes: grains, wheat, corn, soy, or poultry by-products

Brand: American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Grain-free Large Breed

#3 Nutro Ultra Large Breed

Age: puppies

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, chicken fat, lamb, salmon, whole grain oatmeal, whole brown rice

Vegetables: chia, kale, carrots, spinach

Fruits: blueberries, apples

Vitamins: B12, D3, B6

Other: coconut, glucosamine, chondroitin

Brand: Nutro Ultra Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

#4 Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw

Age: puppies

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, raw chicken, turkey, salmon oil, peas, chicken fat, herring meal

Vegetables: carrots

Fruits: apples, cranberries, blueberries

Vitamins: B12, D3, E

Excludes: GMO ingredients

Other: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, apple cider vinegar, probiotics, eggs

Brand: Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Grain-free

#5 Wellness Core

Age: puppies

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken fat, salmon oil, turkey meal, potatoes, peas, flaxseed

Vegetables: kale, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots

Fruits: apples, bananas, blueberries

Vitamins: E, C, D3, B12, A

Other ingredients: probiotics

Excludes: soy, corn, wheat, fillers, or artificial ingredients

Brand: Wellness Core Natural Grain-free Puppy Dog Food

#6 Fromm Family Foods

Age: puppies

Main ingredients: duck, chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, barley, salmon oil

Excludes: no soy, corn, or wheat

Other: probiotics

Brand: Fromm Family Foods Gold Large Breed Puppy

#7 Taste of the Wild

Age: puppies

Main ingredients: salmon, ocean fish meal, smoked salmon, salmon oil

Vegetables: yucca, sweet potatoes

Fruits: blueberries

Vitamins: A, B12, B6, B2, D

Excludes: corn, wheat, fillers, colors, artificial colors, preservatives

Other: probiotics

Brand: Taste of the Wild Grain-free Stream Smoked Salmon

#8 Wellness Core Natural Grain Large Breed

Formulated for pets that are over a year old, and non-reproducing dogs.

Age: adults

Main ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, potatoes, peas

Vegetables: spinach, carrots

Vitamins: C, D3, B12

Excludes: by-products, fillers, corn, wheat, soy, flavors, preservatives

Other: glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-fatty acids, probiotics

Brand: Wellness Core Natural Grain Large Breed

#9 Earthborn Holistic Large Breed Grain-free

This is gluten-free and for dogs that weigh over 50 lbs.

Age: adults

Main ingredients: chicken meal, chicken fat, whitefish meal

Vegetables: carrots, spinach

Fruits: apples, blueberries, cranberry fiber

Vitamins: D3, E, C, B12

Other: glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamins, omega-3, and 6 fatty acids

Brand: Earthborn Holistic Natural Food for Large Breed

#10 Merrick Grain-free

Age: adults

Main ingredients: chicken meal, buffalo, turkey meal, beef, salmon meal, salmon oil, flaxseed

Vegetables: sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes

Fruits: apples, blueberries

Excludes: preservatives, fillers, corn, wheat, soy, gluten

Other: glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3, and 6 fatty acids

Brand: Merrick Grain-free Real Buffalo and Sweet Potato

#11 Primal Freeze-dried Nuggets

It’s antibiotic, hormone, and steroid free beef, with fresh ground bone for calcium.

Age: adults

Main Ingredients: beef, beef livers, beef hearts, ground beef bones, salmon oil

Vegetables: kale, carrots, squash, broccoli, organic pumpkin seeds

Fruits: apples, cranberries, blueberries

Vitamins: E

Excludes: gluten, corn, wheat, soy

Other: apple cider vinegar, coconut oil

Brand: Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets Beef

#12 Blue Buffalo Wilderness Duck

Age: Adults

Main ingredients: duck, chicken meal, fish meal, chicken fat, peas

Vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, flaxseed, peas

Fruits: blueberries

Vitamins: B3, B5, C, B12, B6

Other: glucosamine, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids

Brand: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Duck

Why Choosing the Right Food Matters to Your Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers are prone to higher weight, and with such a large build and unique physique, they must be cared for differently. We’ve discussed the top foods and treats for all age ranges. However, to understand why dietary choices are essential to their well-being, we should look at what retrievers are prone to.

Health Risks and Dietary Considerations for Golden Retrievers

Like humans, golden retrievers suffer from allergies, obesity, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and hypothyroidism. Here is a summary of what they entail.

Allergies: food and skin allergies are common, and diet plays a role. A diet high in omega fatty acids helps lower inflammation and reduce symptoms. Allergies are also linked to corn, soy, wheat, and fillers. This is where a grain-free diet may be required.

Obesity: Your family member will gain weight if he or she doesn’t exercise. Sometimes despite their activity levels, they still do. Look for high-quality brands and provide lots of opportunities for exercise. Also, switch to a less energy-based diet if they’re gaining weight.

Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is likely if your pet doesn’t have a balanced diet on a regular schedule (along with exercise). Avoid treats and human foods and sugar.

Kidney Failure: The only thing you can do (especially if your retriever inherited the disease) is to lower their protein, phosphorus, and sodium intakes and add more fish oils.

Cancer: Plant-based foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables in your dog’s diet is critical. Avoid toxins and have your pet checked out annually to make sure he or she remains healthy.

Joint Pain: hip dysplasia and arthritis are common in these large dogs. Make sure they have supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oils.

Hypothyroidism: again, a healthy diet and exercise can go a long way in helping maintain your pet’s weight so that his thyroid gland doesn’t go into overdrive. Make sure they have enough iodine in their diets.

Proteins: a diet high in good-quality meat protein is mandatory for your canine. Look for foods that have meat as the first three ingredients. If carbohydrates are in the top three, it may not be as balanced as it claims. The idea proteins include chicken, fish, beef, wild game, and lamb.

Health Fat: Fat is an essential part of your pet’s diet. Look for the omegas, fish, flaxseed, grain-raised beef and chicken, and lots of fish oils.

Carbohydrates: these should be listed in the ingredients but not the top three. Look for fillers such as corn, wheat, soy, corn-meal, rice flour, seed hulls, and sugar. Be aware of low-grade protein sources like animal by-products, as well. These are found in low-grade, inexpensive foods.

Vitamins: look for calcium, phosphorous, vitamin B, A, E, and EPA, ALA, and DHA for the immune system and brain and nervous systems.

A Grain-free Diet and Your Golden Retriever

An NCBI study found that improper nutrition in large dogs can lead to orthopedic and osteoarthritic disease, and that weight control and exercise are just as important as nutrition in large breed dogs. Further, the FDA alert on DCM led to the investigation of sixteen brands of dog food associated with these heart disease risks.

In a recent article, Dr. Anna Gelzer, a veterinary cardiologist, said that they “advise switching to a non-grain free diet.” She adds that “there’s no scientifically proven benefit to grain-free foods.”

The brands linked to this investigation are:

  • 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

It doesn’t mean that these brands are not good in general, or that their grain-free blends aren’t any good. Feeding your pet grain-free diets may be necessary if they suffer from allergies or are sensitive to grains.


Regardless of what brands advertise, choosing the best foods for your golden retriever still comes down to personal choice and your budget.

However, we’ve seen that there is more to it. From what ails your furry family member to what they’re allergic to and what they may need as they age – these decisions can make all the difference in their quality of life.

Either way, you now have more information to make the best decisions for them at any stage.

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