Nutrition for a Golden Retriever

Nutrition for a Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are large and active dogs with big appetites. Learn what to feed them at PetCareRx.

Golden Retrievers are large, affable, and active dogs with ravenous appetites. To satisfy your dog's nutritional needs and ensure that the golden coat remains lustrous, feed a high-quality diet that provides all the nutrients your dog needs to thrive in the proper balance. Prevent any health issues such as hereditary joint problems from developing by monitoring your dog's weight to ensure your Golden Retriever remains lean, athletic, and joyfully active.

Caloric Needs

Golden Retrievers generally range in weight between 55 and 75 pounds. Based on the average weight of this breed, the National Research Council of the National Academies recommends between 989 and 1,272 calories daily for sedentary golden retrievers and between 1,353 and 1,740 calories per day for active dogs. Older retrievers suffering from joint problems typically require fewer calories than their younger, more active counterparts.

Feeding Choices

Dry kibble helps to keep your Golden Retriever's teeth clean of tartar by scraping the surface of the teeth. Canned food provides additional moisture in your dog's diet and can be mixed with dry food to entice your dog with its aroma, if your Golden Retriever needs it. When combining foods, compute the caloric content of the combined foods from information on the labels, to ensure you hold to your dog's recommended daily calories.

Commercial dog foods labeled "complete and balanced" meet the standards for a nutritious diet as established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This ensures your golden retriever will receive a proper balance of all the nutrients and vitamins required to thrive.

Some dog owners prefer to feed homemade diets to their dogs. It is important to consult your veterinarian or a canine nutrition expert to ensure what you feed provides all the nutrients in the proper balance for your dog's health. Check with your veterinarian before feeding your dog raw meat. Be sure to wash kitchen utensils and surfaces thoroughly after handling raw meat, to avoid contaminating bacteria.


Look for a commercial dog food that lists meat or meat meal such as chicken, turkey, beef, lamb or fish as the first ingredients. Ingredients on dog food labels are listed in order of quantity by dry weight, according to the FDA. The food can also contain healthy whole grains such as whole oats, barley or brown rice. Fruits and vegetables provide healthy fiber. Animal and vegetable fats, such as chicken fat or safflower oil, provide energy and keep that golden coat shiny. Natural preservatives called mixed tocopherols provide a source of vitamin E and are less controversial than ingredients such as ethoxyquin, according to the FDA.

Observe your dog on the diet you select. If you switch to a new food and your dog develops flatulence or loose stools that don't subside over a period of a few weeks, consider switching foods again. Your Golden Retriever may be allergic to an ingredient in the diet.


Golden Retrievers can develop allergies to any food in the diet, commonly including the meat protein or grains such as corn, wheat or soy. Such allergies often show up as skin problems. Take your Golden Retriever to a veterinarian for diagnosis. Your veterinarian may put your golden retriever on an elimination diet, replacing the existing diet with a hypoallergenic dog food for eight to 12 weeks. The hypoallergenic diet will contain one unusual protein such as venison or a fish; and a starch, such as potato. If your Golden's skin clears up, ingredients can be reintroduced one by one until symptoms recur. This helps to determine which foods must be eliminated from your Golden Retriever's diet.

Gastric Dilation and Volvulus

The Golden Retriever is a deep-chested breed, making them susceptible to bloat, or gastric dilation and volvulus. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary intervention to save the dog's life. Bloat is caused by a buildup of gases that cause a dog's stomach to inflate. Often, the stomach twists, cutting off blood circulation to the stomach and blocking escape of the forming gases.

While the exact cause of gastric dilation and volvulus is unclear, the risk can be cut considerably by dividing your Golden Retriever's daily ration into two or three meals per day, rather than feeding one large meal. The risk also is cut by avoiding strenuous exercise within an hour before and after the meal; avoiding use of elevated food dishes, and by moistening your dog's food. Give your dog constant access to plenty of fresh, clear water.


Golden Retrievers love to eat, but an overweight golden retriever can suffer a variety of health problems, including cancer, diabetes, and orthopedic problems. This breed is prone to elbow and hip dysplasia and joint disease, all of which can be worsened by obesity. You should be able to feel the outlines of your dog's ribs without searching through a layer of fat. If you can't, your Golden Retriever is overweight. Consult your veterinarian about diets. Your veterinarian may recommend a diet food, which contains fewer calories and more fiber to allow your dog to feel full.

It's a good idea to weigh your dog monthly, using a pet or baby scale.

Unexplained Weight Changes

If your Golden Retriever rapidly gains weight with no diet or exercise change, take your dog to the vet for a checkup. Golden Retrievers are prone to hypothyroidism, which can cause weight gain and requires veterinary care.

If you notice that your Golden Retriever is inexplicably losing weight, watch your dog eat. Some Golden Retrievers develop swallowing problems due to an enlarged esophagus or a condition known as cricopharyngeal dysfunction, according to the Golden Retriever Club of America. Kidney disease, which also occurs in this breed, also causes weight loss. These are genetic conditions that require surgical intervention. Take your dog to a veterinarian for diagnosis.

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