Caring for Goldens

Feeding Your Golden


Golden Retrievers, like humans, need a healthy diet. Understanding their nutritional needs can help you keep your dog healthy and active for many years.


Protein is the most important nutrient in a Golden’s diet. Protein is used for growth, antibody production and hormone production. Protein supplies amino acids.  These are crucial to growth and maintenance of strong bones and muscles.

Protein promotes the production of antibodies, or infection fighters. Finally, protein helps to manufacture and maintain healthy levels of enzymes and hormones.

Inadequate amounts of protein impede growth and decrease appetite, causing weight loss. Lack of protein can lead to a decreased ability to fight illness, infections, and disease. Severe lack of protein causes issues with blood formation, swelling and decreased milk production in nursing moms.

Excellent food sources of protein include meat, eggs, fish, milk and cheese.  Other good sources are wheat germ, brewer’s dried yeast, and soybean meals.


Fat is an essential building block of health.  It provides necessary calories for daily energy needs. Fat is also is essential for the delivery of Vitamins A, D, E and K to the proper places.

Fat works with protein to maintain healthy skin and coat development.  Dry, course hair and skin lesions can first indicate a deficiency of fat.


Carbohydrates regulate energy balance serve as excellent source of fiber.  Fiber is essential to meet critical energy requirements, and promotes healthy digestive process.

Without enough carbohydrates, the body converts protein normally reserved for growth into carbs to meet energy needs.


The proper amount of necessary vitamins prevents illness and disease. Vitamins also regulate bodily functions, like growth and fertility.

A healthy diet provides the proper amount and ratio of vitamins.  Ask your veterinarian if you are considering a vitamin supplement. While some vitamins are harmless when given in large quantities, others can be toxic- even fatal. Your vet will guide you in providing the proper supplement, if necessary.


Minerals are another class of powerful nutrients.  Their presence is essentially for healthy body functions. Minerals play an important role in the acid-based balance of a dogÕs body.

Two important minerals are calcium and phosphorous.  They work with vitamin D to develop strong teeth and bones in puppies and maturing dogs.

Phosphorous can be found in a variety of foods, such as meats, cereals, grains and many fruits and vegetables. Adequate amounts of calcium are difficult to get through food alone.  Fewer foods have enough calcium to meet a dog’s nutritional requirements. Your veterinarian will provide you with the proper amount of calcium through supplements.

Trace Elements

Trace elements are needed in very small amounts.  But the small quantities are essential to the health of dogs.
These trace minerals are:

* Cobalt
* Copper
* Iodine
* Magnesium
* Selenium
* Zinc

Usually, a store bought dog food or a well balanced home-made diet, will provide all the trace elements necessary.


While is a vital substance for health.  Water hydrates and maintains the life of every cell of a dog’s body. Golden Retrievers on average are composed of almost 60 percent water.

A dog’s body does not store water well.  This means dogs need a clean supply close by at all times. Because the negative effects of dehydration are felt quickly, be sure to provide water at all times.

When travelling, a dog should have the chance to drink three times a day, minimum.

Take care to avoid offering your dog a lot of cold water after a strenuous exercise because this may cause water intoxication.

Commercial foods vs Homemade

Higher quality commercial dog foods begin with higher quality ingredients. Many of these better brands use meats and other ingredients that hold up to human quality standards. They also contain few, if any, additives.  They are also nutritionally balanced and dense. Which makes them more digestible.  Golden Retrievers can use a large percentage of the nutrients of these foods and eliminate his waste with smaller stools.

Lower end dog foods not only lack flavoring and sometimes taste but usually use less meat and protein sources overall.

Types of Commercial Food: Dry

Dry food is the least expensive method of feeding your Golden Retriever Ð and the most convenient. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and is easy to store in an airtight container. It should be used before the expiration date on the bag.

Dry food-fed dogs have cleaner teeth than those fed other forms of food.  The dry bits of food actually scrape the tartar from the teeth while they’re eating.

Dogs who eat high quality dry food also have smaller and firmer stools. A Golden is able to use more of the nutrients in the food, which helps him be healthy.

Semi-Moist Food?

Semi-moist food is soft, kibble-like chunks of food. This type of food costs more than dry. It produces softer, larger stools, stick to dogsÕ teeth, providing a breeding ground for bacteria. Most of these brands contain unnecessary chemicals and additives.

Special Formula Dog Food

These various mixtures are offered to dogs with special nutritional needs-puppies, older dogs, more active dogs, even dogs with weight problems.
Mostly, these formulas are merely variations of regular adult maintenance food. There is no scientific evidence that foods made for the elderly dog help to improve his health or his longevity.

Even special puppy food is not necessary. Many of the nation’s finest breeders choose high-quality adult food over the puppy formula. Choosing the adult food keeps the growth rates of the puppies a little slower. Accelerated growth can permanently damage an animal, especially the skeletal system. Which is extremely dangerous in a large breed like the Golden Retriever.

While weight control food may have fewer calories, really there’s no substitute for regular exercise and proper, healthy portion control.

When a Special Formula Is Needed . . .

Some dogs do, however, require a special diet due to allergies to beef, corn, wheat, soy and even poultry.  This is when brands that use an alternative meat source or different grains are essential.

Canines experiencing kidney disease may also require a special diet.

We’ve broadly reviewed the selection of commercial food, now let’s look in your kitchen.

The Home-Fed Golden

Carefully planned and prepared variety of good quality meats, poultry, fish and eggs can provide a healthy diet for your Golden Retriever.

Home-prepared meals can include more protein, possibly in the form of eggs and dairy products, sprinkled with a few vegetables and even some grains.

Home-prepared meals lack the convenience of being prepared, but can provide just as much, if not more nutrition as store bought food.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be balanced every day.  What he does need, though, is the proper balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins and minerals spread out over several days.

A balanced diet is critical for growing puppies.  Without proper nutrition during the first 18 months of life, the skeletal system and organs may suffer permanent damage.

If you are considering a home cooked diet for your Golden, there are plenty of meats to choose from and a sizable selection of vegetables that dogs can eat.  In fact, the Golden Retriever can handle most fruits except for grapes and raisins.

Before you begin, be sure to learn as much as you can through the internet or by reading some good books about the required nutrition for your Golden. Discussing this option with your veterinarian is always a good idea.

Some individuals cook large quantities, then freeze these in serving-size containers which can be thawed for individual meals.  Others prefer to cook daily meals.

The Home (Not Cooked) Food

Another option is to provide an uncooked, or raw diet for your dog. The Bones and Raw Foods diet or the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet includes raw chicken or turkey bones, supplemented by organ meat (liver, kidney, tongue, heart and brain). Green, leafy vegetables are included in the foods as well.

These foods are put through a food processor or a juicer, with vegetable oils, brewer’s yeast, kelp, and fresh and dried fruit. Some owners also use raw goat’s milk, dairy products and grains.

Homemade diets are not only time-consuming to prepare but they also demand detailed planning time.

As with all raw foods, you need to be very careful when handling them.  Bacteria thrive on raw foods.  If you decide to implement this diet, learn all you can about the proper handling of raw foods.

Feeding Schedule

Scheduled feeding vs. grazing gives you plenty of control over your pup’s food intake and his weight.  Scheduled feeding also allows you to keep a watchful eye on your Golden’s health. You can quickly judge, for example, if a lack of an appetite on her part might be an indication of an illness.  Scheduled, regular meals, by contrast, promote regular, timely elimination.

Controlled scheduled feeding helps in overall dog obedience as well.   Treats aren’t that impressive when he has constant access to his food.  If given constant access to food, treats do not provide an incentive.

Young puppies need to eat more often than older puppies and adult dogs do because they have smaller stomachs that don’t hold a lot of food at one time.

Puppies between the ages of seven to 16 weeks typically should be fed  three times throughout the day.  Ideally, these meals should be spaced evenly through the pupÕs waking hours. The last feeding should occur two hours before his bedtime to allow him to eliminate one last time before he goes to sleep.

At about 16 or 17 weeks, meals can be cut to twice a day.  Maintaining regularly scheduled feeding times will ease housetraining.
As he matures into an adult dog he needs even fewer calories than as a growing puppy. At a year, he’ll only need to eat once a day, or may eat smaller meals a little more often.

It is not advisable to leave food out all day for your dog.


Goldens need free access to clean, fresh water.  Allow him to drink all he wants except at night when you’re housetraining him. Also, take care to provide water during walks and playtimes.

– Scott Hall

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