Like many other topics relating to food and health, it’s difficult to get objective information about proper diet. Many authors seem intent on bashing large companies and more interested in politics than pet food.
That means anyone interested in finding out the scientific facts about what is and what isn’t good for their Golden Retriever has to do a lot of research. A short article can’t be anything more than another voice in that dialogue.
Selecting the proper food, therefore, will require the exercise of some common sense and a fair amount of diligence. Any extreme claim should be met with skepticism. Avoid being swayed by emotional appeals and horror stories.
Even those opposed to the more popular, commercial dog foods agree on some basics about Golden Retriever diet. As canines, they are by nature carnivores. That means they have evolved to eat meat. All dogs, though (and Goldens in particular), have the capacity to digest some grains and vegetables.
Wolves in the wild will eat not only the muscle meat, but also the internal organs of their prey. In doing so, they’ll ingest what their kill has previously eaten, which is often grasses and vegetables and other plant material. Since Golden Retrievers ultimately are descended from, and closely genetically related to, wolves they have similar capacities.
There is general agreement, then, that Golden Retrievers should have a diet that contains a substantial percentage of meat proteins with a minimum of grains. And this is just what one finds in most commercial dog food, both wet and dry.
Ingredients on both cans and bags are listed in order of percentage of the total, even though the percentages themselves are rarely listed.
A kibble (dry dog food) that shows chicken or lamb meal will generally be in the range of 20-30% meat protein, in a form that has been dehydrated. To that has been added preservatives, sometimes Vitamin E (tocopherol), in order to keep the kibble from spoiling during the long period it is in the bag. Meat (in some form) should be first on the list.
Next is often a form of rice. Some will use an inexpensive form called Brewer’s Rice. Those are the small, milled fragments of rice kernels. These become separated from the larger kernels during the milling process. But ground rice is preferred, since it’s of higher quality.
Many commercial dry pet foods will have some corn or wheat gluten meal or even wheat flour. Some Goldens are sensitive to this, as evidenced by excessive paw licking or face scratching on the carpet or grass. They may bite the parts of their back and legs they can reach.
A certain amount of that behavior may be seen no matter what diet they’re fed. Like any animal, they can have an itch that is not an allergic reaction. But, sensitive or not, these ingredients should comprise a relatively small proportion of the total.
Corn gluten meal in particular should be kept low. It’s a plant protein that is added in order to slow down the chemical activity of certain fats. It is created from the dried residue of corn after the removal of the starch and germ.
Meat byproducts are often listed among the ingredients. These are the parts of chickens, lamb or cows that are not used for other purposes. Certain foods may contain parts of the neck, feet or even beaks or intestines. Avoid foods that list these as ingredients.
Though the controversy over what to feed your Golden Retriever isn’t going to go away soon, you can still feed your dog without fear. Observe the thousands of dogs that are healthy who are fed popular commercial dog foods. Though the food could no doubt be improved, this is strong evidence they are not harmful. Millions of dogs eat them and live long, happy lives.