Should My Golden Retriever Eat Grain-Free? It Depends

By Britt Kascjak

Whether your Golden Retriever should eat grain-free foods depends on the ingredients list. Some grain-free foods are highly recommended by the veterinary community. But, others have been associated with heart problems. Avoid foods with non-soy legumes and pulses.

Is it Safe to Feed My Golden Retriever a Grain-Free Diet?

Have you stopped to consider what wolves eat in the wild and wondered if your Golden Retriever should be eating grains? Are you interested in feeding your Golden Retriever grain-free food but worried about whether it’s safe?

There is so much discussion and debate surrounding grain-free foods, and which (if any) is the best grain free dog food for Golden Retrievers.

This includes not only opinions but also scientific studies and official inquiries. It leaves many Golden Retriever owners wondering how to make the best choice for their dogs.

But, the truth is that there is more to consider than whether a food is grain-free or not.

Are Grains Good or Bad for Golden Retrievers?

The concerns about feeding grain-free dog foods first started with a report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In it, they revealed a possible link between grain-free foods and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

DCM is a disease that causes a dog’s heart muscles to become enlarged.

This causes the chambers to be dilated, makes it harder for the heart to pump, and can cause the heart valves to leak.

If the condition is caught early, DCM can sometimes be treated. But, for many dogs, it leads to a buildup of fluids and congestive heart failure.

Since releasing the report, the FDA has released an update.

They have received reports of DCM connected to both grain-free and grain-containing foods. But, most of the foods mentioned had one thing in common. They contained peas and legumes.

With this information, many experts are now saying to read the label carefully.

Peas and legumes offer some great health benefits. But, eating too much could be the cause of the non-hereditary DCM cases the FDA is still studying.

The exact cause of DCM in dogs on these diets is still under investigation. It could be high levels of these ingredients or the lack of much-needed carbohydrates.

But, many experts are advising to avoid high levels of peas and legumes until more is known.

Should Golden Retrievers Be On a Grain-Free Diet?

There is much discussion in the pet community about grain-free diets. It is often suggested that feeding your Golden Retriever no grains is healthier.

Those who support this stance point to wild dogs like wolves eating a carnivorous diet.

But, the truth is that there is currently no medical proof that grain-free is better for your Golden Retriever’s health. Most pets can eat grains with no problem.

Grains may even offer some important health benefits. Carbohydrates help to provide the body with energy. They also help to support the central nervous system and digestive system.

Of course, some golden retrievers will experience a grain allergy or intolerance. In these situations, a grain-free diet is important for your dog’s unique needs.

If you are unsure whether your dog should be on a grain-free diet, contact your veterinarian.

Discuss your concerns and the options that you are considering. They will be able to provide you with some insight and quality food recommendations.

What Grains Should Golden Retrievers Avoid? 

Like most food groups, there are good grains and there are those that aren’t as good.

A healthy Golden Retriever with no underlying medical issues doesn’t have to avoid peas and legumes. But, you should avoid feeding these ingredients in high quantities.

This is why many experts are now recommending foods without the following ingredients (or with limited amounts):

  • Pea flour
  • Pea protein
  • Pea fiber
  • Whole peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Lentils

Final Thoughts: Should My Golden Retriever Eat Grain-Free?

So should your Golden Retriever eat grain-free? The answer is that it depends.

If you have a healthy dog with no food allergies or intolerances, a grain-free diet is not necessary. But, you should check for the quality of the grains in the ingredients list.

Whether you’re buying store bought or making your Golden Retriever homemade food, Stick with food that contains healthy grains like oats, whole wheat, barley, or brown rice.

For dogs that do have a grain allergy, seek foods without a high concentration of peas and legumes. Many companies are now releasing pea-free formulas with this new information in mind.

Most importantly, make sure that your Golden Retriever is fed a high-quality, balanced diet.

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Britt Kascjak
Britt Kascjak has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. Her ‘pack’ includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx.