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The 6 Best Dog Foods For Labs

Dog Breeds Dog Food Nutrition March 24, 2020
labrador
David

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The 6 Best Dog Foods For Labs

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labrador

The most popular dog breed in the United States, Canada, and many other countries around the world is the Labrador Retriever. Family-friendly, super intelligent, active, outgoing, and affectionate, the Lab is medium-large in size. Colors are black, chocolate, or yellow.

At a Glance: Best Dog Food For Labs to Buy

In this article we will tell you about the best food for your Labrador Retriever. For quick navigation use the table of contents below:

Our criteria

Recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put out a warning  about dog foods containing peas, legumes, lentils, and root vegetables such as potatoes.

These are the alternative ingredients that are often used in grain-free dog foods. An unusually high number of dogs eating grain-free foods have been reported to have dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a serious heart problem.

Many of these dogs have also been found to have low levels of the amino acid taurine. DCM is a genetic condition in a few breeds but it is now being identified as a possibly diet-related problem.

The FDA is working with veterinary cardiologists and dog owners to research this problem.

In the mean time, it is recommended that owners steer clear of foods that contain these ingredients in large amounts.

Large amounts can be identified when one of the problematic ingredients appears as one of the first five on the product’s ingredient list. We have used this criteria in choosing foods for Labrador Retrievers.

Other criteria we have used to select dog food for Labs:

  • The food has research to back up claimed formulas.
  • The company has qualified veterinary nutritionists formulating their foods.
  • The company has rigorous quality control.
  • The food avoids the use of exotic ingredients because they can be hard to work with and lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Special considerations for feeding Labrador Retrievers

All dogs need good quality protein in their diets. Ideally, most of this protein will come from good sources of animal proteins such as meat, fish, and poultry.

Adult dogs need a minimum of 18 percent protein in their diet . If your Lab is very active or engaging in serious work such as hunting, he would need more protein.

Labrador Retrievers are generally a healthy breed and they like to eat. According to one wit, a Lab never met a meal he didn’t like.

If a Lab doesn’t eat, he’s probably sick. They are usually easy to maintain if you feed them a good quality dog food.

For this reason, it’s not unusual to find older Labs and even some young Labs that are overweight.

One of the special considerations for feeding your Labrador Retriever is watching his weight.

Research shows that overweight and obese dogs can live as much as two years less than dogs that stay at a healthy weight.

Overweight dogs can suffer from many health problems such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illness, and other problems that are made worse by being overweight.

Keep in mind that dogs that are spayed or neutered generally have a slower metabolism, so they will be more likely to gain weight eating the same food portions as normal dogs.

We suggest that you choose a good dog food that is not too high in fat. Adult dogs need a minimum of 5 percent fat in their diets, but virtually all dog foods have much higher fat contents.

If your dog is very active or engaging in sports, he can have more fat in his diet. If he’s a couch potato, the extra fat and calories will simply add pounds.

Editor’s Note

We recommend that you measure your Lab’s food portions so he doesn’t overeat. Free feeding – leaving food sitting out all the time – is a sure way to encourage your dog to put on too many pounds. A Labrador Retriever will keep eating as long as there is food.

You should also watch how many treats you give your Lab. Treats should not make up more than 10-15 percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake.

Some treats contain far more calories than you might imagine, so go easy with them.

Top 5 Best Rated Dog Foods For Labrador Retrievers Reviewed

All of the foods suggested here have scored good results when testing dogs for taurine levels, and when performing echocardiograms for diagnosing dilated cardiomyopathy.

They are made by bigger companies that have veterinary nutritionists on staff, and which perform rigorous quality control. These foods are grain-inclusive.

Farmina N & D Ancestral Low Grain Dry Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 28% Min
  • Fat – 18% Min
  • Fiber – 2.9% Max
  • Moisture– 9% Max
  • Caloric Content: 395 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • 92 percent of the protein comes from animal source.
  • 60 percent animal ingredients.
  • Farmina makes foods with quinoa, in case your dog has allergies or food sensitivities.

Cons:

  • The fish formulas have a very strong odor.
  • Farmina uses spelt in their foods which is a sub-species of wheat; this could be a problem for dogs with wheat allergies.

First 5 Ingredients: Fresh Grass Fed Lamb, dehydrated lamb meat (source of glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate), whole spelt, whole oats, dried whole eggs


Our top pick for the best food to feed your Labrador Retriever is Farmina N & D Ancestral Low Grain Dry Dog Food.

We particularly like the cod formula, but all of the low grain formulas are very good as well. This food is made in Italy and the company works with the Chair of Animal Nutrition at the University of Naples to formulate this food.

It is comprised of 60 percent high quality animal ingredients, 20 percent organic spelt and organic oats, and 20 percent vegetables, fruits, vitamins, and minerals.

Farmina has become especially popular in the United States recently, because of the warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration linking grain-free dog foods and dilated cardiomyopathy (a serious heart problem) in dogs.

Farmina ancestral low grain dog foods are one of the brands that have been performing very well when dog taurine levels were tested.

2. Ollie Dog Food Healthy Turkey Feast Recipe

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 44% Min
  • Fat – 28% Min
  • Fiber –8% Max
  • Moisture– 75% Max
  • Caloric Content: 1,390 kcal/kg

Pros:

  • Real ground turkey as main ingredient
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Rich in omega fatty acids for skin and coat

Cons:

  • May be too high in fiber for some Bullmastiff dogs
  • Grain-free recipe

First 5 Ingredients: Turkey breast, turkey liver, kale, carrots, lentils


Made with human-grade ingredients and delivered fresh to your door, Ollie pet food is an excellent source of balanced nutrition for your Labrador Retriever.

This Healthy Turkey Feast features ground turkey as a novel source of protein unlikely to trigger food allergies and, while it is a grain-free recipe, it only contains one carbohydrate ingredient high in plant proteins (lentils).

Overall, this recipe is loaded with fresh fruits and veggies, omega fatty acids, and beneficial supplements.

It will provide your Labrador Retriever with plenty of protein to maintain lean muscle mass with omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, and lots of fiber for healthy digestion.

Royal Canin Large Breed Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 24% Min
  • Fat – 15% Min
  • Fiber – 3.3% Max
  • Moisture– 10% Max
  • Caloric Content: 397 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Maintains digestive system health.
  • Supports bone and joint health.
  • Supports skin health.

Cons:

  • This product contains corn, wheat, and chicken by-product meal which sensitive dogs may not like.

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Wheat, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat


Royal Canin Large Breed Dog food provides joint support for big dogs. It also helps keep dogs at a healthy weight. This is an all-life stage formula so you can also feed it to growing large breed puppies. It’s designed for dogs that will reach between 56 and 99 pounds as adults. Royal Canin also has a formula for adult Labrador Retrievers  and a puppy formula that is made specifically for Labrador Retriever puppies.

All of these foods would be good choices for your Lab.

Purina Pro Plan 26/16

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 26% Min
  • Fat – 16% Min
  • Fiber – 3% Max
  • Moisture– 12% Max
  • Caloric Content: 360 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Purina employs veterinary nutritionists to formulate their foods.
  • The company has outstanding quality control measures.

Cons:

  • This food contains wheat, corn, and animal ingredients that some dogs may be sensitive to.
  • Some people do not like the Purina company or any of its products.

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Brewer’s Rice, Whole Grain Wheat, Poultry By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Corn.


Purina Pro Plan  Sport All Life Stages Active 26/16 formula is designed for active dogs. It doesn’t have as much fat or as many calories as the 30/20 formula but it provides more than enough energy for house dogs to run and play. It has high quality protein with chicken as the first ingredient to maintain lean muscle and keep your dog in ideal condition.

High quality sources of carbohydrates provide good energy. Rich antioxidants support a healthy immune system. The formula is easily digestible so your dog gets all of the nutrients he needs. Suitable for growing puppies, adults, and senior dogs.

Eukanuba Large Breed Adult Dog Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 23% Min
  • Fat – 16% Min
  • Fiber – 5% Max
  • Moisture– 10% Max
  • Caloric Content: 325 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Eukanuba foods are formulated by veterinary nutritionists.
  • The company’s facilities have superior quality control.

Cons:

  • This food contains corn and chicken by-product meal which some dogs may be sensitive to.

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal (Source of Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine), Ground Whole Grain Barley.


Eukanuba Large Breed Adult Dog Food is a maintenance formula that’s suitable for adult dogs. Chicken is the first ingredient.

The food also contains Eukanuba’s patented 3D DentaDefense System which has been proven to reduce tartar build-up after 28 days. (You can find Eukanuba’s research into dog dental care online.)

The food also has a specialized fiber content made from natural beet pulp and prebiotic FOS (a natural sugar) that promotes nutrient absorption and healthy digestion.

It also contains naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support. This food has no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or added gluten.

Hill's Science Diet Adult Large Breed

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 21% Min
  • Fat – 12.5% Min
  • Fiber – 3% Max
  • Moisture– 10% Max
  • Caloric Content: 363 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Formulated by veterinary nutritionists.
  • Made at the company’s facilities in the U.S.
  • The company has strict standards that exceed industry standards.

Cons:

  • The food contains corn and wheat which some people will not like.

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Corn.


Hill’s Science Diet Adult Large Breed dog food is a maintenance food. It’s suitable for adult dogs. Chicken is the first ingredient. It has balanced nutrition with natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint and mobility support.

It has clinically-proven antioxidant benefits. And it has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Plus, it’s easy for your dog to digest. Recommended for big dogs between 1 and 5 years of age that weigh between 55 and 110 pounds.

Understanding the dietary needs of Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers can be very active dogs, especially when they are young.

Your young dog will need plenty of calories, especially if you do things together such as agility, rally, or hunting.

As they get older, Labs tend to slow down. Since they are a breed that likes food, they tend to put on weight very easily.

You may need to cut back on your dog’s portions slightly as he gets older. Or, alternatively, as your dog ages, you might consider changing foods to one made for a mature adult.

These foods are made with slightly fewer calories.

You can help your Labrador Retriever stay fit all his life if you keep him engaged in exercise.

Daily walks and taking him out for regular runs can be fun for both of you. This kind of exercise is great for your dog even as he gets older

Are there any special nutritional requirements?

Labrador Retriever puppies can have special nutritional requirements.

Since this is a medium-large breed, it’s a good idea to feed these puppies a food that is formulated for a large breed.

These foods encourage slow, steady growth. They typically have slightly fewer calories than other puppy foods.

They also have the correct calcium and phosphorus amounts for a large breed puppy.

Feeding a large breed puppy correctly when he’s young can help him avoid problems like hip dysplasia when he’s older.

Keeping a Lab puppy slim instead of allowing him to become fat will also help him avoid bone diseases later.

As long as you are feeding a food that is complete and balanced, you should not have to add any supplements or nutrients to your Lab puppy’s food.

How much should you feed your Lab?

Most adult Labrador Retrievers need between 20 and 30 calories per day, per pound. So, if your Lab weighs 60 pounds, you should probably be feeding him or her about 1500 calories per day.

You can divide these calories up into a couple of meals – one in the morning and one in the evening.

Kibble varies in calories but most kibble is about 350 calories per cup.

That’s only an estimate. Some kibble can have just 270 calories per up and other kibble can have nearly 500 calories per cup.

You can usually find the calorie information on the bag. If not, check the company web site.

Instead of figuring calories, many people prefer to follow the feeding suggestions provided on the label  of the dog food bag.

These suggestions are based on the calories in the dog food. You can adjust the amount if you see your dog gaining or losing weight.

For a healthy Labrador Retriever, you should be able to feel but not see his ribs.

He should have a “tuck  up” or waist behind his ribs. He should have good energy and clear eyes. His skin and coat should be in good condition.

If you are changing your dog’s food, remember to make changes gradually so you won’t upset your dog’s stomach. And, of course, keep fresh water available at all times.

Labrador Retrievers are usually very easy to maintain. If your dog is losing weight and you haven’t changed his portions, talk to your veterinarian.

Do Labs have food allergies or food sensitivities?

Most Labrador Retrievers do not have problems with skin allergies, including food allergies or food sensitivities.

Of course, if your dog has allergies or food sensitivities, then it probably seems like that’s all you notice. If your dog does seem to have a food allergy or food sensitivity, we recommend working with your veterinarian to identify his food triggers.

That’s usually faster and less expensive, in the long run, than trying to figure it out yourself.

You and your vet can put your dog on an elimination diet to find out which ingredient(s) are causing problems.

Once you have identified the problem ingredients, you can find a food that will hopefully work for your dog.

If you do need to feed a prescription dog food, several companies make genuine hypoallergenic diets.

 

David

David was a dog trainer for 7 years before joining the Pupjunkies.com team. he still does it part-time. When he's not working he loves going to the park with his two Jack Russell Terrier's Joe and Bells.
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