Best Dog Food For Labs
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.
Quick Look at Our Top Pick:
- Best Overall: Farmina N & D Ancestral Low Grain Dry Dog Food
- Best Affordable: Royal Canin Large Breed Dog Food
- Best Puppy Food For Labs: Purina Pro Plan 26/16
- Best For Senior Labs: Eukanuba Large Breed Adult Dog Food
- Best For Allergies: Hill’s Science Diet Adult Large Breed
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In this article we will tell you about the best food for your Labrador Retriever. For quick navigation use the table of contents below:
- 1 Our criteria
- 2 Special considerations for feeding Labrador Retrievers
- 3 Top 5 Best Rated Dog Foods For Labrador Retrievers Reviewed
- 4 Understanding the dietary needs of Labrador Retrievers
- 5 Are there any special nutritional requirements?
- 6 How much should you feed your Lab?
- 7 Do Labs have food allergies or food sensitivities?
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.
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.
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.
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.