Choosing the right food to feed your puppy, no matter the breed, is one of the most important choices that affects your dog’s health. If you have been around Labradors, then you know they LOVE to eat. You must be careful to feed them the right quantity and quality of food. In this article I will guide you through the process of deciding which is the best puppy food for your lab!
Our picks for the 6 best puppy food brands for labs
- Wellness CORE Dog Food (puppy formula)
- Taste of the Wild
- Hills Science Large Breed Puppy Formula
- Blue Buffalo Large Breed Puppy Dry Food
- Wellness Complete Large Breed Puppy Formula
- CANIDAE Life Stages Dry Dog Food for Puppies
According to Dog Food Advisor the best puppy food should contain:
- Substantial amounts of meat-based protein
- Reasonable fat-to-protein ratios
- Modest carbohydrate content
- No controversial chemical preservatives
- No anonymous meat ingredients
- No artificial coloring agents
- No generic animal fats
Remember that the best food for your puppy is the food they will eat an adequate amount of. With labs this should be no problem as most devour a bowl of food in seconds. Every dog is different though, so if you have specific questions or concerns about your puppy’s diet, ask your vet.
Be sure that any food you buy has an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose. According to PetMd; “The “AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose” also called a “nutrition claim” is a statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance or a combination of these, or if the food does not meet the complete and balanced requirements than it is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.” What that means is that if the food claims to be for puppy stage growth, it will have the minimum necessary amount of ingredients and nutrients a growing puppy needs.
Over-feeding your dog can have many negative affects, some of which include hip dysplasia and skeletal problems. An ideal weight for labs when they are fully grown is around 55 to 80 pounds.
Their bodies go through massive changes in a short period of time when growing from a puppy. If you stress out their supporting bone structure it can have negative effects later in their life. An excess of calcium in their diet can also contribute to these problems since it can cause their bones to develop too rapidly.
It is not advised to feed adult dog food to your puppy. Those foods can have inadequate or excess amounts of nutrients. I also wouldn’t advise giving your puppy human food. Most of it isn’t that good for us, and much worse for a growing puppy. That is also a poor training move, labs in particular can be annoying beggars if you feed them from the table. Like humans, dogs need a properly balanced diet which changes as they age.
With dog food, you get what you pay for in terms of quality. While it’s tempting to save a few bucks and buy the cheap food, do your dog a favor and spend a little bit more for much better quality food. Imagine what your health would be like if you only ate the cheapest food available every day. After all, you want your pup to live a long and healthy life, right?
- How to read the label of your puppy food
- How long should I feed my lab puppy food for?
- How much and how often should I feed my lab puppy?
- Dry food vs wet food
- Our recommendations
How to read the label of your puppy food
Check out this video from Howdini that goes over what to look for when choosing puppy food:
The ingredients are listed by weight, starting with the heaviest. Always look for puppy food whose first ingredient is real meat.
Some pet owners stay away from food that contains the following preservatives; BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin. These preservatives allow dry food to be stored longer before going bad. While the FDA says the levels of these preservatives in dog food is safe, some have questioned that claim.
You might see an ingredient such as chicken meal or lamb meal. These are types of meat concentrates. These are made by cooking the ingredients down in order to reduce the amount of water and increase the concentration of protein. Meat concentrates aren’t innately bad for your puppy, but you should avoid any that also say “by-product” or don’t define what animal the meal is made of.
Avoid food that has the following on the label:
- Meat meal
- Animal meal
- Chicken by-product meal
- Meat and bone meal
- Glandular meal
- Poultry meal
- Blood meal
How long should I feed my lab puppy food for?
Labs reach adult size around 12 to 18 months. Around this time you should switch over to feeding them adult food. They will continue to grow until they are about 2 years old.
Labs should have a sturdy, athletic look to them, without being pudgy or fat. Regulating their food intake is of the utmost importance since labs will eat any food that is left unguarded (sometimes they eat things that aren’t food!). Be sure to store their food in a place that they can’t get to. Using a large sealable plastic container is a good idea, or putting the bag of food on a shelf.
How much and how often should I feed my lab puppy?
Each type of food is different and you should follow the guidelines on the bag. Remember that these are guidelines, if your puppy starts to look thin or fat, adjust the amount and/or frequency you are feeding them. The correct amount of food to give a puppy is different for each one.
As a reference you can check out this feeding amount chart TheLabradorSite put together:
If your dog gets too fat you can easily reduce the amount of food you give them or the number of times per day you feed them. If your dog is too thin and remains thin, you should take them to a vet to get checked on. Dogs can lose weight for various reasons and it’s important to keep an eye on their eating habits and other behaviors.
Labs are a breed known for their massive appetites, so it should be very apparent if your lab puppy has lost interest in food. Changing your dog’s food can confuse them and you should only do this if they are not eating their current food. Always check with your vet if your dog’s eating behavior changes.
Dry food vs wet food
While this can be a matter of debate, I recommend feeding your dog dry food. The choice is up to you, but for the purpose of this article I will discuss the benefits of feeding your dog dry food.
- Dry food tends to have a more balanced amount of nutrients
- Dry food is much easier to store
- Dry food lasts longer than wet food
- Dry food is cheaper than wet food
You can read about the benefits of wet food in this article by PetSmart.
- Grain free, protein-rich
- Nutrient rich with vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin E, vitamin C and vitamin A as well as minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium.
- No wheat, corn, soy or meat by-products
- No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
- Contains Omega 3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Made with real, roasted meat and a blend of protein sources
- Grain-free formula provides digestible energy and excellent nutrition
- Full of vegetables and fruits, great for balanced nutrition as well as antioxidants
- Contains probiotics to help improve digestive health
- Omega 6 & 3 help maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat
- Natural ingredients plus vitamins, minerals and amino acids
- Clinically proven antioxidant benefits
- Supports controlled bone & joint growth
- No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
- Vitamins C & E help support a healthy immune system
- Protein-rich formula
- Precise balance of vitamins and minerals to promote a healthy oxidative balance
- No poultry by-products
- No corn, wheat or soy
- Contains quality protein and grains
- Lots of vegetables and fruits to provide antioxidants
- Live microorganisms for digestive health
- Vitamins A & E to help support a healthy immune system
- No meat by-products
- No wheat, corn or soy
- Optimum protein for nutritionally dense formulas
- No corn, wheat or soy
- Contains probiotics to promote a healthy digestive system
- Contains brown rice, peas and lentils
Labs are known for their large appetites, so you should have no problem finding a brand of puppy food that yours enjoys. My parents have a well behaved and sweet black lab. Even right after she finishes eating she gives you a look as though she hasn’t eaten in days.
Just like with humans, the quality of what a puppy eats has a large influence on their health. Once you find a brand of puppy food that your lab will eat, stick with it. Remember to always observe your dog’s eating habits, body size & weight. If you ever have any questions always check with your vet.
Interested in knowing what to feed your adult Labrador? Click here to read more