While Labrador Retrievers (Labs) are known as one of the best family dogs, they are also known for becoming obese in their adult years. This is one of the many reasons why it's important to find the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers that fits this breed's nutritional requirements.
As a practicing veterinarian, I have seen hundreds of Labrador Retrievers walk through my clinic doors seeking nutrition advice. The Labrador Retriever is a large-breed dog with a stocky body, floppy ears, a paddle-shaped tail and webbed feet. They excel at swimming, short-distance sprints and retrieving. Labs typically live 12 years on average.
These dogs tend to be very high energy dogs throughout their lives and require daily exercise. Labrador Retrievers tend to have extremely big appetites. They can easily become counter surfers, jumping on counter tops in the kitchen for an unsupervised snack or chomping on a discarded apple core on the sidewalk.
Today I'm sharing my recommendations for the best Labrador dog food brands depending on the stage they are at in their lives. I'll get into all of the details below in this article.
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Their healthy appetite can be a blessing and a curse. Many Labs are not picky eaters, so they will typically enjoy any dog food you decide to give them. It's extremely important to talk to your veterinarian about the best dog food for Labs that meet all of their nutritional needs without adding unnecessary calories.
Labradors are one of the easiest breeds to overfeed. I’ve met many that are bottomless pits and will continuously beg for whatever food you can provide. You must pay careful attention to their calorie intake and ensure they're eating a healthy diet.
The Best Dog Food for Labrador Retriever Puppies
Before switching your dog to any new diet, always consult with a veterinarian. Remember that no article on the internet, including this one, can replace a consultation with a vet.
Large-breed puppies, like Labs, are more susceptible to malnutrition and developmental orthopedic disease compared to small-breed pups. Many Lab owners have heard of these diseases- hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis (OCD), panosteitis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD).
While there is a genetic component to these diseases, there are significant nutritional risk factors that play a part during puppyhood. These risk factors are rapid growth and excess dietary calcium intake.
Even moderate overfeeding of Labrador retriever puppies and young adults can result in overweight adults and decreased longevity. It is important to feed them just enough of the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers that provides the perfect nutritional balance for their needs.
Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Breed Health Nutrition Puppy
Large-breed specific puppy foods are a great safeguard to help prevent these issues. When it comes to recommending the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers that are under 15 months of age, I tell pet parents to look for Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Breed Health Nutrition Puppy.
Royal Canin has done all the legwork for us in creating their Labrador retriever-specific puppy food. Labradors are a more slowly maturing breed, and it is recommended to feed this puppy food until 15 months of age. The calorie content and mineral balance are optimal for preventing developmental orthopedic diseases.
Labradors also are notorious for not chewing their food properly. In the veterinary field, we call it “hoovering.” This Royal Canin kibble is specifically designed for optimal digestion in dogs (ahem, Labs) that don’t chew their food.
Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Puppy
I also recommend Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Puppy. Hill’s Science Diet has been a leader in pet nutrition since the early 1900's. Their large-breed puppy formula has been tweaked over the years, but it provides consistent quality nutrition to promote health growth in Labrador Retrievers.
It is fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA, to promote healthy brain, joint and skin development. All Hill’s Science Diet products are made in the USA from North American raw materials.
Ideal Balance Large Breed Puppy
If you are interested in Hill’s naturals line, they now have an Ideal Balance Large Breed Puppy food that is another great fit for the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers in this beginning stage of life. This food is made with natural ingredients with added vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Brown rice is a great source of natural fiber in this diet, which aids in healthy digestion. We all know puppies have a tendency to eat things they shouldn't, so they need all the digestive support they can get.
The Best Dog Food for Adult Labrador Retrievers
If you are looking for the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers that are older than 15 months of age or are transitioning from puppy food to adult food, it is a good idea to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet can help determine your Lab’s current body condition score. With this in hand, you can decide which ‘maintenance’ adult diet is best.
Normal body condition Labrador Retrievers
A great place to start for an active, normal body weight/condition Lab is with Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Breed Health Nutrition Adult. This adult formula is excellent for adults over 15 months of age to 7-8 years of age.
Royal Canin provides the right balance of nutrients to optimize a lean body condition over a lifetime. Just like with the Royal Canin Labrador puppy food, this food also has the optimal shape for digestibility. Labs never grow out of their “Hoover stage”, it seems!
Very Active/Hunting Labrador Retrievers
Is your Lab a competitive dock-diving machine or active hunter? She may need a higher calorie food than your average house dog. In this case, I recommend Native Performance Dog Food.
If your Labrador is training hard, this is the food for her. Native provides different levels of nutrition, from Level 1 “off season, low activity” food to Level 4 for dogs engaging in intense activity 4-5 hours a day.
Low-Active/Couch Potato Labrador Retrievers
Many adult Labradors out there easily become overweight or obese. As Labs age, they can lose a bit of their spunk and settle down into a more sedentary lifestyle. I often have to make recommendations for the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers in this category.
It is important to talk to your vet if your Lab is overweight or has a concurrent health condition, such as atopy, which causes allergic itchy skin. Some foods can target multiple issues.
Generally, I reach for Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic and Mobility when Labradors become a bit too chunky and their owners have come to me for help. This diet is by prescription only, but it works beautifully in middle-aged Labs that can’t seem to shed the pounds. Over time, excess weight can cause predispose Labs to arthritis, so the mobility component will help to keep their joints in top form.
The Best Dog Food for Labs Seniors
Labrador Retrievers are considered “senior” or “geriatric” around 8 years of age. As they age, their nutritional requirements change as well. Joints start to ache and mental function can start to decline.
Active ingredients in my top pick for the best dog food for Labrador Retrievers in their golden years will help your Lab go strong for as long as possible. For senior Labs, I recommend Eukanuba Lamb and Rice Senior Maintenance.
Eukanuba is another high-quality dog food manufacturer with a great track record for quality products and high quality control standards. This food stands out due to its high level of antioxidants, which can help support proper cell function in aging dogs. It has also been proven to reduce tartar buildup on teeth by 46%.