We, as humans, very often forget that just as we are individuals, so are dogs. Each breed differs, and each dog within that breed differs. So, to ask what is the best dog food for Labs is a little too generic. Having said that, there are certain requirements that are essential to every dog; and there are certain requirements that are specific to Labradors. There is also a huge difference between what to feed a puppy and what you feed an adult dog.
We have taken the liberty of reviewing five popular dry dog foods from across the spectrum to help you decide what is the best dog food for Labs.
Essential ingredients for the correct development of every dog
Every dog, be they a Fox Terrier or a Great Dane, requires the following foodstuffs, in the correct proportions.
Best Dog Food For Labs Should Contain:
- Protein – should be from a reliable source, albeit be it venison, fish, lamb, beef or chicken.
- Fat – is derived from the rendering of animal fat, and should be in the correct proportion.
- Carbohydrates – should be derived from root vegetables, such as sweet potato, and not grain.
- Vitamins and Minerals – are derived from vegetables, such as carrots and peas, or added as a supplement, such as calcium and phosphorus.
A lot of dogs, not only Labradors, can be allergic to grain. That is why it is not a good idea to purchase the cheaper dog foods, as they have a higher proportion of grain in the dog food, hence the lower price. Dogs find it difficult to digest grain, which is another good reason why not to buy the cheaper dog foods, but to get the best dog food for Labs.
Best Dog Food For Labs 2017
#1. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food
(Editor’s Choice: Best Dog Food For Labs)
The Wellness Core Dry Dog Food is breed specific and offers seven different recipes in its range. The main protein components are sourced chiefly from chicken and turkey although the peas and flaxseed it contains add extra protein. The first three main ingredients are chicken, chicken meal and turkey meal. The protein in the turkey and chicken meal is 300% more concentrated than regular chicken meat. We must also not forget that chicken is 80% moisture, so that very little is left after cooking. Having said that, this dog food is high in protein content at 38%.
The next four ingredients are potato, peas, tomato pomace and ground dried potato, which provide much of the carbohydrate content. Although potatoes and peas provide an excellent source of gluten-free, digestible carbohydrates, the peas and ground dried potatoes also contain protein, which might affect the ratios. There are also a number of other vegetables, such as broccoli and sweet potato, as well fruit in the form of apples and blueberries.
The fat content is provided by flaxseed and rendered chicken fat. The flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and the chicken fat is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. The rest of the long list of ingredients are of minute proportions and are not worth discussing here, unless they are nutritional supplements, of which this recipe abounds. These include vitamins A, B12, C, D3 and E, as well as a number of minerals including zinc, iron, and manganese amongst others.
This food contains green tea extract and rosemary extract, as well as lactobacillus acidophilus, which have been shown to help in combating infections.
One of the interesting ingredients is chicory root which contains inulin. Inulin is an excellent probiotic, helping to maintain healthy bacteria in the dog’s digestive tract; but is also an excellent source of soluble dietary fiber. The manufacturers insist that there are no artificial colors, preservatives or artificial flavors in any of their dog food. The range is manufactured in America and is grain free.
In conclusion, Wellness Core Dry Dog Food is one of the best dog foods for labs, with a high protein content and an acceptable fat to protein ratio of 44% which makes it excellent for Labradors.
#2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Dry Adult Dog Food
(Best Dog Food For Labs w/ Buffalo)
Proudly American, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Dog Food For Labs products bases its marketing strategy on the belief that the ingredients in their recipes, namely bison, beef, venison, and lamb, are what early dogs and their present day descendants would be most like to eat. Whether this is true or not is of little concern. What is important is that the ingredients mentioned above are all high in protein, and in the case of bison and venison, low in fat content. Also, it’s the best dog food for labs containing Bufallo.
The main sources of animal protein in this recipe are deboned beef and chicken meal (the first two ingredients). As mentioned previously, chicken meal is made from the rendered parts of the chicken left over after slaughter and is a very highly concentrated source of protein, in fact, 300% more concentrated than raw meat.
The third ingredient is tapioca starch, which is a good source of carbohydrates and is manufactured from the cassava plant. Turkey meal is the fourth ingredient and has the same benefit as chicken meal. Then we get peas and potatoes, which are in themselves good sources of carbohydrates, with peas having the added benefit of 27% protein. Both are good sources of fiber.
The chief sources of fat in this recipe, besides the meat content, are chicken fat and flaxseed, both rich in 0mega-3 and 0mega-6 fatty acids. Most of the flavor is provided by deboned bison, deboned lamb and deboned venison, which are the 11th, 12th, and 13th ingredients. This makes their contribution to the protein mass negligible, but most certainly adds flavor.
The chief vegetables are potatoes, peas, carrots, spinach, and pumpkin. This recipe also contains the manufacturers’ propriety “LifeSource Bits” in which the vitamins and minerals are fused to the protein, instead of merely adding them to the recipe, which makes the vitamins and minerals more easily digestible for the dog.
The LifeSource Bits contain
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Beta Carotene
- Vitamin A
- Barley Grass
- Vitamin C
The above ingredients are an excellent source of anti-oxidants and help to boost the dog’s immune system. According to the manufacturer, the LifeSource Bits are “cold-formed.” When heat is applied in the manufacturing process, it can eliminate some of the potency of vitamins, minerals, certain enzymes, and anti-oxidants. With this cold-formed process, much of that loss has been eliminated. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe contains eight water soluble vitamins that derive the maximum benefit from this process:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Folic Acid B9
- Niacin B3
- Biotin B7
- Pantothenic Acid B5
Overall, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain range is an above average protein- based dry dog food with a protein content of 30% and a fat content of 15% and is considered by some to be a good alternative to a raw food diet.
#3. EUKANUBA Breed – Specific Adult Dry Dog Food For Labs
(Best Value For Money Dog Food For Labs)
The main source of protein in this formula is chicken. As with other foods, the chicken has been cooked down and concentrated.
The second, and probably predominant ingredient (after the weight loss resulting from cooking the chicken), is corn meal. Dogs find it difficult to digest grain, and grain can lead to allergies in certain dogs. The predominance of cornmeal makes this dog food recipe grain-based and not protein-based. Grain also has little nutritional value for dogs.
The third ingredient is sorghum, another starchy cereal grain that has the same characteristics as corn and is not a preferred ingredient in dry dog food formulas. Sorghum is, however, gluten free, and as such, is not as objectionable as corn.
Chicken by-product meal is the fourth ingredient, and is made from the dry rendering of all the parts of the chicken, left over after the meaty cuts have been removed. It, therefore, contains the organs, which are the nourishing parts, as well as the feet and beaks, which are not so nourishing. Protein meals are, however, very concentrated and a good source of protein.
There are a few other ingredients worth noting:
Brewer’s rice is a by-product of cereal grain and as such has very little nutritional value, and must be viewed as inexpensive filler.
Beet pulp is a by-product of sugar beet processing, and, like tomato pomace, is somewhat controversial, with some maintaining it is merely cheap filler and others praising its intestinal and blood sugar benefits.
Fish meal is a protein concentrate, and as such adds valuable protein to the recipe, but the source of the fish meal is not specified. The manufacturers also do not state categorically that there is no ethoxyquin, which is normally used as a protein preservative; but has been known to have side effects in dogs.
Dried egg by-product is a good source of protein, and quite acceptable to add to dog food formulas.
The chief sources of fat are fish oil and chicken fat
Brewers dried yeast is rich in protein, and other nutritional ingredients and many dog owners believe it helps in combating fleas and boosting the immune system, while other dog owners state that it causes allergies. It is a very small component of this recipe and as such is probably not very critical.
There is no mention of probiotics in the ingredient list.
EUKANUBA is an average grain-based dry dog food with a protein content of 26%, a fat content of 14% and carbohydrate content of 52%.
#4. Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Labrador Retriever Dog Food
(Best Labrador Retriever Specific Dry Dog Food)
The sole source of animal protein in this formula is chicken meal, which as mentioned earlier, is a much more concentrated source of protein (300%more) than the raw animal. But as this is the only source of animal protein, this recipe must be viewed as a grain-based dry dog food, and would therefore not be recommended as an efficient maintenance recipe. It would have all the attendant problems associated with grain for dogs. Dogs find it difficult to digest grain because of their short digestive tract, and grain has been known to cause allergies in dogs.
The second ingredient is brown rice, which is fairly digestible once cooked but has very little nutritional value for dogs.
The next two main grain ingredients are oatmeal and corn gluten meal. Like brown rice, oatmeal is a quality grain, but unfortunately, corn gluten meal is a poor-quality ingredient in dog food. Although corn gluten meal is 60% protein, it doesn’t have the same nutritional value as meat protein and has been linked to allergies in dogs.
As mentioned earlier in these reviews, beet pulp is rather controversial, with some people saying it is merely inexpensive filler, while others maintain that it assists in intestinal health. Yet others, rather disdainfully, regard beet pulp as a medium to slow down the transition of rancid animal fats and say it could cause liver and kidney problems.
The main fat content is supplied by chicken fat and anchovy oil.
This recipe contains fructooligosaccharide, which is an artificial sweetener, and a prebiotic which assists in the maintenance of healthy bacteria in the large intestine.
The formula contains various added vitamins, such as A, C E and B12 and minerals like Copper, Manganese, and Calcium.
Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Labrador Retriever Adult dry dog food is an average grain-based dry dog food, with a protein content of 29% and a fat content of 16%, with a fat to protein ratio of 59%
#5. Taste of the Wild Canine Formula Dog Food
(Best Non Breed Specific Dog Food For Labs)
Taste of the Wild has six different products that are not breed-specific, but are more or less the same formula, just with different sources of protein. The marketing blurb states that the manufacturers try and mimic what the dog’s ancestors would have eaten in the wild. This review will be for the High Prairie Roasted Bison and Roasted Venison formula.
The top 5 ingredients are:
Buffalo – Buffalo is a lean meat with less fat and more protein content than beef and therefore compares very favorably with beef. Bison is a complete protein in that it has all the necessary amino acids that your dog requires for correct nutrition. Bison is also a good source of zinc and iron.
Lamb – Lamb meal is used in this recipe, rather than the meat itself. As mentioned earlier the meal is 300% more concentrated than the whole meat. Lamb has often been recommended for dogs with allergies, so it comes as no surprise that lamb is used so frequently in modern natural dog foods.
Chicken meal – Chicken gets rendered (partly cooked) to reduce the water content to 10%. This then becomes chicken meal, and as mentioned earlier, has 300% more protein than the raw meat
Sweet Potato – Dogs don’t need the same amount of carbohydrates as humans do, and the food they eat passes through their digestive systems much faster than our food passes through our systems. Dogs have shorter intestinal tracts than humans, and the dog’s digestive system doesn’t have the time to break down complex carbohydrates. Dogs do, however, still need some form of carbohydrate for energy. It is virtually impossible nowadays to get dog food that doesn’t contain some form of carbohydrate. Sweet potato contains a good measure of dietary fiber, as well as Vitamin A and C, iron, beta carotene, and calcium.
Peas – Peas have a protein content of between 23 and 27%. They are an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6, C and K as well as Phosphorus, Copper, Thiamine and Manganese.
There are a number of other ingredients worth noticing in the Roasted Bison and Roasted Venison recipe, namely canola oil, egg product, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal and other fruits and vegetables such as blueberries and raspberries. Canola oil is derived from the rapeseed plant. It is very rich in 0mega-3 and 0mega-6 fatty acids and is a highly valued source of energy. Eggs are also a reliable source of protein, and it comes as no surprise to find egg products in many different dog foods.
The manufacturers are adamant that they source their protein from suppliers that don’t use ethoxyquin as a preservative, but only natural preservatives. They also insist that the products used in their recipes are hormone and antibiotic free. Tomato pomace is somewhat of a controversial ingredient as some view it as very nutritious, while others see it as merely a source of fiber and as filler.
There are a number of fermentation ingredients, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, which are excellent pre-and-probiotics. These probiotics help to maintain the natural bacteria in the digestive tract to aid assimilation of the necessary foodstuffs. They are also believed to play a role in immunity to disease.
Overall, Taste of the Wild High Prairie recipe has good quality ingredients with a protein content of 32% and a fat content of 18%. It is a little mysterious as to where the fat comes from as canola oil is the only source of fat listed, besides the meat ingredients themselves. The food has been AAFCO tested, so one can only assume that those ratios are correct.
What to Watch Out for When Reading Labels of the Best Dog Food For Labs
Reading labels on any product, let alone dog food, can be a very confusing exercise, but here are a few guidelines to assist you.
The ingredients must be listed in descending order by amount. Meat should be the first ingredient on the list, but if this is chicken, it can be misleading. If the next three ingredients are all grains of various kinds, you add them together and find they actually outweigh the meat.
The first ingredient should always be a specified meat, such as chicken or lamb, and not just “meat,” which might be anything.
High protein products, like eggs, should be third to fifth ingredient, after a specified meat. If there is no other protein listed after meat or the first ingredient is grain, rather look for another product.
Terms such as natural, organic or premium have no legal definition, and therefore cannot be quantified or compared. If you are really interested in the product, contact the company and enquire further to find out exactly what they mean by those terms on their packaging.
Be careful of products listing corn, wheat or soy, and their by-products. Dogs find it difficult to eat to digest corn, and wheat and soy are often allergenic for dogs.
Be very wary of chemical additives and preservatives, which have been found to have adverse effects on dogs. If the manufacturer adds the preservative to the list of ingredients, it means that that manufacturer has added the preservative itself. This does not rule out the presence of preservatives in food such as chicken or fish meal which has already had the preservative added before it arrives at the manufacturer and therefore does not have to be listed on the package.
Look for the legend “AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trials confirm……” This means that the dog food has been tested to specific protocols to make sure that it meets the entire dog’s nutritional needs at whatever their stage of development.
There are some gimmicks that are employed by dog food manufacturers, that, with a bit of common sense, you could easily see are stretching our credibility to the limit.
- Added Glucosamine and Chondroitin. At the average level in most dog foods, these additives are not therapeutic. They are not harmful, just not very nutritional.
- Teeth cleaning formulas. Mostly rubbish as most dogs don’t chew, and, let’s face it, if you eat a cracker, would your teeth be any cleaner?
- Lite and Diet formulas. All this usually means is that the manufacture has used more grain fillers to lower the protein and fat levels. This will result in under-nourishing your dog. Rather reduce the dog’s portion, and mix a vegetable, like beans (fresh, frozen or canned) into the dog food.
If manufactures change their recipes, they have six months before they must change the label. If your dog suddenly starts to develop digestive problems and you haven’t changed your best dog food for labs or done anything else differently, you can almost bet your last dollar that the manufacturer has been revising the recipe.
Feeding Your Labrador with the Best Dog Food
The dog food you buy should have a feeding guideline based on your dog’s weight. If this is a healthy weight, use this guideline. Never “free feed” Labradors. They will become overweight. If your lab needs to lose weight, consult your vet – you don’t want to starve your pet – but you will need to reduce the calorie intake.
Large breed puppies grow very fast. In general, puppies grow two to four times faster than a more mature dog, so in the first six months, the puppy will need extra food to help with all that phenomenal growth. Don’t forget, puppies, particularly Labradors, will eat and eat and eat. It is up to you to regulate their intake to make sure your Labrador doesn’t become overweight.
- Puppies need to eat often but not too much.
- Buy breed formulated and age specific (puppy) commercial best dog food for labs. The breed and age-specific food will have all the extra nutrients and supplements necessary to ensure that your puppy grows slowly enough to develop strong, healthy bones and muscles and so avoid developing bone deformities by growing too quickly.
- Puppies will generally eat three to four times a day. If you’re working, and find this inconvenient, merely take the same amount of food and divide it into two portions instead of four. The puppy still gets the same amount of food.
- After six months you can safely reduce to two meals a day only. You should also consider gradually reducing the amount of food you give.
- At 18 months to 2 years, you can slowly start to switch to adult dog food.
- If the dog leaves food in their bowl, it usually means that you are giving the dog too much food.
Don’t forget that dogs are individuals just as much as humans are, and there is no specific best dog food for labs that will be suitable for every dog of every breed. Be prepared to experiment until you have found one that your dog likes, and that doesn’t cause digestive problems.
Best Commercial Dog Food For Labs
Commercial dog food is easy and convenient to purchase and prepare. Commercial dog food is generally backed by research, and the manufacturer bases their reputation on the quality of the food they produce, so they are not likely to jeopardize their commercial survival by short-changing their customers. This is particularly true of long established manufacturers. You can always add a half tin of canned food to the commercial dog food. Canned dog food does not have much nutritional value, but it does add taste and dogs simply love it. The better the quality of the dog food, the less you need to fulfill your dog’s dietary requirements, so be careful not to over feed.
Best Raw Food For Labs
Raw dog food is not necessarily bad for your dog, and in fact can be extremely healthy for your dog. Raw food merely requires a lot more money, effort, and research. It should be considered very carefully before you embark on a raw diet for your dog. You have to ensure that you have the correct combination of ingredients, including vitamins and minerals to ensure that your dog is getting all they require for healthy nutrition.
The same applies to vegetarian diets. Dogs do live long, healthy lives on a vegetarian diet, but again, care must be taken to ensure that you are giving your dog all the nutritional elements your dog requires. Do not however, feed your Labrador onions, garlic, grapes and raisins as they could be toxic for your dog. There are now also canned vegetarian meals available, which takes much of the hassle out of the food preparation.
Dogs like routine, so feed your Labrador twice a day at the same times to build up a routine that is convenient for you and your dog.
Highly active dogs need more food, and more protein rich food, than more sedentary dogs. Don’t forget that even dogs of the same age, sex and breed will have different feeding requirements. Through careful experimentation, you will have to determine whether you are feeding your dog too much or too little. Remember, if there is food left in the bowl, remove the bowl. The dog must get accustomed to eating the whole portion at a specific time.
Recommended portion sizes per weight per day will depend on the food itself. Broadly speaking however, most dog foods would use the following portion sizes.
- Under 10 pounds – half a cup
- 10 to 20 pounds – half to one cup
- 20 to 30 pounds – three-quarters of a cup to one and a half cups
- 30 to 40 pounds – one and a half cups to 2 cups
- 40 to 60 pounds – one and a half to two and a half cups
- 60 to 80 pounds – two and a half to three and a half cups
Labradors were first bred in Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada in the 18th and 19th century, probably from a mixture of English, Scottish, and Portuguese working dogs. They were bred primarily for hunting and fowling, which makes them big physical dogs that are used to lots of exercise. Puppies weigh around one pound at birth but reach 75 pounds in adulthood. They are big dogs that require space.
The average lifespan of Labradors is around 12 years, but they have been known to live as long as 19 years. Labradors have an excellent work ethic; they have good temperaments and a superior intelligence. They are excellent swimmers that can withstand prolonged bouts in extremely cold water. Because of their breeding, Labradors make very good working dogs and are used in a variety of capacities such as guide dogs, trackers, sniffers and water rescue dogs, as well as their primary function as hunting and fowling dogs.
Labradors, because of their physical characteristics, are prone to certain ailments, so it’s important to get them the best food for labs. These ailments are comprised of genetic disorders and a tendency to obesity.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- A knee that goes in and out of joint
- Eye problems
- Exercise- induced collapse, which causes weakness, disorientation, and collapse.
- Osteoarthritis is not uncommon in older, and particularly overweight, Labradors.
- Epilepsy, with both mild and severe seizures, has been known to occur in Labradors.
- Ear Infections.
- A specific gene mutation that leads to the Labrador being the dog most likely to suffer from obesity.
The Labrador is missing all or part of the POMC gene, which is very important in the regulation of appetite, as well as the amount of fat stored in the dog’s body. This gene mutation makes it very difficult for the Labrador to stop eating and to control its weight.
It, therefore, becomes critical to watch the Labrador’s weight carefully and to make sure that the dog gets sufficient exercise. It is recommended that Labradors get a half hour walk, twice a day, at the very least. Lab owners must monitor feeding carefully, not allowing their pets to eat as much as they like (even if you’re feeding them with the best food for labs). It has been established through a scientific study that Labradors that were not obese during their lives live at least two years longer.
Specific Requirements for Labradors
Your Labrador will have different nutritional needs, depending on whether he is a puppy or an older dog.
It is obvious that there is a difference between puppies of smaller and larger breeds. A smaller breed puppy will tend to mature quicker than a larger breed puppy like a Labrador and will not need as many calories as the larger breed does. It does not undergo such a startling change in size and weight.
A Labrador puppy will weigh approximately a half a kilogram (a pound) at birth and will weigh in excess of 35kgs (70 pounds) when fully grown. This rapid growth means that the Labrador increases his weight and size 70 times in the course of his development. This increase in weight and size will happen very rapidly, within 18 months to 2 years, and it is, therefore, essential that the young Labrador gets the correct nutritional balance.
There is a very rapid growth of bones and musculature, and one of the biggest dangers for a Labrador puppy is an excess or deficiency of calcium.
An excess of calcium could cause the bones to grow too quickly. Because of the very rapid growth of the bones and muscles, too much calcium can cause bone deformities to develop and could lead to hip and elbow dysplasia. A lack of calcium has its attendant problems. Because of the tendency to over-eat, excess weight in a puppy can cause the developing bones to grow incorrectly.
When your Lab has reached its full size, it would not be necessary to feed the same food as when he was a puppy. To continue to feed your lab puppy food, which is very rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals will tend to make the more adult Lab overweight. It would similarly not be recommended to feed adult dog food to a puppy, as it lacks the essential ingredients for the puppy’s growth.
Caring For your Lab
Labradors are very energetic working dogs. At least half an hour of exercise, twice a day is essential for them. Labradors are very peaceful, good tempered and sociable dogs, but if they don’t get the necessary exercise they will tend to dig, chew or find other ways to burn off excess energy. A bored Labrador is a very unhappy dog. A walk or a game of fetch with a ball will help him to burn off his energy and make him a very contented dog.
Because Labradors are such good-natured dogs, owners tend to think that they don’t need training. All dogs need training to learn basic dog etiquette; this will also go a long way to keeping your Lab mentally disciplined and occupied.
- Labradors shed a lot of hair at particular times of the year. Brushing the dog will ensure that your dog doesn’t leave dog hair on everything they touch.
- Labradors should be bathed every 3 to 4 months.
- Teeth should be brushed regularly to keep dental bacteria under control, and to prevent bad breath.
- If you can hear your Labradors nails clicking on the floor, they are too long. Trim their nails regularly; it helps to keep their paws in good condition.
- Labradors are prone to ear infections, because of their love of water, and their drop ears. Check your Lab’s ears regularly, and clean the ears with a cotton bud every time they have been swimming to help prevent ear infections.
- Start to socialize your Labrador from an early age. They get on well with other people and dogs, but they must be taught manners from an early age.
- When grooming, handle your dog frequently, especially their paws, as dogs are generally very sensitive about their paws. Make grooming a game with rewards, so that they are easier to handle in a social situation or when taking them to the vet.
- Labradors love carrying things in their mouths, and they also love to chew, so make sure that you have a supply of tough, chewy toys for your Labrador to play with.
How to check if Your Dog is Overweight
Your Labrador should have a discernible waist. Look at your dog’s shape from above. If you can’t see the waist, it is probably overweight.
Place your hands on the dog’s back, with your thumbs along the spine, and your fingers spread downwards. You should be able to feel their ribs without seeing them, and without applying too much pressure. If you can’t, your Lab is probably overweight and needs more exercise and less food.
Best Dog Food For Labs In Conclusion
Because of their gene defect, Labradors tend to obesity, so the most important consideration, in any question about dog food, is the quality and quantity of the food you feed your Labrador. Labs love to eat and eat and eat the best dog food for labs they can get their pawns on, and unless you watch their weight carefully they will become overweight and then obese, and that could lead to all sorts of other health related issues.
The better the quality of the food, the less you have to give to achieve the same results in terms of nutrition. Thus, foods that might look more expensive, may actually be cheaper in terms of the nutritional content. Make your choice of dog food carefully, weighing all the options, and I am sure you will arrive at the best dog food for your Lab (Labrador).