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The Labrador Retriever is consistently ranked as the most popular dog breed in the United States according to AKC registration statistics. Not only are these dogs talented water retrievers and hunting dogs, but they make great family pets as well. This happy-go-lucky breed has an excitement for life and they are always ready to play or to curl up on the couch and cuddle with their owner. The Labrador Retriever is also a very intelligent breed that responds very well to training – they also excel at a variety of dog sports! If you are looking for a fun and versatile dog breed that will always keep you on your toes, consider the Labrador Retriever.

Labrador Retrievers are considered a large-breed dog and their big personalities match their physical size. This breed stands between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall and weighs between 55 and 80 pounds at maturity, though some Labs have been known to be larger. These dogs have an average lifespan around 10 to 13 years which is typical for a breed of its size. Unfortunately, the Labrador Retriever is prone to several serious health problems which can reduce his lifespan. For example, inherited bone and joint problems like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are fairly common – these dogs can also inherit epilepsy, heart problems, and various allergies. As a large-breed dog, the Labrador Retriever is also prone to bloat, also known as gastric torsion or gastric dilation volvulus.

Another important thing you need to keep in mind about the Labrador Retriever is the breed’s risk for obesity. Like all dogs, Labs love to eat and they will scarf down anything you set in front of them and then beg for more. You need to carefully monitor your dog’s intake and keep an eye on his bodyweight and condition, making adjustments as needed to prevent obesity. One of the best things you can do is to feed your Lab a large-breed specific dog food which will help to preserve his lean muscle mass with high protein content while reducing his risk for obesity with moderate fat intake. Keep reading to learn more about the nutritional requirements for Labrador Retrievers and to receive recommendations for quality dog food brands for this beautiful breed.

General Nutritional Recommendations

All dogs – including your Labrador Retriever – require a balanced diet that provides plenty of protein, healthy fats, and digestible carbohydrates. Because dogs are primarily carnivorous, the majority of their diet should come from named animal sources – things like meat, poultry, fish and eggs as well as animal-based fats like chicken fat and salmon oil. Animal-based ingredients are more biologically valuable for your dog than plant-based ingredients because your dog has a limited ability to digest plant sources. Any carbohydrates in your dog’s diet should come from whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans or legumes – refined grains like corn and wheat offer low nutritional value for dogs and they have a high risk for triggering food allergies.

Protein is the most important nutritional consideration for dogs – especially large-breed dogs who need to maintain plenty of lean muscle mass to keep their bodies in good condition. Your dog’s protein should come from animal-based sources and a quality animal protein should be the first ingredient on any dog food product you consider for your Labrador Retriever. Animal proteins are considered complete proteins because they contain all 10 essential amino acids that your dog needs to get from his diet because he cannot synthesize them himself. Fats in your dog’s diet should also come from animal-based sources for maximum bioavailability.

When it comes to other ingredients in your Labrador Retriever’s diet, it is always good to see fresh fruits and vegetables used as natural sources for key nutrients. Synthetic supplements are not bad – they help to round out the nutritional balance of the recipe – but they are less biologically valuable than natural sources. Chelated minerals are a good addition to dog food, however, because they have been chemically bound to protein molecules which makes them easier for your dog’s body to digest and absorb. Other helpful supplements include dried fermentation products which act as probiotics to support your Lab’s healthy and regular digestion.

In terms of dietary recommendations for large-breed dogs like the Labrador Retriever, you need to be mindful of how many calories your dog consumes as well as his protein-to fat ratio. This is particularly important while he is a puppy. Large-breed puppies can take 18 to 24 months to reach maturity and, during that time, you need to make sure that they grow at a steady rate. If your puppy grows too quickly it could put a lot of extra stress on his bones and joints, predisposing him to musculoskeletal issues as an adult. Feeding your Lab puppy a large-breed puppy formula is a great start because it contains plenty of protein to encourage lean muscle mass with moderate fat content for energy. Once your puppy reaches 80% of his adult size you can switch him over a large-breed adult formula. These recipes are usually a little lower in fat content and they are often supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin for bone and joint support in larger dogs.

Special Dietary and Nutritional Considerations

One of the biggest things you need to be wary of when it comes to your Labrador Retriever’s diet is his risk for obesity. All dogs have the capacity to become overweight or obese, but the Labrador Retriever is particularly prone. These dogs love food and they will scarf down anything you put in front of them – even if they are not hungry! It is your job, then, to make sure that your dog gets the nutrients he needs without an excess of calories that might contribute to unhealthy weight gain. If your dog is already overweight or obese you might want to consider a reduced calorie formula or you could simply decrease the amount you are feeding him. If you opt for a low-calorie formula, just make sure that it is still rich in protein to maintain your dog’s lean muscle mass – reduced fat content is the best way to reduce calorie content in dog food.

Another nutritional concern you need to think about for Labrador Retrievers is the risk for food allergies. Any breed can be affected by food allergies, but Labrador Retrievers seem to have a higher susceptibility. In many cases, dogs develop allergies to refined grains like wheat and corn, though they can also be allergic to common proteins like chicken and beef. If your Labrador Retriever suffers from food allergies or sensitivities, you may want to consider feeding him a Limited Ingredient Diet. These diets are made with a limited number of ingredients including novel sources for protein and carbohydrate which reduces the risk for triggering food allergies. If your dog simply has a sensitivity to grains, you may be able to get by with a grain-free formula. No matter which type of diet you choose, try to find one that is formulated for large-breed dogs to ensure that your Lab’s nutritional needs are met.

Though not strictly related to nutrition, another food-related problem that is fairly common in Labrador Retrievers is bloat, also known as gastric torsion. This condition develops frequently in large and deep-chested breeds when they eat too much at one time or if they consume a large quantity of water after eating or engage in vigorous exercise after eating. These things can cause the dog’s stomach to fill with gas which may cause it to twist on its axis, cutting off blood flow to the stomach and other vital organs. This condition can be very dangerous and, if not treated promptly, can become fatal. The best way to prevent this condition is to keep your dog from eating too much at once and to limit your dog’s water consumption and exercise within an hour of eating.

What is the Best Dog Food for My Labrador Retriever?

When you start shopping for a new dog food for your Labrador Retriever, a large-breed specific recipe is the best place to begin. These recipes include plenty of protein to support your dog’s lean muscle mass with moderate fat content to prevent overfeeding. Many large-breed dog foods are also supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin to help protect your Lab against bone and joint problems. Choose a high-quality formula made from natural ingredients and see how your dog reacts. Below you will find reviews for several high-quality dog food formulas that could be a good choice for your Labrador Retriever:

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Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Large Breed Recipe

If you are looking for a high-quality dog food for your large-breed dog, consider this Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Large Breed Recipe. This formula features chicken, chicken meal, and duck meal so you can rest assured that it provides plenty of premium-quality protein to support your Lab’s lean muscle mass. It also contains a unique blend of fibers from whole grains, fruits and vegetables to support your dog’s digestive system. This recipe is formulated with optimal levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus plenty of calcium and phosphorus to maintain your dog’s strong bones and teeth. Overall, this recipe provides complete and balanced nutrition catered to large-breed dogs like your Labrador Retriever.

Fromm Heartland Gold Large Breed Adult Recipe

For a large-breed specific formula that will provide your Lab with complete and balanced nutrition plus plenty of natural flavor, consider this Fromm Heartland Gold Large Breed Adult Recipe. This recipe features premium proteins like beef, pork meal and eggs plus healthy fats like flaxseed, pork fat, and salmon oil. This formula is specially designed to meet the unique nutritional needs of dogs over 50 pounds at maturity and it is enhanced with probiotics to support your dog’s healthy digestion. This recipe provides 24% crude protein and 12% fat which is a great balance for large-breed dogs who need protein to support lean muscle mass with moderate fat to prevent overweight and obesity. Any large-breed dog would be lucky to receive this product.

Blue Buffalo Basics Large-Breed Adult Turkey & Potato Recipe

The Blue Buffalo Basics line of products contains limited ingredient diets which are specially formulated for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities. If your Labrador Retriever has food allergies, this Blue Buffalo Basics Large-Breed Adult Turkey & Potato Recipe would be a great option to consider. This recipe features deboned turkey as the single source of protein with easily digestible carbohydrates like peas and potatoes for dietary fiber. It also contains a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus it is free from artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. As is true for all Blue Buffalo products, this recipe also contains LifeSource Bits which consists of a blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help round out your dog’s nutrition.

What is the Best Dog Food for Labrador Retriever Puppies?

To make sure that your Labrador Retriever puppy’s nutritional needs are met without going overboard on calories, start him off with a large-breed puppy recipe. It will take 18 to 24 months for your puppy to reach his full size so he needs a diet that provides a steady stream of energy and plenty of protein to maintain lean muscle mass without having so many calories that it leads to excessive growth. If your puppy grows too fast it could put strain on his bones and joints, predisposing him to bone and joint problems later in life. Below you will find reviews for several high-quality dog food formulas that could be a good choice to consider for your Labrador Retriever puppy:

NutriSource Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Rice Recipe

The NutriSource brand is known for producing size-specific formulas for dogs in different life stages and the NutriSource Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Rice Recipe is a great choice for Labrador Retriever puppies. This formula features chicken and chicken meal as the primary proteins, supplemented with brown rice, peas, oatmeal, and barley for digestible carbohydrates. For healthy fats, this recipe relies on chicken fat, flaxseeds, fish meal, and sunflower oil to provide a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This recipe contains specially adjusted levels of calcium and phosphorus to promote healthy growth as well as support for growing bones and joints in your large-breed puppy.

Holistic Select Large Breed Puppy Health Lamb Meal Recipe

The Holistic Select brand is known for following a holistic approach to pet nutrition – this means that each recipe will provide the nutrients your dog needs with nothing his doesn’t. This particular recipe is specially designed for large-breed puppies, made with premium proteins and digestible carbohydrates as well as the company’s unique Digestive Health Support System which includes healthy fiber, active probiotics, and digestive enzymes. Made with lamb, chicken, and fish meals, you can count on this formula to deliver on your large-breed puppy’s protein needs – it is also supplemented with DHA for healthy grain and eye development. This recipe is also full of natural flavor that your Labrador Retriever puppy is sure to love.

Canidae Duck, Rice & Lentils Large Breed Puppy Recipe

This Canidae Duck, Rice & Lentils Large Breed Puppy Recipe belongs to the Life Stages line of products from Canidae. This particular formula features duck meal as the primary source of protein and it is nutritionally dense to ensure that your puppy gets the nutrients he needs without too many extra calories. In addition to premium proteins and digestible carbohydrates, this formula contains a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus antioxidants for immune system support. This recipe is specially designed for large-breed puppies and it is completely free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients. You will also be glad to know that it contains probiotics to help keep your Lab’s digestion regular. Overall, this formula provides excellent nutritional value in a complete and balanced formula that is also rich in natural flavor. What more could you or your dog ask for!

If you want to enjoy your Labrador Retriever’s company for as long as possible, you need to get serious about his diet and feed him a high-quality and nutritious product that meets his nutritional needs. Starting your Lab puppy with a large-breed puppy formula will give him the protein he needs to grow big and strong but without high fat content that could promote excessive growth. Once your lab reaches adulthood, you can switch him to a large-breed adult food and monitor his bodyweight and condition. Labs are highly prone to obesity so you need to make sure your dog’s lifestyle includes plenty of exercise and that his diet is nutrient-dense but not too high in calories. If you need help getting started with your search, consider one of the top recommended brands of large-breed puppy or adult dog food that are reviewed above.

Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate holds a certificate in fitness nutrition and enjoys writing about health and wellness trends — she also enjoys crafting original recipes. In addition to her work as a ghostwriter and author, Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.

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