Best Dog Food For Labrador Retrievers : Top Lab Puppy, Adult & Senior Recommendations for 2019

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Labrador Retrievers are some of the most popular dogs of all time. They’re friendly, loyal, and energetic. They have a lot going on and need food that can support their energetic needs.

Labs have short, thick coats that help resist water and come in three different colors, yellow, black, and chocolate. They need lots of exercise and socialization. Otherwise, they can become bored and destructive.

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Making sure your Lab gets the right nutrition is essential, so let’s take a look at some of the things your furry friend needs.

Why Quality Food Matters for Your Labrador Retriever

Labs are prone to joint and skin issues as well as excess weight. Nutrient dense food gives your Lab enough protein and complex carbs to last all through the day, but it won’t add a bunch of empty calories to your Lab’s diet.

Empty calories cause weight gain which puts stress on the spine and hips. Other joints may feel the stress as well. Weight gain is a vicious cycle because your Lab is less likely to exercise which may make the problem worse.

Lab puppies take a while to reach maturity, so they need a properly balanced nutrition as well that doesn’t cause them to grow too fast. Seniors need much the same thing, with food helping to control weight in later years.

Top Foods: Quick Look

3 Common Health Issues

Labs are very healthy overall, but there are a few things you need to keep an eye out for if you want your friend to live a long healthy life.

Hip Dysplasia

Large breeds are prone to a condition called hip dysplasia and Labs are no different. The joint doesn’t form properly and doesn’t line up exactly right. Under stress such as serious exercise or excess weight gain, the hip can pop out and cause pain.

You can’t do much to cure the problem, but foods with essential fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin can help lubricate joints and keep them healthy.

Skin Allergies

Labs are sensitive to environmental triggers that might cause their skin to become red and itchy, flaky, and inflamed. You can’t control the environment, but you can reduce the number of allergy triggers in your Lab’s food. Avoiding common allergens such as corn, soy, and by-product meals help reduce inflammation in the digestive system and keep the skin suppler. Essential fatty acids also help build healthy skin.

Excess Weight

Although not a disease, excess weight plagues Labs. They’re fun-loving and curious and tend to get into everything. They’ll eat themselves to death if you let them, so it’s vitally important that you don’t.

They need quality food that won’t pack on excess calories. Plenty of fiber and proper amounts of protein help your dog feel full and maintain energy while keeping weight down.

What to Look For in a Quality Dog Food for Labrador Retrievers

The first ingredient of any dog’s food should always be whole meats. Food should also have fruits and veggies for optimum vitamins to support the immune system. Essential fatty acids from natural sources help brain development in puppies, support the skin and coat, and may help keep joints supple.

If your lab is sensitive, limited ingredient foods may help keep digestion under control. In the later years, your lab may really need help controlling weight so limited ingredient foods could help with that. They need good protein to keep up with their activity levels, so make sure there’s a lean source of protein if they’re on weight control.

Ingredients to Avoid in Your Lab’s Dog Food

Corn and soy are common, cheap fillers and frequently appear first on the ingredients list. This adds nothing but empty calories and can make it prohibitively difficult to control your Lab’s weight. If you can’t seem to get your Lab’s weight under control without severe restriction, your food is probably full of just empty calories.

Food allergens can also cause issues. It’s best to avoid by-product meals because these aren’t human grade ingredients. If your pet is particularly sensitive, you may need to avoid gluten, grains, and wheat. Artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors can also be very difficult for your dog to digest and offer no nutritional value.

Certain foods often contain a lot of potatoes, legumes, and peas. A recent study has shown a link between a condition known as canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and a diet heavy in potatoes and peas. The link isn’t fully understood so use your best judgment. We recommend staying away from foods that have these as one of the first three ingredients.

A few very common brands use cheap fillers to help dogs feel full and reduce cost. They may be friendly for your wallet, but you won’t get the best health from your dog while feeding these foods regularly. Beneful, Kibbles N Bits, and Ol Roy are three frequent offenders, and we recommend staying away.

Labrador Retriever Feeding Chart

Food portions can vary depending on a few different factors including life stage, gender, and activity level. Work with your vet to find the best path for your particular Lab.

Here are some general feeding guidelines:

  • Puppies: Puppies go through a lot of changes as they mature, so it’s crucial that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully so as not to over or under feed.
  • Adults: Typical adults receive between three and four cups of kibble per day depending on the brand and body type of your pet.
  • Seniors: Your senior dog should have about the same serving sizes as it did during its adult life, but if there’s a weight or severe health issue, your vet may decide on a different path.

Best Dog Food for Labrador Retrievers

And now for our top picks for the best food for Labrador Retrievers in all stages of life.

Best Overall: Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe with Beef, Lamb & Rabbit Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe with Beef, Lamb & Rabbit Grain-Free Dry Dog FoodMerrick’s Backcountry Raw recipe uses bits of freeze-dried raw beef along with premium kibble to provide complete protein and excellent taste. There are three different sources of protein in the kibble along with whole fruits and veggies for vitamins and antioxidants.

It’s grain free and contains no artificial flavors or colors. There are no artificial fillers, no corn or soy products and it’s gluten-free. Salmon oil gives your Lab omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat along with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Deboned Beef
  2. Lamb Meal
  3. Salmon Meal
  4. Sweet Potatoes
  5. Potatoes

About The Company

Merrick is a small, Texas-based company that strives to give dogs the best chance at life through quality nutrition. The company uses whole ingredients tested for effectiveness and created in the company’s own kitchen here in the USA.

What Customers Like:

  • freeze-dried, raw meat
  • three protein sources
  • fruits and veggies for fiber
  • omega fatty acids support skin
  • glucosamine and chondroitin support joints

Common Complaints:

  • freeze-dried bits settle at the bottom of the bag
  • some dogs pick around kibble for freeze-dried bits

Best Value: Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Formula Dry Dog FoodNatural Balance’s formula is limited ingredient so that your Lab has a better chance of problem-free digestion. It uses Lamb and brown rice for a good balance of protein and complex carbohydrates to maintain your Lab’s energy levels all day.

Brown rice provides an excellent source of fiber while omega fatty acids help keep skin and coat healthy. It has no artificial colors or preservatives and contains no cheap fillers such as corn or soy.

First Five Ingredients:

  • Lamb Meal
  • Brown Rice
  • Brewers Rice
  • Rice Bran
  • Canola Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols And Lactic Acid)

About The Company

Nature’s Balance produces limited ingredient foods with single protein sources to help dogs with picky digestive systems. The company uses science to create a diet that gives sensitive dogs a chance to digest fully and adequately.

What Customers Like:

  • single protein source
  • limited ingredient formula
  • good fiber content
  • excellent protein and carbohydrate ratio
  • omega fatty acids support coat and skin

Common Complaints

  • canola oil
  • uses lamb meal as the first ingredient

Best Super Premium: NomNomNow Tasty Turkey Fare

NomNomNowTasty Turkey FareNomNomNow provides dogs with cooked meals using fresh, human grade ingredients prepared and shipped to your door. Tasty Turkey Fare uses whole deboned turkey as the first ingredient with whole fruits and veggies for antioxidants and vitamins. It’s a limited ingredient formula and better for sensitive digestive systems.

You can customize your dog’s meal plan directly on their website. Answer a questionnaire about your dog and the company creates perfectly portioned meals in its kitchen and ships them within a few days. Refrigerate or freeze until you need them.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Ground Turkey
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Carrots
  4. Spinach
  5. Egg

About The Company

NomNomNow is the creation of a veterinarian who wanted to provide dogs an alternative to both kibble and raw diets. It uses precise recipes of cooked food delivered to your door in manageable portion sizes. It uses human grade ingredients and recipes a lot like the raw food dogs would eat in the wild.

What Customers Like:

  • human grade ingredients
  • fresh, cooked meals
  • easy portion sizes
  • limited ingredients
  • no fillers

Common Complaints

  • requires cold storage
  • delivery options are limited in certain parts of the country

Best Puppy Food for Labrador Retrievers

Puppies grow and change a lot in a short period, so it’s likely that your feeding habits will change rapidly. Your veterinarian can provide you with the best options to make sure your puppy gets everything it needs to grow healthy and active.

Best Dry: Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Puppy Pasture Fed Lamb & Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Puppy Pasture Fed Lamb & Rice Recipe Dry Dog FoodNutro Wholesome Essentials is another limited ingredient food that uses deboned lamb as the first ingredient. It has naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin to support growing joints, and a precise mix of carbs and proteins help puppies grow at a healthy rate.

Brown Rice and oatmeal help with digestion and weight control, and the formula has no cheap fillers like corn or soy, no artificial preservatives, and no artificial flavors. It’s suitable for sensitive tummies and helps provide ideal digestion.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Deboned Lamb
  2. Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate)
  3. Whole Brown Rice
  4. Brewers Rice
  5. Rice Bran

About The Company

Nutro provides dogs with fresh, premium ingredients based on the principles of feeding clean. It was available only from specialty stores for a long time, but now can be found at many mass retailers. They use no fillers, no artificial ingredients, and demand high-quality food sources for kibble.

What Customers Like:

  • limited ingredients
  • glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support
  • whole deboned lamb as the primary protein source
  • no cheap fillers
  • suitable for sensitive tummies

Common Complaints

  • only available in one sized bag
  • may still cause some gas

Best Wet: Nulo Freestyle Chicken, Salmon & Lentils Recipe Grain-Free Puppy Canned Dog Food

Nulo’s chicken, salmon, and lentils wet food is a great way to transition from nursing to real food. It uses whole, deboned chicken as the first ingredient for high-quality protein plus lentils for long-lasting energy.

Salmon provides another lean protein source plus omega fatty acids for better coat health. Whole fruits and veggies support the immune system and provide an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. It’s grain, corn, soy, and gluten free for sensitive tummies.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Chicken
  2. Chicken Broth
  3. Salmon Broth
  4. Chicken Liver
  5. Salmon

About The Company

Nulo uses fresh, premium ingredients in wet and dry foods to give puppies a chance to build health and well-being from the very beginning. Their foods help your Lab develop at the appropriate pace without all the empty calories and cheap fillers of most budget store brands.

What Customers Like:

  • multiple protein sources
  • grain free
  • omega fatty acids including DHA for brain, skin, and coat
  • supports the immune system
  • suitable for sensitive tummies

Common Complaints:

  • some cans are broth heavy
  • dual protein sources may still irritate some young puppies

Best Senior Dog Food for Labs

Seniors will receive a lot of the same types of nutrition as they did when they were younger, but if weight or other health issues are concerns, they may need modifications. It’s most important to support proper weight and joint health at this time so your Lab can continue enjoying the activities it loves.

Best Overall: Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Senior Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Dog Food

Instinct by Nature's Variety Raw Boost Senior Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Dog FoodThe Raw Boost formula uses bits of freeze-dried raw meat for extra protein and to encourage seniors to eat. Premium kibble provides the right balance of protein and carbohydrates to keep energy levels even throughout the day while chickpeas provide good fiber. Glucosamine and Chondroitin support aging joints.

Calcium and phosphorus help keep bones and teeth healthy, and omega fatty acids, including DHA, provide a good foundation for brain, skin, and coat health. It has no artificial flavors and no cheap fillers that can cause weight gain and irritate the digestive system.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate)
    Chickpeas
  2. Peas
  3. Tapioca
  4. Chicken

About The Company

Instinct by Nature’s Variety tries to recreate the ancestral canine diet that your Lab’s ancestors would have gotten. The company uses premium ingredients to maintain optimum health even in your senior’s twilight years. Suitable combinations of protein, carbohydrates, and other vitamins and minerals keep your Lab in excellent health.

What Customers Like:

  • glucosamine and chondroitin
  • freeze-dried raw meat
  • good fiber
  • DHA
  • no cheap fillers

Common Complaints

  • chicken meal is the first ingredient
  • some dogs pick around the kibble

Best Value: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Senior Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

The Wilderness formula contains protein from deboned chicken and a suitable balance of complex carbohydrates for energy levels. It includes Blue’s trademark LifeSource Bits, which provide a precise balance of vitamins and antioxidants for better health and immune support.

It’s grain free and contains no cheap fillers like soy or corn. It doesn’t use poultry by-product meals either, so it’s suitable for sensitive tummies and encourages optimum digestion.

First Five Ingredients:

  1. Deboned Chicken
  2. Chicken Meal
  3. Peas
  4. Pea Protein
  5. Pea Starch

About The Company

Blue Buffalo was started by a family who wanted to provide better nutrition for their beloved Airedale Terrier, Blue. Since then, the company has produced quality food with no cheap fillers or artificial ingredients for better health for your Lab from puppy to senior years.

What Customers Like:

  • omega fatty acids
  • deboned chicken is the first ingredient
  • LifeSource Bits
  • grain free
  • no cheap fillers (including poultry by-product meals)

Common Complaints:

  • contains peas
  • some senior dogs don’t like LifeSource Bits

Final Thoughts

Giving your Labrador Retriever a quality food from the very beginning means that the breed’s trademark energy, athleticism, and curiosity remain all throughout life. Your Lab is fun loving and loyal, so support its physical needs with quality food so that you never have to say no to an activity ever again.

What’s your Lab’s favorite athletic activity? Running? Swimming? Let us know in the comments below.

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