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If you have a new puppy in your life, chances are he’s a Lab. Labrador Retrievers again lead all the popularity lists. That doesn’t look to change in the near future and why should it?

What’s not to love about a Lab? Affectionate, loyal, intelligent, fun…all rolled up into a big bundle of fuzz. Our Labby love affair won’t be ending any time soon!

Top 3 Puppy Foods For Labs Comparison

Last update on 2017-08-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Importance of proper diet for puppy health and future development

To start your new Lab puppy off on the right paw, he needs the best nutrition now to lay the foundation for a future of good health.

There’s no fixing the damage later that may be done with a bad puppy diet.

In this presentation at the Western Veterinary Conference, Dr. Daniel Richardson said that inappropriate puppy nutrition is the culprit in the vast majority of canine skeletal disorders. Yikes!

Bone and joint problems are a serious and very painful issue for any dog. We can help you avoid them with our expert advice and recommendations on the best dog food for Lab puppies.

We will also show you how much to feed a Lab puppy for proper growth and development. Keep reading to get started on a lifetime of great health for your little Lab.

What He Needs And What To Look For In Your Lab Puppy’s Food

Labs are considered large breed dogs, placed roughly in the canine flow chart between the Great Danes and the Cocker Spaniels. As with all large breeds, Labs do a lot of growing when they are little puppies.

Most experts agree that they continue to grow until they are about 18 months old. However, their fastest rate of growth happens in the first six months of life.

Your Lab puppy has unique nutritional needs in his diet to help with all that growing. It’s hard work going from one pound at birth to about 50 pounds by six months old! Let’s break down the components in a healthy Lab puppy’s diet.

Protein

High-quality meat protein sources are vital to a growing Lab. This crucial nutrient helps make up about one-half of the dry body mass of a dog.

The amino acids in protein contribute to the development of muscle, tissue, and organ growth, among many other things. The nutrition scientists at Drs. Foster and Smith believe that amino acids are the building blocks of canine nutrition.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fibers that provide energy and keep your dog feeling full. Carbs primarily become glucose when digested. The glucose is what fuels your puppy and gives him energy to grow.

Excess glucose is stored in the body, becoming fat and leading to obesity. Therefore, large amounts of carbs in the diet are unnecessary. The dietary fiber in a dog’s diet helps keep him feeling full and aids in regular elimination.

Fats

Dietary fats provide most of your Lab puppy’s energy. This energy in his diet is even more important than what he gets from protein or carbohydrates.

Dogs convert fats into glucose. Fats in the diet are made up fatty acids, with the most important being omega-3s and omega-6s. A dog’s body cannot produce these essential fatty acids on its own, so they must come from his food.

Keep in mind that too much fat in his diet will lead to obesity. A quality puppy food will contain an appropriate amount of dietary fat for your Lab puppy.

Vitamins and minerals

Just as in humans, vitamins and minerals are essential for all aspects of health in puppies.

No minerals and very few vitamins are made within the body, so your Labby must get these building blocks of health from the food you feed him.

For easy digestibility, look for chelated minerals in your puppy’s food. With one notable exception, vitamins come from plant or animal sources outside the body. Vitamin D will be produced by the Lab getting at least 15 minutes of direct sunshine three times per week.

The Lab Puppy’s Unique Dietary Needs

Because so much of your Lab puppy’s growth will happen in the first 180 days of his life, the food you choose to feed him is very important.

His critical needs will best be met by feeding a food specially formulated for the rapid growth of a large breed puppy.

In these foods, the calcium and phosphorus levels, as well as calories, are carefully calculated. Protein contents of 23%-31% are considered best, according to an article in the Integrative Veterinary Care Journal by Dr. Susan Wynn, DVM.

Too much fat in the diet can have a very bad effect on the puppy’s joints due to obesity. Foods containing 10%-25% dietary fat are considered safe for puppy growth.

Why Can’t I Just Feed My Puppy Adult Food?

Adult dogs and puppies have very different nutritional needs. Puppies, who do a lot of growing in their first six – eight months of life, need high-octane food to fuel their growth and activity. That means a lot of calories to keep up with their super energetic playtime.

As we’ve already seen, puppy formula dog food has just the right blend of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to help a puppy develop at a healthy pace. Dr. Rob Sharp, DVM in practice in Hillsboro, OH, and Country Living magazine vet says adult formulas are not the best dog food for Lab puppies because they don’t contain these precise blends.

Further, an adult dog should not be fed puppy food. The extra calories in puppy formulas are notorious for adding unnecessary pounds to adult dogs.

Dogs older than about two years don’t need the extra energy that puppies must have. Higher protein levels in puppy diets are not ideal for adult dogs. Kidney stress is often seen in adults with too much protein in their diet.

He’s Always Hungry! How Much Should I Feed Him?

Labs are notorious chowhounds. Some Lab people say their dogs will eat anything that doesn’t eat them first!

So, it’s very important to monitor everything that goes into your Lab puppy’s mouth. Your little Precious is exploring the world with his mouth and nose, and the mouth is way more fun!

When it comes to his meals, he’ll never think you are feeding him enough.

He will look at you with those sad puppy eyes after he’s finished eating like he’s still starving. Don’t. Give. In. This is how the world gets repopulated with fat, unhealthy Labrador Retrievers.

So, let’s look at how much to feed a Lab puppy. It depends on his age, of course, and the food. Feeding smaller amounts more often is a good rule to follow when he’s little. A puppy’s digestive system cannot tolerate a large amount of food all at once.

Generally speaking, a Lab up to about four months old should be eating approximately ½- ⅔ cups at each meal. Puppies four months to six months should have their food increased to ¾ -1 cup at each feeding.

After six months of age, and through the time they continue on puppy food for about 18 months, your Lab puppy should be fed 1 ½ cups of food at meal time. 

Remember that these measurements are approximate. You should work with your veterinarian to determine the best amount for your individual Lab. Also, consider the calories in the food you are feeding and adjust accordingly.

Morning, Noon, and Night (and a Snack!)

When you are planning your Lab’s meal times, you may need to figure out the alarm clock app on your phone, too. You’re going to need reminders when to feed him, especially for the little guys.

For baby puppies up to four months old, eating four times a day is recommended. Start with an early breakfast around 6:00a.m. Serve lunch about 11:00a.m. Feed dinner at 3:30p.m and the last meal should be no later than 7:30p.m.

You want to avoid having the last meal too late in the evening so you aren’t going outside in the middle of the night for a potty break.

As your puppy matures, you can cut back the number of times per day he eats. From four months to about six months of age, three meals per day are just fine. These should be on a regular breakfast, lunch, dinner schedule.

After six months, if you feel your puppy can handle the change, you can go down to feeding just twice a day, breakfast and dinner.

Better Nutrition or The Cheap Stuff

Our research indicates that pet parents are spending their money on better nutrition for their dogs. This is great news! It means that important facts about the health benefits of a high-quality diet have made an impact.

Nutritious, health-giving, body-building, wholesome food for your Labby is a crucial step in helping him thrive.

Well-fed dogs are those who don’t have to visit the vet as often for illness, too.

Did you also know that dog breeds known for shedding, like Labs, actually shed less when fed premium diets?

You can’t get that bang for your buck out of the cheap brands of dog food. The foods sold in big box stores are designed to sit on the shelf for months, if not years, and never go bad. They have loads of chemical preservatives in them that are not healthy for your Lab puppy to eat.

Further, just to make your puppy feel full, you have to feed much, much more of the cheap product.

Then, because his body can’t use the inferior ingredients in that food for fuel, all that extra stuff he eats has to go someplace. That’s right…it goes out the back for you to pick up.

Judging the merit of premium pet food only by the cost of the bag is missing the big picture. Once you consider the added value of fewer trips to the vet and groomer, and the overall benefit of a super healthy puppy, the choice is obvious.

The Wet Or Dry Food Debate

Puppy parents want to choose the very best dog food for Lab puppies. Sometimes they think this means wet, or canned, food. With those growing teeth and soft gums, they worry dry food will be too hard to chew. Maybe it could even break one of their tiny pearly whites? We have assembled some great advice here on the wet vs. dry debate.

The specialist veterinarians at Advanced Animal Dentistry in Melbourne, Australia, relate that when a puppy starts to eat solid food at around four weeks old, he is beginning to develop his first set of teeth. These are the puppy teeth and he will have 28 of them by eight weeks old. By three months, these puppy teeth are starting to fall out.

They will be replaced by his 42 permanent teeth. (If you’re lucky you might find a couple of the teeth after they fall out for your baby’s keepsake box.)

By six months old, most of the dog’s permanent teeth have come in. These new teeth are tough, although they can be broken by feeding incorrect bones and the wrong toys.

Commercial dry dog food is not hard enough to break a dog’s teeth. In fact, its shape and texture are an aide in helping to keep the dog’s teeth in great shape.

There are some kibble diets that are exclusively made for dogs who suffer from dental disease. Some other great aspects of dry kibble are it’s easy to store. Also, if you like to travel, kibble is especially convenient.

It is easy to accurately measure and portion. Perhaps most helpful, dry food is normally a less expensive food option.

Wet food diets can become very expensive very quickly.

Due to the shortened shelf life of opened cans, wet food must be thrown out after only a couple of days if not eaten, even after refrigeration.

Because wet food won’t massage your puppy’s gums or help to knock tartar off his teeth, you will have to be more vigilant with teeth brushing. The canned food will leave behind more plaque-causing enzymes, perhaps causing tooth decay.

Canned diets have higher moisture, protein, and fat content. These can all cause upset tummies in some sensitive Labs.

It is our opinion that feeding your Lab puppy dry food is not only convenient for you, it is beneficial to him.

3 Best Dog Foods For Lab Puppies

22% protein and 13% fat, minimum. Available in 15 and 30lb bags.

  • Pros

Canidae’s ingredients are tested for contamination before being brought into their manufacturing plant. This ensures quality control prior to production. The diets are cooked in small batches, assuring the best nutrition in every bag.

Research and development are a continuing process for the company. They know large breed puppies have big appetites and are growing at phenomenal rates.

The duck meal in the LBP formula contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help in reducing joint inflammation. This is a critical benefit for growing Labs. Lentils are used as a source of sustained energy and to satisfy appetites.

CANIDAE All Life Stages Large Breed Puppy Food Made With Duck Meal, Brown Rice & Lentils, 30 lbs
  • Optimum protein from duck meal + calcium & phosphorous
  • Premium ingredients: no corn, wheat, or soy

Last update on 2017-08-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The lower fat and protein content will help you support your puppy’s optimal weight while growing. Consumers report puppies enjoy the taste of the food and are in excellent health while eating it. Also, skin and coat condition has been praised.

  • Powerful antioxidants to help maintain healthy immune system.
  • Live probiotic cultures to support healthy digestion.
  • High levels of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) for cognitive development.
  • Cons

All formulas of Canidae manufactured on the East Coast of the U.S. were recalled in May 2012. This was due to Salmonella detected in bags of dog food manufactured at the same plant as Canidae. No salmonella was detected in Canidae products.

Consumers report dogs with yeast or allergy sensitivities have reacted to this food due to rice bran, rice, potato, and oatmeal in the formula.

Sale
ROYAL CANIN SIZE HEALTH NUTRITION MAXI Puppy dry dog food, 35-Pound
  • Vitamins E and C, taurine and lutein to support the developing immune system of the large breed puppy 5 -15 months of age
  • Glucosamine chondroitin and Omega 3 fatty acids to support the joints of a growing large breed puppy

Last update on 2017-08-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

28% protein and 14% fat, minimum. Available in 6, 18, and 35lb bags.

  • Pros

Royal Canin tests every shipment delivered to its facilities from suppliers to ensure quality of ingredients and safety. They check for Salmonella, melamine, and mycotoxins. The company manufactures all their foods in plants that they own, which are certified for food safety. All finished products are tested before being shipped to consumers.

This large breed puppy formula offers a power-packed combination of nutrients to support your growing Lab puppy’s digestive health and a balanced digestive flora.

The balanced energy and minerals provide good bone mineralization, which helps support healthy bones and joints. Dynamic antioxidants in the food reinforce your puppy’s natural defense against disease. The kibbles are specifically designed for large breed puppies to encourage chewing. Reviewers report their puppies have loved the taste and are experiencing no growth-related issues.

  • Supports long growth period with moderate energy.
  • Vitamins E and C, taurine, and lutein to support your pup’s developing immune system.
  • Glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids to aid the development of growing joints.
  • EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) to promote healthy development of the brain and nervous system.
  • Cons

Consumers report dogs with diarrhea and vomiting while eating Royal Canin foods. The company began using chicken by-products in its formulas in 2013.

Fromm Family Foods 727050 Gold Large Breed 33 lb Puppy Dry Food (1 Pack),
  • Only the highest quality ingredients available are used in Fromm pet foods
  • Many variety's available from puppy to senior

Last update on 2017-08-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

26% protein and 14% fat, minimum. Available in 5, 15, and 33lb bags.

  • Pros
  • Highly digestible proteins: Fresh Wisconsin duck, fresh hand-trimmed USDA chicken, and low-ash lamb.
  • Real Wisconsin cheddar cheese, an extra source of fatty acids.
  • Chicken cartilage, rich in natural glucosamine.
  • Taurine, to support a healthy immune system.

Fromm Family Pet Foods has been owned and operated by the same family since its founding in 1904. It operates two manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin. Each bag of Fromm pet food originates from one of these two facilities.

This allows the company full control over all aspects of the safety and quality of its products.

The company has made food safety its highest priority. Their approved supplier program ensures that ingredients have been tested prior to arrival at their plants and tested once again upon arrival.

Products are tested a third time while in process to ensure compliance with each formula’s guaranteed analysis. All food is held before shipping while an outside lab checks for pathogenic bacteria.

The large breed puppy formula is enhanced with probiotics to aid digestion. It supports the development of a healthy coat with the addition of salmon oil. Pet parents have reported their puppies love the taste of this food. Also, the fact that the company has never had a product recall scores high with reviewers.

  • Cons

Found only in select pet specialty stores. Some consumers report their dogs developed gas while eating this food. Others stated their puppy had very soft stools.

About the author

Carol Cornwall has loved animals from the time of her first childhood pet, a duck named Fluff. From then, it's been a steady parade of dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, horses, cows, goats, and sheep. In addition to writing, she's worked as a vet tech, cow hand, and owned a dog boarding facility. She now shares her home with three very spoiled dogs.