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Updated April 3, 2019
To ensure your Lab stays as healthy and happy as possible, you’ll want to give him a nutritious and delicious food that is well-suited to the breed’s specific dietary needs. We’ll try to help you do exactly this below, as we break down the
best dog food for Labradors.
We’ll start by reviewing the overall best dog food for adult Labs, and then we’ll talk about those with specific dietary needs. This includes dog food for Labrador puppies and senior Labs, as well as those who are overweight or suffer from food allergies.
We’ll even discuss the best all-natural, grain-free option, for Labrador owners inclined to go that route.
Things You Want in Any Dog Food
In a minute, we’ll talk about the things you want to look for when picking a dog food for your Lab. However, no matter what breed your dog is, you’ll want to select a dog food that satisfies a few basic criteria. This will help weed out the poor-quality foods and ensure that you obtain a great recipe for your pet.
Just look for foods that exhibit the following characteristics:
1. Feature whole meat at the top of the ingredient list.
Dogs may be omnivores, who also need plenty of healthy carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and fats in their diet, but protein is undoubtedly the most important factor owners should consider when picking a food. Accordingly, you’ll want to stick to foods that feature deboned chicken, roasted venison or other whole proteins.
2. Only include properly identified meat meals.
Meat meals may be off-putting to many owners, but they are actually very nutritious, possess higher protein per unit of weight than whole proteins do, and delicious to most dogs. However, it is imperative that you only feed your dog foods made with safe meat meals, made from a single protein, such as poultry, beef, pork, lamb or an identified fish.
3. Be made in a country with high safety- and quality-control standards.
All owners want to make sure that their dog receives only the healthiest, safest food available – you never want to find out that you’ve fed your dog a food contaminated with some kind of toxic substance. One of the best ways to do so is by purchasing foods made in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Western Europe, which all have high safety standards.
4. It shouldn’t contain artificial additives.
Artificial additives, including colors, dyes, flavors and preservatives, are completely unnecessary in dog foods made with high-quality ingredients. The color of your dog’s food is unimportant, and tasty ingredients will make for a delicious food, rendering artificial flavors unnecessary. And most dog foods can be preserved with vitamins and naturally occurring tocopherols, so artificial preservatives aren’t necessary either.
5. Have plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables – such as blueberries, cranberries, kale, spinach, carrots, pomegranate and pumpkin – are not only full of vitamins and minerals, they also provide your dog with plenty of immune-system-boosting antioxidants. Additionally, most of these items taste great, so your dog will love them too.
What to Look for in a Dog Food for Your Labrador Retriever
Now that we’ve explained the basic things you want in any dog food and discussed some of the most common physical ailments of Labs, it is time to put this information into practice. Below, we’ll explain some of the things that you’ll want to look for when picking a pet food for your Lab.
The best dog food for Labs will exhibit the following characteristics:
Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of any dog’s diet, but they can be especially helpful for helping your Lab to feel his best. They help support coat health, reduce the body’s inflammatory response and help protect your dog’s joints.
Check out our guide on the
best fish oils for large breed dogs here. Fortified with Glucosamine, Chondroitin or (Preferably) Both
Glucosamine and chondroitin are two of the safest and most effective
. Most foods incorporate glucosamine and chondroitin by including ingredients rich in one of the compounds (such as cartilage), while other foods use pure supplements to fortify their recipes. joint supplements available for dogs Fortified with Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help promote intestinal health, exclude pathogenic bacteria and assist your dog in digesting his food. Many of the best foods incorporate several different probiotic strains, as this is thought to be more beneficial than a single bacterial strain. Probiotics Common Health Problems of Labs
To determine the best food for your Lab, you’ll want to start by narrowing down your choices and excluding any foods that don’t satisfy the basic criteria described in the preceding section. Then, you’ll want to select a food that addresses the specific health concerns that are common to Labs.
But to do this, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with some of the most common health problems labs face. We’ve listed a few of the most notable health problems that are common to the breed below.
Despite being relatively athletic in their youth, many Labrador Retrievers suffer from joint problems as they age. There are a number of joint issues that can afflict the breed, but osteoarthritis and
are the two most common (and impactful). Arthritis typically results from overuse and natural wear and tear, while hip dysplasia is usually the result of congenital defects in the hip joint. hip dysplasia Food Allergies can occur in any breed, but they seem to be pretty common among Labs and Lab mixes. Whether this is because of a genetic predisposition to food allergies or simply the result of the number of labs in the world is not clear. In either case, Labs frequently suffer from itchy skin and poor coat health caused by ingredients in their food. Food allergies Weight Gain and Obesity
Labs are at very high risk for weight gain, which can cause or exacerbate joint problems and reduce your dog’s energy level. Accordingly, it is important to feed your dog the proper quantity of food, avoid giving him too many treats and be sure that he gets plenty of exercise. It’s a lot easier to keep your dog from gaining weight than it is to help him shed extra pounds.
Bloat is a serious and acute medical problem that occurs when your dog’s stomach fills with air and then twists. This traps the air inside the stomach, leading to crippling pain and – if not corrected quickly – tissue death. Left untreated, bloat is almost always fatal. Bloat
Veterinarians disagree on the best way to avoid bloat, but most agree that encouraging your dog to eat slowly and avoiding exercise for at least 30 minutes after meals is a good idea.
Image Product Our Top Pick Our Top Pick Taste of the Wild Adult High Prairie Recipe Made with several high-quality protein sources, including buffalo and roasted venison Grain-free recipe that uses sweet potatoes and potatoes instead of corn or wheat Made in the USA Check on Amazon Blue Buffalo BLUE Life Protection Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient Contains Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits, which contain a patented blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants Made in the USA Check on Amazon EUKANUBA Breed-Specific Adult Dry Dog Food – Labrador Retriever Chicken is the first listed ingredient Includes more than one ingredient that is rich in chondroitin and glucosamine Made in the USA Check on Amazon Wellness CORE Puppy Recipe In addition to deboned chicken, this recipe contains chicken meal and turkey meal too Full of healthy antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables Made in the USA Check on Amazon Wellness CORE Senior Recipe Deboned turkey is the first listed ingredient Made with peas, potatoes and lentils, rather than corn or other grains Made in the USA Check on Amazon BLUE Basics Limited-Ingredient Formula Adult Dry Dog Food Deboned lamb (a novel protein for most dogs) is the first ingredient listed Made with fish oil to help improve your dog’s skin and coat condition Made in the USA Check on Amazon Pro Plan FOCUS Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon and Rice Formula Salmon, which is easy for most dogs to digest, is the first listed ingredient Neither barley nor ground rice – the two primary carbohydrates in the recipe – rarely cause digestive problems Made in the USA Check on Amazon Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Dog Food S. farm-raised turkey is the first listed ingredient A portion of the proceeds from product sales support Rachael’s Rescue a non-profit shelter for dogs in need Made in the USA Check on Amazon Blue Buffalo Life Protection Healthy Weight Formula Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient Brown rice is a fantastic, low-calorie carbohydrate for dogs Made in the USA Check on Amazon Best Overall Dog Food for Labradors
As long as your Lab is a healthy adult, with no serious health problems (and she is not pregnant or lactating), we can save you a lot of time and effort: Just pick one of the following three excellent and breed appropriate dog foods for Labradors. Each one should make an excellent choice for your pet and provide all of the things a Lab needs to remain healthy and happy.
Taste of the Wild manufacturers a number of high-quality dog foods, which are designed, in part, to mimic the diet of wild canines. They offer several different recipes, each of which are based on a different primary protein. Any Taste of the Wild Recipe should suit a Lab well, but their venison-and-bison-based High Prairie Recipe is their most popular among owners.
Notable Features and Characteristics: Made with several high-quality protein sources, including buffalo and roasted venison A grain-free recipe that uses sweet potatoes and potatoes instead of corn or wheat Made in the USA Formulated for adult dogs Top 15 Ingredients: Buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, egg product, roasted bison, roasted venison, beef, natural flavor, tomato pomace, potato protein, pea protein, ocean fish meal. Customer Reviews: Most dog owners rave about Taste of the Wild foods, especially their High Prairie Recipe. Several owners reported improved energy levels, coat condition and elimination habits after trying this food for a few weeks. Most dogs appear to find this recipe very palatable. Bottom Line: are strong contenders for the title of best all-around dog food, and they are certainly a great choice for your Labrador. They are packed with great proteins (including roasted bison, roasted venison and nutritious meat meals), fortified with five different probiotic strains and several ingredients rich in omega-3-fatty acids. Taste of the Wild foods
And to top it off, Taste of the Wild High Prairie Recipe is very affordable for a dog food with such an impressive ingredient list.
One of the leading dog food brands in the marketplace, Blue Buffalo manufactures a number of very high-quality foods, which are very popular with dog owners. But while all of their product lines are impressive, Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection line – specifically their Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe — is the best choice for most Labs.
Notable Features and Characteristics: Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient Contains Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits, which contain a patented blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants Made in the USA Formulated for adult dogs Top 15 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Tomato Pomace, Peas, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Potatoes, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Potassium Chloride. Customer Reviews: The majority of owners who tried Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe rated it very highly. Several owners reported that their dog’s coat condition improved after trying the food, and a few also noted that it ended paw-chewing behaviors. Most dogs seem to like the taste too. Bottom Line: Life Protection Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe is a fantastic choice for many Labs. It is made with a number of excellent ingredients, including everything from deboned chicken, flaxseed and sweet potatoes, to pomegranate, pumpkin and kelp. Additionally, it is quite affordable for such a high-quality food.
EUKANUBA’s Breed Specific Recipes are specifically designed to address the common problems and nutritional needs of a given breed – in this case, labs. EUKANUBA attempts to accomplish this goal in several different ways, such as including several joint-protecting compounds in the recipe to help ward off arthritis and other problems common to Labs.
Notable Features and Characteristics: Chicken is the first listed ingredient Includes more than one ingredient that is rich in chondroitin and glucosamine Made in the USA Formulated for adult dogs Top 15 Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Chicken By-Product Meal (Natural source of Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine), Chicken Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Egg Product, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Flax Meal. Customer Reviews: Many dog owners were very pleased with EUKANUBA’s Labrador Retriever Recipe. Several owners reported improved energy levels and coat condition after feeding this recipe to their dog, and a few also noted improved mobility and less apparent joint pain. Most dogs seem to find the recipe tasty. Bottom Line: While EUKANUBA’s Labrador Retriever Recipe is not a perfect dog food (it doesn’t contain probiotics or many ingredients that provide many omega-3 fatty acids), it is a very good option for most lab owners, and it won’t break the bank, either. We’d recommend pairing this recipe with a good to help ensure good digestion. probiotic supplement Best Puppy Food for Labs
It is especially important to make sure your Labrador puppy gets the nutrition he needs to grow up into a healthy adult. There are a number of acceptable choices on the market, but Wellness CORE’s Puppy Grain-Free Recipe is one of the best foods for Lab puppies.
Like all of the other recipes in the Wellness CORE product line, Wellness CORE Puppy Recipe is a grain free food that relies on potatoes and peas for the bulk of its carbohydrate content. And like most other premium puppy foods, Wellness CORE’s Puppy Recipe lists a premium protein – deboned chicken – as the first ingredient.
Notable Features and Characteristics: In addition to deboned chicken, this recipe contains chicken meal and turkey meal too Full of healthy antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables Made in the USA Formulated for puppies of all sizes Top 15 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Potato Protein, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Ground Potatoes, Tomato Pomace, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salmon Oil, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyroxidine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Biotin, Folic Acid]. Customer Reviews: Wellness CORE Puppy Recipe received positive feedback from the majority of owners who tried it. Most reported that their puppy gobbled up the food, and several mentioned that their dog exhibited better energy levels and a shinier coat after switching to Wellness CORE Puppy Recipe. A few owners even reported that it reduced their dog’s anxiety level. Bottom Line: Wellness CORE Puppy Grain-Free Recipe is a very nutritious food, which will help your Lab puppy start life on the right foot. It is packed with just about every type of ingredient owners could want, including a whole protein, nutritious (and grain-free) carbohydrates, four probiotics, salmon oil (which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids) and a litany of fruits and vegetables. It is definitely a premium dog food for Labrador puppies. Best Dog Food for Older Labs
Just like puppies, senior dogs have slightly different nutritional needs than adult dogs do. And just like we recommended a Wellness CORE Recipe for puppy Labs, we’re going to recommend another Wellness CORE Recipe for senior Labs.
Wellness CORE Senior Grain-Free Recipe is a premium dog food that is specifically designed to meet the unique nutritional needs of older dogs. Grain-free and fortified with probiotics, glucosamine, chondroitin and all the vitamins and minerals an aging dog needs, this is a great choice for owners of older Labs.
Notable Features and Characteristics: Deboned turkey is the first listed ingredient Made with peas, potatoes and lentils, rather than corn or other grains Made in the USA Contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives Top 15 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Dried Ground Potatoes, Peas, Turkey Meal, Lentils, Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Chickpeas, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salmon Oil, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Spinach. Customer Reviews: Most Wellness CORE Recipes receive stellar reviews from owners, and their Senior Recipe is no exception. Several owners reported that this recipe helped to improve their older dog’s energy level and coat condition. A few even felt that it helped reduce their dog’s joint pain. Most dogs appear to love the turkey-based recipe. Bottom Line: Wellness CORE Senior Recipe is, like most other Wellness CORE Recipes, very impressive. It provides exactly the kind of nutrition your senior Labrador Retriever needs to make the most of his golden years, and it is priced pretty affordably given the quality of the ingredients it contains. Therefore, we rate it is one of the best dog foods for senior labs. Best Dog Food for Skin Allergies
Labradors frequently suffer from food allergies, which can lead to itchy skin, poor coat health and occasionally digestive dysfunction. It is often necessary to work with your vet to identify the offending ingredients and eliminate them from your dog’s diet. However, other owners have success by using a limited-ingredient dog food.
Limited ingredient diets usually feature a novel protein, such as lamb, kangaroo or alligator, to which your dog has never been exposed. Additionally, limited-ingredient-diets usually leave out any unnecessary ingredients that are often associated with allergic reactions.
BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Formula is designed to help eliminate your dog’s food allergies and eliminate the itchy skin that can drive him crazy. Made with a novel protein and no grains, this recipe is a great choice for Labs that suffer from food allergies, as well as owners who’d simply like to feed their dog a relatively simple diet.
Notable Features and Characteristics: Deboned lamb (a novel protein for most dogs) is the first ingredient listed Made with fish oil to help improve your dog’s skin and coat condition Made in the USA Formulated for adult dogs Top 15 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Tapioca Starch, Potatoes, Peas, Lamb Meal, Pea Protein, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Potato Starch, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Alfalfa Meal, Choline Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride. Customer Reviews: Most owners who try BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Formula love the recipe and appreciate the way it has helped address their dog’s food allergies. Many owners were not only happy that it put an end to their dog’s itching and improved their coat condition but surprised at how fast these changes occurred after making the switch. Bottom Line: BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Formula is typically quite effective at eliminating problems associated with food allergies. It doesn’t work in every case (some dogs, for example, may be allergic to lamb), but BLUE Basics has designed their recipe to help the vast majority of dogs with food allergies to feel better. Best Sensitive Stomach Dog Food
Most Labrador Retrievers are essentially furry garbage disposals, who can digest most high-quality dog foods without a problem. However, a small number will experience digestive difficulties, which can lead to constipation,
diarrhea or excessive gas. Fortunately, several manufacturers make foods designed to help such dogs digest their food more effectively and to feel better.
Purina’s Pro Plan FOCUS Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula is made with a number of easily digested ingredients, to help promote proper digestion and elimination. Additionally, this recipe is made with glucosamine to help your Lab’s joints and without any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Notable Features and Characteristics: Salmon, which is easy for most dogs to digest, is the first listed ingredient Neither barley nor ground rice – the two primary carbohydrates in the recipe – rarely cause digestive problems Made in the USA Formulated for adult dogs Top 15 Ingredients: Salmon, Barley, Ground Rice, Canola Meal, Oat Meal, Fish Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salmon Meal (Source of Glucosamine), Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Chicory Root Inulin, Salt, Fish Oil, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement. Customer Reviews: Most owners raved about Pro Plan’s Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula. It appears that most owners purchased this food to treat their dog’s food allergies and itchy skin, but there were also plenty of owners who purchased this recipe to relieve their dog’s intestinal distress. Not only did most report that the food worked, but they praised its ability to do so quickly too. Bottom Line: Pro Plan’s Sensitive and Skin Formula is a good choice for Labs that have trouble digesting typical dog foods. It is made with high-quality ingredients, and it even has a few nice “extras,” like glucosamine-rich ingredients. We would prefer if the recipe contained probiotic strains to further support intestinal health, but you can always purchase a stand-alone probiotic supplement. Best All Natural Grain Free Dog Food for Labradors
As people have begun treating their pets like members of the family, many have begun demanding all natural grain free foods that are made without any grains or artificial ingredients. This has led to a bit of an explosion of products in the all natural space, which can make it difficult for owners to pick the right one for their pup.
But upon review of the options on the market, one clearly represents the best in the category.
Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Dog Food is an all natural dog food, made with only the finest ingredients available. It uses ingredients like peas, tapioca and potatoes instead of corn or wheat, and it also features three excellent proteins – turkey, turkey meal and chicken meal – right at the beginning of the ingredient list.
Notable Features and Characteristics: S. farm-raised turkey is the first listed ingredient A portion of the proceeds from product sales support Rachael’s Rescue a non-profit shelter for dogs in need Made in the USA Formulated for adult dogs Top 15 Ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Dried Peas, Tapioca Starch, Whole Dry Potatoes, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Whole Flaxseed, Natural Chicken Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Choline Chloride. Customer Reviews: Most owners who tried Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Dog Food were happy with their purchase. It appeared to help alleviate skin problems for some dogs and stomach issues for others. Most dogs appear to like the flavor, but a not-insignificant number of owners reported that their dog didn’t like the taste. However, this is probably easy to fix by adding a tasty topper (such as a teaspoon of olive oil or a bit of shredded cheese) to the kibble. Bottom Line: Some owners may scoff at the notion of a celebrity-endorsed food that is supposed to be all-natural. But if you simply look at the ingredient list it becomes apparent that this is a very high-quality pet food, and Lab owners looking for an all-natural, grain-free food for their dog would be wise to give it a try. Additionally, Rachael Ray’s Nutrish Zero Grain Dog Food is much more affordable than many of the other foods in the grain free category. Best Weight-Control Dog Food
Unfortunately, a lot of Labrador Retrievers struggle with weight gain. In part, this is due to the greater fat-to-muscle ratio the breed possesses, but it is also due to their love of all things edible. Simply put, most Labs love to eat.
This can cause them to put on a few extra pounds, which may compromise their health in a variety of ways. This can send some owners on a quest for a good pet food that will help manage their dog’s weight. We’ll review the best one on the market below.
Blue Buffalo makes another appearance on our list, with their Life Protection Healthy Weight Formula. It is especially important to choose a healthy recipe when selecting a pet food to help manage your dog’s weight, as many economy-priced weight-loss formulas have questionable ingredient lists. However, this recipe – like all other Blue Buffalo Recipes – is packed with only the finest ingredients available.
Notable Features and Characteristics: Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient Brown rice is a fantastic, low-calorie carbohydrate for dogs Made in the USA Formulated for adult dogs Top 15 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Pea Fiber, Pea Starch, Oatmeal, Peas, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Powdered Cellulose, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal. Customer Reviews: Like most other Blue Buffalo recipes, their Healthy Weight Formula has received very good reviews from owners. Several owners reported that it helped their dog shed a few pounds, while still appearing to please their dog’s taste buds. A few owners experienced shipping or packaging problems, but this issue can occur with any product. Bottom Line: You’ll rarely regret trying one of Blue Buffalo’s recipes, and by all accounts, their Healthy Weight Formula appears to work exactly as intended. It has a very impressive ingredient list, includes probiotics to help ease your dog’s food transition, and it contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids for coat health. In Conclusion
For the most part, Labs are healthy and happy dogs, who don’t present many special dietary requirements. However, that doesn’t mean you should just pick the first food you see or select the cheapest one you can find. Your buddy deserves better than this, so try to select a food that is well suited for his needs.
Any of the first three dog foods for Labs we reviewed should make a good choice for the average adult Labrador, and those with specific requirements should thrive on the recipes recommended in each category (Lab puppies, overweight dogs, etc.).
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