best puppy food for labs

Best Puppy Food for Labs (8 Top Recommendations for 2019)

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Labrador Retrievers are the most popular dog breed in the United States. These friendly, intelligent balls of energy make great family pets. Now, you’ve decided to add one to your home.

You want to give your Lab puppy the best start to life possible. One important part of that is finding the best puppy food for Labs.

We’re here to give you all the information you need about feeding your new Labrador puppy. We’ll even include our top recommendations for the best food for Lab puppies.

Ready? Let’s go!

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Why Does my Lab Puppy Need a Specific Food?

Puppies, in general, have different nutritional needs than adult dogs. This is even more true for large breed dogs, like Labrador Retrievers. That’s because a Lab puppy who grows too quickly can develop bone or joint issues that can plague their adulthood.

Puppy food, especially puppy food for large breed dogs, has a much different nutritional composition than adult dog food. This isn’t about keeping them “healthy” per se. It’s about avoiding painful conditions that can be caused by food that makes your puppy grow too fast.

Let’s talk more about the nutritional requirements you should find in a puppy food for your Lab.

best food for lab puppies

Nutritional Requirements for Lab Puppies

Lab puppies have specific nutritional requirements. Here are some of the important ingredients you should find in a high-quality puppy food for your Labrador.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

You may have heard about glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for people. However, these ingredients are also crucial for large breed dogs like Labs. Why?

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are nutrients that are used to help build and maintain cartilage. That’s the stuff that helps cushion your dog’s joints. Dogs who don’t get enough glucosamine and chondroitin in their diet are more likely to suffer from painful joint conditions.

You want to make sure your Lab puppy eats food that contains good levels of glucosamine and chondroitin. The earlier they can get these nutrients, the better joints they should have as an adult.

L-Carnitine

L-carnitine helps prevent heart disease, so it’s an important ingredient in puppy food for Labs. L-carnitine is naturally found in meat. Look for food with real meat (rather than meal or by-product) in the first 3 ingredients.

Taurine and DHA

Taurine and DHA are amino acids that are crucial for the development of the nervous system and the eyes. Labrador Retrievers are prone to some eye diseases, so taurine and DHA are critical food ingredients.

Calcium and Phosphorous

Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for bone growth. That would mean that more is better, right? No!

In large breed dogs like Labrador Retrievers, you need to control their growth. Puppies who grow too quickly are more prone to develop bone or joint problems. Feeding a food that’s too high in calcium or phosphorus could cause your dog a lifetime of pain.

Look for a puppy food that has no more than 1.5% calcium and 0.9% phosphorous.

Probiotics

You’ve probably seen commercials for probiotics or yogurt that contains probiotics. That’s because probiotics help improve digestion.

Puppies aren’t born with all the healthy bacteria they need in their gut. Probiotics for dogs help grow their beneficial bacteria load. That, in turn, leads to improved digestion and less gas or diarrhea.

Protein

We all know that protein helps build muscle. However, like with the calcium and phosphorus, you don’t want your puppy to get too much protein. It could cause your Lab to grow too quickly and develop bone or joint problems.

Look for a puppy food that has around 22% protein and 8% fat.

What Other Ingredients Should Dog Food for Lab Puppies Include?

Be sure to look for real meat in the first 3 ingredients. It shouldn’t have artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It also shouldn’t have any meat by-products or filler ingredients like corn or soy.

best dog food for a lab puppy

The Best Puppy Food for Labs

(Our Top Pick)

#1 – Wellness CORE Puppy Grain-Free Recipe

Wellness Core Grain Free Puppy Food for LabsThe Wellness CORE puppy food uses potatoes and peas for carbohydrates rather than grains. Deboned chicken is the first ingredient, with chicken meal and turkey meal rounding out the first three ingredients.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Contains deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal
  • Made in the USA
  • Contains healthy antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Suitable for puppies of any size

Top 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: Most puppies love the taste of this food. Many owners reported that their puppy had a shinier coat and more energy after switching to this food. Some people even said the food reduced their puppy’s anxiety.

Bottom Line: This is a premium puppy food for Labs. It has whole meat, grain-free carbohydrates, salmon oil, probiotics, and fruits and vegetables. The nutrition from this food will give your Lab puppy a great start to life.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

#2 – Tuffy’S Pet Food Nutrisource Large Breed Chicken & Rice Puppy Food

This food has the perfect levels of protein and fat to help your Lab puppy grow at the right speed. It’s also easy to digest, so your puppy will have less gas and firmer stool.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Ideal fat and protein amounts
  • Easy to digest
  • Recommended by breeders
  • Superior nutrition for balanced muscular and skeletal growth

Top Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, white rice, barley, corn gluten meal, oatmeal, beet pulp, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), natural flavors, fish meal (a source of fish oil), flax seeds, sunflower oil.

Customer Reviews: For the most part, puppies enjoy the taste of this food and have healthy skin and solid poop. Most of the complaints revolve around shipping issues rather than the food itself.

Bottom Line: While this food is a little on the pricy side, many reviewers insist it’s worth the price.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

#3 – Merrick Dry Puppy Food with Healthy Grains

With deboned chicken as the first ingredient and no potatoes, this food is a great choice for your Lab puppy. It has guaranteed levels of omega-3 and omega-6, which should help your puppy have a shiny coat.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Deboned chicken is the first ingredient
  • Has glucosamine and chondroitin
  • No potatoes
  • Made in the USA

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Peas, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Pea Protein, Quinoa, Natural Flavor, Salmon Meal, Chicken Liver, Carrots, Apples, Salmon Oil (source of Omega-3 fatty acids), Blueberries, Chia Seed, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal

Customer Reviews: Most puppies on this food have tons of energy and healthy coats. There are some reports of puppies having diarrhea after eating this food.

Bottom Line: Since there is currently some debate about the safety of grain-free foods, this healthy grain option may be just right for your puppy.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

#4 – Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken, Salmon & Rice

The first 3 ingredients are all excellent sources of protein, so you can be sure this food isn’t full of fillers. It also has plenty of antioxidants to help your Lab puppy develop a healthy immune system.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • First 3 ingredients are all meat
  • Lots of antioxidants
  • No wheat, corn, soy, meat by-products, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Whitefish, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Peas, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice, Salmon Meal (a source of DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid), Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Tomatoes, Natural Chicken Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Salmon Oil (a source of DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid), Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries.

Customer Reviews: This food can be more of a tossup. Puppies either thrive and have healthy coats or have problems with diarrhea. You’ll have to try it to see if your puppy tolerates it.

Bottom Line: As long as your Lab puppy’s tummy agrees with the food, they will probably thrive on it.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

#5 – Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food Large & Giant Breed Puppy Lamb

This food has salmon oil for an excellent source of DHA, which helps with brain and eye development. It’s also designed to be easy to digest and supports a healthy immune system.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Contains antioxidant-rich superfoods
  • Digestive support with prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Made in the USA

Top Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Barley, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Oats, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Salmon Oil, Flaxseed, Pumpkin, Cranberries, Apples, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Papayas, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Blueberries, Pomegranates, Vitamin E Supplement, Inulin, L-Carnitine, Dried Kelp.

Customer Reviews: This food is gentle on puppy’s tummies. Most puppies saw improved digestion after switching to this food. On the downside, some puppies don’t like the taste.

Bottom Line: If your Lab puppy has a sensitive stomach, this food is well worth the price. It’s less likely to cause diarrhea than just about any other puppy food.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

#6 – Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Real Lamb Recipe Premium Dry Dog Food

This food has antioxidants, probiotics, DHA, omega-3, and superfoods. It’s easy to digest and less likely to cause stomach problems than some other foods.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Highly digestible
  • Contains probiotics
  • Made with pasture-raised lamb
  • Made in the USA

Top Ingredients: Lamb, lamb meal, ground white rice, peas, pea flour, cracked pearled barley, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), egg product, dried yeast, tomato pomace, potato protein, flaxseed, natural flavor, salmon oil (source of DHA), salt, DL-methionine, choline chloride, taurine, dried chicory root, L-Carnitine, kale, chia seed, pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, quinoa, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, yucca schidigera extract.

Customer Reviews: Most dogs thrive on this food. It’s also more affordable than some of the other foods on our list. Some dogs did deal with digestive or allergic reactions to this food.

Bottom Line: Unless your puppy has a bad reaction to it, this is a great puppy food for Labs that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

#7 – Nutro Max Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food

Nutro Max Large Breed Natural Puppy Food for LabsLooking for non-GMO puppy food? Nutro Max has you covered. This food has no corn, wheat, or soy protein and is an affordable option for your Lab puppy.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • No chicken by-product meal
  • No corn, wheat, or soy protein
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Top Ingredients: Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Grain Oatmeal, Whole Grain Sorghum, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Chicken, Flaxseed, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Brewers Rice, Natural Flavor, Chickpeas, Whole Brown Rice, Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols).

Customer Reviews: Most dogs thrive on this food. However, there are some quality control issues.

Bottom Line: This is an affordable food that’s still good quality for your Lab puppy.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

#8 – Solid Gold – Wolf Cub with Real Bison and Oatmeal – Natural Large Breed Puppy Food

Solid Gold Natural Food for Labrador PuppiesThis food is less likely to trigger food allergies because it’s made with unique proteins: bison and ocean fish. This potato-free recipe has ideal levels of fat and protein and is perfect for a Lab puppy.

Notable Features and Characteristics:

  • Bison and ocean fish meal are proteins less likely to cause allergies
  • Contains no potatoes
  • Has probiotics and prebiotics
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee

Top Ingredients: Bison, Ocean Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Peas, Rice Bran, Pearled Barley, Pea Protein, Dried Eggs, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate.

Customer Reviews: Despite the occasional digestive issues, most dogs thrive on this food, even those who have had bad reactions to other foods.

Bottom Line: This is an excellent choice for your Lab puppy. Be warned, though, that it is an ultra-premium food at an ultra-premium price.

Click to See Price and Reviews on Amazon

silver lab puppy

Labrador Puppy Food Options

When you think about puppy food, you probably think about kibble. Our recommendations for the best puppy food for Labs will all be kibble. However, you should know about your other puppy food options.

Kibble for Lab Puppies

Kibble is the most common puppy food thanks to its convenience. It’s easy to feed, store, and travel with. All reputable puppy foods are also certified to meet minimum nutritional requirements.

Wet Food for Lab Puppies

Some puppies don’t like dry kibble. You may choose to add some wet food to their kibble. Dogs love the taste of wet food. However, it isn’t usually nutritionally complete, so you shouldn’t feed wet food alone.

Raw Diet for Lab Puppies

Raw diets have become increasingly popular. Some people believe that dogs should eat like their wild wolf ancestors and have a diet primarily made from raw meat.

There are many reported benefits of raw diets, though few scientific studies have been done to prove these benefits.

One problem with feeding a Lab puppy a raw diet is that it’s heavy in protein. It’s also difficult to control the amount of calcium and phosphorus your puppy gets. This could lead to your puppy growing too quickly and developing bone or joint problems.

You may choose to switch your puppy to a raw diet when they get older. However, it’s best to be sure of the nutritional balance of the food you give them as a puppy.

If you still want to feed your puppy a raw diet, consider going with a commercial freeze-dried raw food. Check out 5 Best Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Foods of 2019 for more information.

Homemade Dog Food for Lab Puppies

Some people prefer to make their own food for their dogs. There can be a lot of benefits to making your Lab puppy’s food. Unfortunately, as with the raw diet, it can be difficult to ensure that your puppy gets the right proportion of nutrients.

If you choose to make your Lab puppy’s food, make sure the diet is approved by a veterinary nutritionist.

To learn more about homemade diets, check out the 10 Best Homemade Dog Food Recipes For Large Breed Dogs.

What’s the Difference Between Adult and Puppy Food for Labs?

Adult Labs have different nutritional needs than puppies. In particular, they need lower levels of protein and fat. While you don’t want your puppy to get too much protein, adult dog food may not offer enough protein.

It isn’t that adult food could make your puppy “sick,” but it could affect their growth and overall health. That’s why you need to find puppy food for your young Lab.

labrador health problems

Common Health Problems of Labs

Labs are prone to a variety of health problems. You may be surprised to learn how some of these health issues can be affected by your puppy’s diet. Here are some health problems Labs face:

  • Hip or elbow dysplasia are painful conditions caused by a malformation of the hip or elbow joint. Growing too quickly may be a contributing factor to hip or elbow dysplasia.
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) is an improper growth of cartilage in the joints that’s often caused by growing too quickly. It can be quite painful.
  • Eye conditions like progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) or cataracts. That’s why eye-building amino acids like DHA and taurine are crucial puppy food ingredients.
  • Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) is a congenital heart defect that may range from mild to deadly.
  • Epilepsy is a condition that causes seizures.
  • Bloat is a life-threatening condition where the stomach rotates on its axis and cuts off blood flow to the intestines. One way to prevent bloat is to feed your dog at least twice a day.
  • Ear infections are common in drop-eared dogs like Labs. A low-quality diet can increase the growth of yeast in the ears and contribute to chronic ear infections.

How Much to Feed a Lab Puppy

Feeding a Lab puppy can be tricky. Since they’re always growing, you must constantly change how much you feed them. You also want to ensure you aren’t overfeeding them and causing them to grow too quickly.

It’s important to read the feeding guidelines of the food you buy and talk to your vet. You may need to feed less of a high-quality diet and more of a low-quality diet. If your puppy is super active, they will need more food than a lazy puppy.

In any case, you should increase how much you feed them gradually. For example, go from slightly less than a cup, to an even cup, to a heaping cup.

how often to feed a lab puppy

How Often to Feed Your Lab Puppy

Puppies need to eat more frequently than adult dogs. When you first bring your puppy home, you should feed them 4 times per day. Their tiny stomach can’t handle large meals yet.

When your puppy turns 3 months old, you can start feeding them 3 times per day. Once your puppy turns 6 months old, feed them twice a day, and maintain that schedule.

Some people like to free feed their dogs. However, that can lead to obesity and make it difficult to see if your dog isn’t eating as much. Also, only feeding your dog once a day is more likely to cause your dog to suffer from life-threatening bloat.

Risks of Overfeeding Your Labrador Puppy

You love your little Lab puppy, and you want to spoil them as much as possible. The problem is that overfeeding your Labrador puppy can cause them to grow too quickly. That can lead to bone and joint problems that may last a lifetime.

Labrador Retrievers are also highly prone to obesity. Many people think that Labs should be barrel-chested, but that isn’t true.

When your Lab is standing up, you should be able to feel (but not see) their ribs. If you can’t easily feel your Lab’s ribs, they need to lose some weight. Talk to your vet about the best way for your Lab to safely lose weight.

Don’t Sacrifice Quality to Save Money

We know, dog food can be expensive. The thing is, feeding your Lab puppy a high-quality food now may help prevent health problems down the road. Saving money on cheaper food could cause unexpected problems and vet bills when your puppy grows up.

Switching Puppy Food Brands

Do you want to switch your puppy from one food to another? You need to do it slowly. Dogs in general and puppies, in particular, are prone to upset stomachs when their food is changed suddenly.

When you first buy a new food, add just a little bit of the new food to the old food. Increase to ¼ new food and ¾ old food, then half and half, and so on. This process should take at least a week or two to ensure your puppy gets used to the new food.

Changing Your Lab from Puppy Food to Adult Food

You should use the same process when changing your Lab from puppy food to adult food. You need to make the switch gradually to reduce the chances of an upset stomach.

Start with ¼ adult food and ¾ puppy food for a few days. Then do half puppy food and half adult food for a few days. Gradually increase the amount of adult food until you’re out of puppy food.

labrador retriever puppy food

FAQs

We know this is a long article, so here are some quick answers to common questions.

Is the Best Puppy Food for Labs Expensive?

It depends on how you define “expensive,” but yes, higher-quality puppy foods may be considered expensive. However, you are setting your puppy up for a healthy adulthood. Buying cheap puppy food could lead to expensive or painful health problems in the future.

How Much Should I Feed my Labrador Puppy?

You should refer to the feeding guidelines on the bag of food and talk to your vet. Active puppies will need slightly more food than lazy ones. High-quality foods may have lower feeding guidelines than cheap foods because they use higher-quality ingredients.

What if My Lab Puppy Is Still Hungry?

Labrador Retrievers are one breed that always seems to be hungry. However, overfeeding your puppy can lead to obesity or growing too quickly.

If your puppy scarfs their food, consider using a puzzle bowl or treat ball to slow down their eating.

If you give your puppy treats, remember to feed them less food at mealtime to account for the calories.

One way to keep your hungry Lab happy is to feed them low-calorie veggies for treats. You might be surprised how much your Lab puppy loves carrots or snow peas.

What if My Puppy Won’t Eat?

Periods of stress (like leaving their mother and coming to a new home) can cause puppies to stop eating. If your puppy isn’t showing any other symptoms, you can give them a day or so to see if they will eat.

If your Lab puppy still isn’t eating after a day or two, or if they are showing any other symptoms, take them to the vet right away. Puppies can become very sick very quickly.

Should I Give Milk to My Lab Puppy?

Did you know that humans are the only animal species that continue drinking milk after they’ve been weaned?

Your puppy should have been weaned from its mother’s milk before joining your home. Many dogs are lactose intolerant, so you should avoid giving your Lab puppy milk, cheese, or other dairy products.

How Can I Tell if I’m Not Feeding the Right Food for my Labrador Puppy?

There are some ways you can tell if you aren’t feeding the best puppy food for Labs. Look for the following symptoms:

  • Lots of dander
  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive drinking
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

What Kind of Treats Should I Give my Lab Puppy?

Just like you check the ingredients of your puppy’s food, you should check the ingredients of their treats. Avoid treats with fillers like corn or soy. Vegetables can be a treat low-calorie treat for your Lab puppy, too.

Wrapping Up: What Is the Best Food for a Lab Puppy?

We’ve given you tons of information here. There is no one answer for the best food for Lab puppies. Hopefully, though, we’ve given you the information you need to pick the right food for your Labrador puppy.

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