How To Find the Best Food For Labradors?

If you decide to have a Labrador as your first dog, you might be wondering what to feed it, what it needs to stay healthy, and what it enjoys eating. Even if you have owned Labradors for a while, you can periodically question the best diet.

The optimal food for Labradors is a high-quality, protein-rich diet with 18 to 22% protein. Additionally, cereals, vegetables, and fruits can provide nutrients to laboratories. However, they require the proper protein, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and fiber ratio for optimum health and lifespan.

The optimal nutrition Labrador Retrievers require will be discussed in this article, along with the best diet for them. We’ll review everything from what they can and can’t eat to the greatest treats, the pros, and cons of different types of dog food, how much food and water they require, if they should eat bones, and much more.

What Nutrients Do Labradors Need?

To survive, Labrador Retrievers require a wide variety of nutrients. These consist of water, vitamins, minerals, lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates.

All commercial dog foods must adhere to AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutritional standards, which specify what ingredients are acceptable in pet diets.

Labrador Diet

Protein is the essential nutrient that Labradors need. Protein serves many purposes, including the development and repair of tissues, the production of energy, and the maintenance of healthy immunological and musculoskeletal systems. Puppies and adult Labradors require various amounts of food:


Adult dogs need a minimum of 18% protein, whereas growing Lab puppies need 22% protein.

In other words, after all the water from the food has been taken out, the protein is evaluated on a dry matter basis. For instance, when the water is removed from fresh chicken, the protein content is between 10 and 20%.


Fat is the second most important nutrient for your Labrador. Protein is found in fat, which is an energy source. Additionally, it is important for the healthy growth and operation of body tissues, including muscles, neurons, and cells.

Once more, the quantity needed for puppies and older dogs varies. For growing Lab puppies, the suggested fat level is 8%, and for an adult dog, it is 5%.

The specific nutritional needs of a dog will vary depending on their age, breed, size, degree of exercise, and general health. For instance, a growing puppy may require twice as many calories as an adult dog of the same breed. Senior dogs may require 20% fewer calories than dogs of the same age.

In further instances, a toy dog that enjoys lounging about all day needs entirely different nutrition than my well-exercised dog, and a pregnant dog will need a lot more calories than that same lap dog.

Therefore, what are the AAFCO’s approved canine life stages? These are:

  • gestation/lactation (pregnancy and nursing)
  • growth (includes puppies)
  • adult maintenance
  • all life stages

All Life Stages Diet

A diet created for all life stages satisfies the nutritional needs for adult maintenance, growth, and reproduction. Therefore, any age Labrador can consume this diet.

An “all life stage” diet tends to be heavier in calories; therefore, only use it if your dog is in this situation.

For instance, if your dog is active or working, you can choose an “all life stages” diet to provide the extra calories and nutrition required. However, you would pick a diet for adult maintenance if your dog is older, less active, or overweight.

Dogs’ needs for nutrition, vitamins, and minerals alter as they get older and grow. Be mindful that varied nutrient ratios, feeding rates, and amounts are ideal for various life stages when choosing the proper pet food.

Are Labradors Carnivores?

Dogs are often considered true carnivores, but do they only consume meat?

Labradors are omnivores rather than carnivores. While most of a dog’s diet comprises protein, civilized dogs now eat grains, fruits, and vegetables to receive nutrients.

Over thousands of years of domestication, dogs have developed an adaptation to a starch-rich diet. They have developed into omnivores and have proven that they can thrive on various meals, all of which are important sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

We know that the domestic dog is an immediate ancestor of the grey wolf. This study demonstrated that wolves were adaptable carnivores, unlike omnivores’ digestive and metabolic characteristics in modern canines.

What Foods Can Labradors Eat?

Now that we know the nutrients dogs require, what foods suit Labradors? Let’s examine the primary meals that Labradors can eat in more detail.

There are several foods that are completely safe and healthy that labradors can consume. These include dairy products like yogurt and cheese and fruits and vegetables like apples, berries, carrots, and peas. They also contain proteins like cattle, lamb, hog, and poultry; grains like wheat, oats, corn; and cereals.

Those above are only a few broad examples; let’s look at the main foods Labradors can consume. You may find them conveniently organized in the tables below, but there are a few caveats you should be aware of, so keep reading!

Beef Wheat
Chicken Rice
Turkey Oats
Venison Oatmeal
Pork Corn
Lamb Maize
Duck Rye
Liver Quinoa
Kidney Buckwheat
Heart Barley
Fish Teff
Salmon Amaranth
Tuna Millet
Mackeral Spelled
Eggs Bulgar


Almonds Cheese
Cashews Cream
Peanuts Ice-cream
Hazelnuts Yogurt
Chestnuts Milk


Artichoke Apple
Asparagus Apricot
Bell Peppers Banana
Beets Blackberries
Broccoli & Brussels Sprouts Blueberries
Cabbage & Cauliflower Coconut
Carrot Cranberries
Celery Cucumber
Corn Dates
Cucumber Kiwi Fruit
Eggplant Mango
Green Beans & Peas Melon
Lettuce & Kale Nectarine
Parsnips Peach & Plum
Pumpkin Persimmon
Potato (cooked) Olive
Rutabaga & Turnip Pear
Spinach Pineapple
Sweet Potato Raspberries
Squash Strawberries
Zucchini Watermelon


Here are the limitations of feeding the items mentioned above:

  • Meats should be completely defatted and lean. Avoid processed meats like bacon and sausage, which include a lot of salt and seasoning.
  • To aid digestion, most vegetables should be cooked first; however, carrots and green beans can be eaten raw. Here is my best piece on vegetables for your Lab that interests you.
  • Fruit pits and seeds should never be eaten because they might cause choking. Additionally, they contain cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs in big doses. Check out this article, 29 Fruits Labradors Can Eat, if fruits are more your style.
  • Avoid feeding raw fish or eggs because of the possibility of listeria or salmonella.
  • Nuts shouldn’t be eaten because of their high-fat content, which might result in nausea and diarrhea. They also present a choking risk.
  • If your dog is lactose sensitive, stay away from dairy foods.

What Foods Can Labradors Not Eat?

Several foods are harmful to dogs and can have negative effects. Sometimes even a small amount of poisonous food might result in death. You will require quick veterinarian guidance if your Lab accidentally consumes these things. So what foods are off limits to Labradors?

Various foods, such as chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, alcoholic beverages, unbaked bread dough, and products sweetened with xylitol, are off-limits to labradors. In recent years, dogs have been poisoned by these foods the most frequently.

Nobody would ever want to give their Labrador a sip of beer, a margarita, or some candies. However, in most cases, dog poisoning incidents are caused by a lack of public awareness of the food or by pets having easy access to it by accident.

Below is a handy list of the main items that Labradors cannot eat.

Alcohol Grapes Caffeine
Chocolate Cocoa Garlic
Hops Conkers Macadamia nuts
Candies Rhubarb Leaves Onions
Leeks Chives Raisins
Nutmeg Salt Starfruit
Xylitol Yeast dough Black walnuts
Cherries Raw Potato Mushrooms
Avocado Tomato (green) Moldy food

What Type of Dog Food is Best for Labrador Retrievers?

We all want what is best for our Labradors, including the healthiest nutrition we can provide to keep them content and happy. Dogs are typically fed commercial dry food or canned wet food. However, there are many different kinds of dog food, which can be confusing at first.

The primary dog food categories include the following for your Labrador:

Complete dry foods Canned wet foods
A mix of dry and wet Home produced diet
Complete raw diet Dehydrated and freeze-dried

Dry dog food is ideal for Labrador Retrievers since it is more convenient for medium-sized breeds, has more nutrients per mouthful than wet food, and is less expensive. Even if you choose a premium brand, it will still be less expensive than wet foods in cans.

You ought to select the diet for your Labrador based on his requirements, health, and way of life. However, you also need to fulfill your own needs and values.

After we take a special look at the many kinds of food you may give your Lab; I’ll go into more detail about this in the section. This should assist you in selecting the right food for your dog.

Dry Foods

One of the most well-liked categories of dog food is dry food. Complete dry dog food comes in two different flavors. KIBBLE and COLD-PRESSED DOG FOOD are these.

In the UK and other parts of Europe, cold-pressed dog food is quite common and also gaining popularity in the US and elsewhere. Due to how it is prepared, it is thought to be kibble of a higher grade.

Then what is kibble exactly?

Simply put, kibble is a mixture of ground-up components formed into various sizes and shapes of pellets. An extrusion method or oven baking at high pressures or temperatures is used to make this.

The same kind of equipment is used to make all kibble in the same manner. The same procedure creates even premium kibble prepared with the finest components.

What does “cold-pressed dog food” mean?

A unique heating process is used to produce cold-pressed dog food. The meal is created at a much lower temperature and cooked swiftly to keep more nutritional content, vitamins, and flavor. After that, it is formed by pressing. The most similar pet food to a raw food diet is cold-pressed food.

Due to their lower moisture content, kibble and cold-pressed meal offer more nutrients per bite than wet food. As a result, you will only need to feed your Labrador less frequently to satiate its desire.

A dry meal is less expensive per meal than canned wet food since it can be stored in your Lab’s feeding dish for a longer amount of time than canned food, which has be refrigerated. Dry food may also aid dogs with dental difficulties by cleaning their teeth and gums.

Dry dog food is the most practical option for a medium-sized dog, such as Labrador. Smaller breeds can select a smaller variety of kibble and cold-pressed since they are available in various sizes and forms.

Dry food can either be consumed dry or, on rare occasions, softened and transformed into a delectable “gravy” by adding warm water. Some dog owners enjoy topping their dog’s food with prepared meats, fish, or veggies; I also enjoy doing the same.

Canned Wet Foods

Dry dog foods only have up to 10% moisture compared to 75% in canned wet dog foods. Because there are fewer nutrients, the higher the water content, the more food your Lab needs to ingest to meet its nutritional needs.

Another thing to be aware of is that not all canned food brands offer your Labrador the necessary amount of protein.

Because of this, a wet diet can be more expensive, especially if your dog is a medium-sized breed, but it might be the best option if your dog likes to eat larger portions. For smaller breeds, a moist diet can be preferable.

Watch out for lower-quality canned foods, which frequently contain thickeners such as white rice, wheat flour, or other grains. If your dog is a fussy eater or has an elderly Labrador who has lost his appetite, wet food can be a better option for them.

Semi-moist dog foods are available but less common because they have the lowest nutritional value and can be pricey.

Unfortunately, dog food manufacturers add sugar and salt to maintain moisture and shelf life. Additionally, many semi-moist meals are laced with synthetic dyes, chemical preservatives, and taste boosters.

Your Labrador Retriever may not benefit from a semi-moist diet, especially if he is overweight and needs to reduce a few pounds.

If your Lab has trouble digesting all other forms of food, semi-moist food can be the best option. If he is a very picky eater, he might also like the meaty flavor and find this cuisine more appealing.

When you plan to provide this type of food to your Labrador, consult with your veterinarian first to see how many calories it contains and how much to feed them daily.

A Mix of Dry and Wet

Some dog owners use a combination of wet and dry diets. At each meal, you can alternate serving the items wet in the morning and dry in the evening (or the opposite).

I’ve also heard of Labrador owners who feed their dog’s dry food and occasionally top their dogs’ bowls with wet food.

It’s better to stay with one brand if you blend dry and wet foods. If you combine these foods, avoid increasing your dog’s calorie consumption. As mentioned above, you should also get professional assistance to ensure your dog receives the right nutrition.

Diet Prepared at Home

Some Labrador owners enjoy giving their dogs a homemade diet (often called a home feeder). Given the availability and diversity of both dry and wet dog meals, I wondered why someone would choose to be a home feeding.

The following are the key causes I found:

  • Because they were concerned about the nutritional content of the components utilized, home feeders looked for alternatives to conventional pet foods.
  • Home feeders enjoyed preparing the food, improving their relationship with their dogs, or expressing their opinions.
  • Home feeders are under the impression that their animals will dislike or reject commercial dog food.
  • If a dog has several diseases for which no commercial diet exists, a home-prepared diet may be required to aid in diagnosis (for example, during a food elimination trial).
  • Home feeders looked for solace for canines suffering from serious or terminal conditions.

The making of dog food at home has several drawbacks. You can do it, but it will require a lot of commitment and effort, and it can even cost more than the highest-quality dog food you can afford.

Diets produced from scratch can offer complete nourishment. However, ensure your Labrador consumes the proper proportion of protein, lipids, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. It can be challenging to do this consistently.

It’s best to speak with your vet before preparing a home-cooked diet for your dog. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition has qualified professional pet nutritionists who provide a balanced diet for your Labrador.

Unless your dog is used to a specifically prepared raw food, it is advised that you cook any animal products to kill microorganisms that could make your Labrador unwell. To make veggies and grains easier for your dog to digest, you should also prepare them.

My Recommendation

My last recommendation for you as you consider whether to feed your dog a homemade diet is this:

  • Do you have enough time to make your dog’s meals every day?
  • There are numerous premium commercial dog foods available on the market that meet your dog’s nutritional demands.
  • To ensure that he doesn’t have any nutritional deficits, your dog will require routine health examinations.

Raw Diet

It is safe to start giving your Labrador puppy raw food at three to four weeks old. Although controversial, the idea behind feeding dogs in their natural state before domestication is the foundation of raw feeding.

Even though sled dogs and racing greyhounds have long consumed a raw food diet, there will occasionally be a fad for giving dogs an entirely raw diet that includes raw fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and some dairy.

When giving your Labrador a raw diet, there are two crucial aspects to consider. The first step is to ensure that your Lab receives a balanced meal full of all the nutrients he needs to stay healthy and disease-free. The importance of this increases while feeding a developing dog.

Like DIY diets, constructing a raw diet might be challenging to ensure you consume only a few or too many essential nutrients. More so if your Labrador is ill, breastfeeding, pregnant, or any of these conditions with varied nutritional needs.

Food safety concerns, including bacterial or parasite contamination of raw meat, rank as the second biggest worry. When feeding dogs raw foods, food poisoning poses a serious risk to their health and to humans.

If you’re considering giving your Labrador a raw food diet, be sure you are completely knowledgeable on the safe and proper handling of raw foods and related food safety concerns.

Many people who feed their animals a raw diet tout the myriad health advantages, including increased energy levels, improved digestion, shinier coats, clearer skin, whiter teeth, and a generally healthier way of life.

However, there needs to be more studies to determine if feeding dogs raw meat is risky or advantageous. As a result, most of the alleged advantages of feeding raw foods still need to be proven.

Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried

You can give your dog a freeze-dried or dehydrated diet, which has recently gained popularity. Both diets have their moisture removed to preserve the food. Therefore, synthetic preservatives are not necessary. They do, however, differ in several important ways.

Dehydrated foods are partially cooked at low temperatures to eliminate most of the water. Nutrients and enzymes are still present in the meal because it has only been heated and not entirely cooked. They are a full diet and are frequently considered an improvement over standard extruded kibble.

You need to add warm water to the dried dog chow to prepare it. The outcome is less processed food with a feel similar to canned wet food. These foods have a long shelf life, are straightforward to feed, are simple to store, and don’t require refrigeration.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, a dehydrated diet is an excellent option because the food is easier on the digestive system thanks to the gentle heating method. Foods that have been freeze-dried are essentially a raw diet that has been modified.

Pros and Cons of Different Dog Food Types

I’ve organized all the above data into useful tables so you can quickly see the advantages and disadvantages of each food type to assist you in choosing the ideal diet for your Labrador.

DRY DOG FOOD WET FOOD (including semi-moist)
More practicable for medium-large breeds More suited for smaller or toy breeds
Inexpensive and less waste Some dogs find wet more palatable than dry foods
Denser provides more nutrients per bite than wet Good for picky and senior dogs
Convenient and easy to feed Good for hydration
No need to worry about nutritional deficiencies There is no need to be concerned about dietary inadequacies.
No need to refrigerate Because of the high water content, dogs can eat more per meal.
Good for “grazers” as they can be left in the bowl longer Excellent for dogs who have difficulty chewing.
Add “toppings” such as prepared meats, seafood, or vegetables for variety. Semi-moist may be beneficial for dogs that have difficulty digesting certain foods.
To produce a nice gravy, add water. Although it has a longer shelf life than dry food, there may be more waste if the food goes uneaten.
Comes in many shapes and sizes to suit your dog More expensive than dry foods
Great for interactive feeders Keep an eye out for additional salt and sugar in semi-moist foods.
Good for the teeth May contribute to gum disease
Poor-quality brands often add “fillers” and low-quality ingredients Poor-quality brands often add “fillers” and low-quality ingredients


A combination of Wet and Dry Made at Home
Have the best of both worlds: dry and wet. You control your dog’s food and nutrients
It can be mixed in the same dish or at different feeding. Variety is good for picky eaters.
Good For Picky Eaters It can help with bonding.
It is best to stick with the same brand. Can aid in medical diagnosis or healing
Calorie consumption must be tracked. Costly and time-consuming
A veterinarian’s guidance may be required. Need to ensure correct nutrition is being given, such regular health checks are advised.


You control your dog’s food and nutrients Most of the moisture is removed
Need to ensure correct nutrition is provided More natural as no preservatives are added
It may be unsuitable for sick or senior dogs Nutrients remain intact
Risk of food contamination Freeze-dried is essentially raw
No proven health benefits except for better digestion Long shelf life and easy to store
Expensive and time-consuming if prepared at home Convenient
Regular health checks advised More expensive

Before switching your Labrador’s diet, discuss the advantages and hazards with your veterinarian.

How Much Food Should a Labrador Eat?

The next challenge awaits you once you’ve chosen the diet type to feed your dog. What portion size should a Labrador have?

Depending on their size, activity level, age, whether they are puppies, adults, or senior dogs, and general health, Labradors should eat a certain amount of food every day. A dog’s energy requirements may also increase during severe illness, pregnancy, or lactation. Making sure your dog is well-rested and well-rested is crucial.

But don’t worry; if you are giving commercial dog food, the label should show the suggested feeding recommendations for the dog’s life stage. Most brands also include useful tables or calculators on their websites.

In addition to determining how much food to provide based on your dog’s weight, you must also consider how active your dog is. As an illustration, passive dogs may require 10% less than what is recommended on the food label compared to active dogs, which may require 20% to 40% more.

As mentioned, you should consult your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist before feeding your Labrador a raw homemade diet or a combination of dry and wet food to ensure it provides the right calories and nutrients.

How Often Should I Feed My Labrador Puppy?

Puppies in various stages of development require more frequent feedings than adult dogs since they have different nutritional needs. Depending on his age, here is how frequently you should feed your Labrador puppy:

6 to 12 weeks 4
12 to 24 weeks 3
24 weeks onwards 2

The nutrition that newborn Labrador puppies need comes from nursing their mother. When a baby is three to four weeks old, it is safe to begin weaning them onto a new diet.

Puppies that are still growing and developing need to consume enough calories, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals to support their rapid growth and development and put them on the path to a healthy life.

Labradors are medium-sized breeds, so they should consume large breed-specific dog food from an early age. Large-breed dog food is crucial to the health of your Labrador.

Foods for large breeds are greater in protein and lower in calcium, phosphorus, and fat. This is nutritionally designed to prevent them from growing too quickly, as doing so might result in painful diseases like hip and elbow dysplasia.

Even though mature dogs can only eat once each day, most Lab owners choose to feed their pets twice daily. This facilitates the dog’s digestion of the meal, aids in managing hunger, and prevents bloat (GDV), which can be fatal. Doubtless, my dog prefers to eat twice daily.

Can Labradors Eat Bones?

You’ve probably heard the expression “give a dog a bone” before. Do Labradors, however, chew bones?

Labradors can consume bones. They can help clean and maintain the strength of your dog’s teeth and are an excellent source of nutrients, particularly calcium, and phosphorus. You must ensure the bone is bigger than your dog’s muzzle and never feed cooked bones to dogs.

Cooked bones soften and become more likely to splinter, causing choking or other injuries in your dog’s mouth or throat. Because they are stronger and less likely to splinter, beef or lamb bones are preferable to chicken or pork bones.

The ideal bone for your Labrador is appropriate for his size, such as a sizable beef shank bone. To prevent swallowing, all bones should be larger than the length of the muzzle. When giving your Labrador a bone, always keep an eye on him.

Best Treats for Labradors

Many dog owners enjoy giving their dogs treats, but since they are not required to adhere to AAFCO guidelines, how can you tell which treats are the best for Labradors?

The greatest treats for Labradors are made with high-quality, nutrient-rich, and low-calorie ingredients. Dog snacks should not include any artificial coloring, preservatives, or chemicals. As an alternative, you can feed your pet nutritious fruits and veggies.

On the market, you will discover premium goodies. They can be quite pricey, but I will pay more to ensure my dog’s continued health and happiness.

Commercial dog treats come in a few primary categories; you should pick the one that best suits your needs. Do you require dental, chew, training, or even all-natural relaxing treats? I always prefer to keep a variety on hand for my dog.

Whatever their intended use, treats shouldn’t account for more than 10% of your Lab’s daily caloric intake.

How Much Water Should Labradors Drink?

Labradors should have one ounce (30 ml) of water daily for every pound they weigh. There may be additional factors to consider, such as age, degree of activity, kind of food consumed (dry or wet), weather, medicine, pregnancy, etc.

Maintain a full bowl of water for your dog at all times, and replace the water every 2-3 hours.

Giving your dog ice cubes, adding water to kibble or cold-pressed food, or creating enjoyable playtimes with a hose in the heat are some more suggestions for keeping your dog hydrated.


Numerous pet food manufacturers have spent millions of dollars investigating which ingredients have the highest concentrations to produce a healthy, balanced diet that will support the growth and development of puppies both physically and mentally.

You must research your options carefully and pick the ideal one for your dog! There is no need to offer additional supplements to your dog if it is eating a complete and balanced diet unless your veterinarian advises you to do so. Here is my best piece of advice:

The greatest quality dog food you can afford should be used, and you should select a diet that fits your dog’s life stage, beliefs, and lifestyle. Your dog will have a longer, healthier life, and you will be content.

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