Owning a Labrador means paying close attention to the health and happiness of your dog. A big part of comprehensive care for dogs is ensuring they have a well-balanced diet. It’s hard to know which type of food to purchase with all the options out there, and differing opinions exist on whether to feed your Lab dry food, wet food, grain-free food, etc.
One key point to consider when looking for Lab food is the food quality. In addition to meat, dogs also need vegetables, grains, and fruits in their diet to receive all necessary vitamins and minerals. Often, buying dog food at a pet store will give you many more high-quality options than buying it at a supermarket. Look at the food label for detailed information about where the food comes from, the name of the product, its weight, the ingredients list, and the feeding guidelines.
Buying the right food for your dog starts by honing in on the Labrador’s specific needs as a breed. The good news is that dog food manufacturers make food specifically for different sizes and breeds of dogs, making your job a little simpler. Always be on the lookout for foods that are specific to large dog breeds.
Here’s what you need to know about feeding your Lab at different life stages, and the best types of food out there.
Dry food or wet food?
One big question to answer when you have a young Lab is whether you’ll feed your pup kibble or wet food. Here are points to consider for each.
Dry food benefits
Dry kibble could be the best option for your Lab, at any age. It is balanced with all the right nutrients, keeps teeth strong, and can keep longer than wet food. Generally, dry food is less expensive, too, and is usually more easily available.
Wet food benefits
Wet food is often more appetizing to dogs since it’s full of flavor, so your Lab may like it more than kibble. This food may also have more protein and less carbs than dry food.
Whether you choose wet or dry food for your Lab, remember that the ingredients are going to be most important.
Best dog food for Lab puppies
Large dogs grow a lot more than smaller dogs when they’re puppies. Think of how small Lab puppies are, and how big they get within a year’s time. This is why it’s especially important to pay attention to the nutrients these pups are getting in their diet.
One important consideration is how much calcium your Lab puppy is consuming. Large puppies are at greater risk of developing osteochondrosis, a developmental orthopedic disease that could cause growth abnormalities, such as deformation in limbs. But, some calcium is necessary, so a delicate balance is important. You also need to focus on how much protein, calcium, fat, vitamins, and minerals are in your puppy’s food.
Good food options for your puppy are:
- Hills Science Diet has a puppy formula (Amazon) specifically for large breed puppies. This is a great option because this brand is known for including only the highest quality ingredients. It includes the right amount of protein, fiber, and other must-have ingredients for your growing pup.
- Another great dry food option for your puppy is Core Wellness dry food (Amazon), the puppy formula. The protein content is 38 percent, which deboned chicken contributes to, and is has many vegetables included as well, like carrots and spinach. It has all the essential nutrients your Lab puppy needs, like zinc and iron.
- Blue Wilderness puppy food (Amazon) is a great option if you go the wet food route. It’s packed with meat and is grain-free, and deboned turkey is a key ingredient. Other important nutrients are DHA, which is a crucial fatty acid for Labs, and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that contribute to your dog’s shiny coat.
A Lab puppy will reach adult size between the age of a year and 18 months. This is when it’s important to start introducing adult dog food.
Best dog food for adult Labs
When your Lab becomes an adult, it’s important to continue to monitor your dog’s stool, interest in food, and energy levels to assess whether you’re giving them the right kind of food.
Whatever type you go with, know that adult Labs need lots of protein and all the vitamins and minerals previously mentioned, found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Many dogs do well with consistency, so choose something that your dog will eat for many years.
Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food (Amazon) is a great option for adult dogs. It’s grain-free, in case your Lab has allergies or sensitives, it’s high in protein, and it contains many vegetables and fruits for a balanced diet.
Another good option for adult dogs is Core Wellness (Amazon) for adult dogs, which has that deboned turkey or chicken that’s higher in nutritional value than meat by-products.
Best dog food for older Labs
Some considerations to keep in mind when choosing food for your aging Lab is whether the food has another fiber and how many calories and protein the food has. Fiber is especially important for elderly dogs because they often have gastrointestinal issues, and they require fewer calories at this stage of life, as their metabolism is decreasing.
When you’re reading the label, also look for omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and glucosamine and chondroitin, which are all essential for older Labs.
Protein by-products are used in many types of dog food, which are not good protein sources. Actual meat, like deboned turkey or chicken, are much better ingredients. Because older dogs have more sensitive digestive systems, by-products can be hard on them, so make sure the food you buy doesn’t contain these alternatives.
With older dogs, recognize that you may have to experiment with different brands to figure out which food your dog will eat. Elderly Labs may start to lose their appetite or sense of taste, so see which foods they respond to best.
A few good options for your older Lab are:
- Wellness Senior Dog Food (Amazon link)
- NUTRO Ultra (Amazon link) Senior Wet Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness (Amazon link) High Protein Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food
Best dog food for dry skin and shedding
It’s normal for your Lab to shed a couple times of year, and your dog may experience dry skin at times, depending on the weather. But if your dog has severe dry skin or excessive shedding, and you’ve already implemented necessary grooming techniques, like special shampoos and brushing, try changing up their diet to help address these issues.
Ingredients to look for in foods to address coat problems are protein, healthy fats and oils, omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and plenty of vitamins and minerals. These ingredients contribute to a healthy, shiny coat and can reduce dry skin and excessive shedding.
Noticing more shedding? Check out Labrador Shedding: 3 Must-Have Items to Conquer It
You’ll want to avoid ingredients that act as fillers, like corn, soy, wheat, and artificial colors/flavors. Again, it’s all about high-quality ingredients when searching for your pup’s food.
These dog foods are worth a try to address dry skin and shedding:
- Purina Pro Plan (Amazon) Focus Adult Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon and Rice Formula Dry Dog Food
- NUTRO Max Grain-Free (Amazon) Adult Dry Dog Food
- Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin (Amazon) Dry Dog Food
- Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient (Amazon) Dry Dog Food Lamb & Oatmeal
- Orijen 6 Fish Grain-Free Formula (Amazon) Dry Dog Food
Start with these brands and see how your Lab responds.
Affordable Custom Fresh Food
One great solution I recommend is looking into custom pet food solutions. There are a bunch on the market, and I am trying various ones out myself in order to make a recommendation. Keep an eye on my Recommended Products page for updates.
It’s impossible to overstate how important your dog’s diet is for their continued health and well-being. Remember that you may need to introduce a new food slowly, and always pay close attention to changes in your Lab’s energy level, behavior, or stool.
Try these foods for different life stages and to address coat and skin problems, and see what works best for you and your Lab.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links to what we believe are some of the best dog foods out there. Affiliate links do result in a small commission to Everything Labradors at no additional cost to customers.