Will Labrador Retrievers Eat Themselves to Death?

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Labradors are a large, active breed with gluttony to match. This may scare new owners into thinking they'll harm themselves by overeating.

Labrador retrievers will rarely eat themselves to death. While they tend to have an insatiable appetite, it is more likely that a Labrador would eat to the point of nausea rather than death. Closely monitoring what and how your dog eats is the easiest way to prevent this occurrence.

However, other issues can result from overeating. In this article, I will address meal portions, foods they eat, and ways to develop healthy eating habits.

In this article

How Much Should a Labrador Retriever Eat?

It's a relief that Labradors can stop themselves before eating themselves into the grave. Still, overeating, as well as undereating, is dangerous and unhealthy for a dog. So how do you find the right balance?

A Labrador retriever should eat three times a day as a puppy and twice a day as an adult. When it comes to portions, consider factors like age, activity level, and weight. Never resort to free-feeding or a once-a-day diet. These options do not bode well with a Labrador's appetite.

Labrador eating habits are subject to change over time. So it is best to keep that in mind when considering portions.

To start, puppies should get fed three times a day. For actual amounts, you should refer to the serving guide on your dog food's packaging. If your puppy does not finish their food after fifteen minutes, take it away. In this case, you can reduce future portions by a quarter cup (59 mL). Yet, if you notice your dog getting antsy after scarfing down their meal, consider adding a 1/4 cup (59 mL).

After about four months, you can change the feeding schedule to two times a day. Labradors reach their peak height between 14-16 months old. By then, you can cut back on portions as you see fit. 

As your Labrador grows into old age, they may become less hungry. In this case, it is vital to maintain a two-meal-per-day schedule. Still, you can decrease portions without skimping on nutrients. Instead, change their food to a nutrient and calorie-dense choice that takes less effort to eat.

Furthermore, consider how active your dog is. If your Labrador expends a lot of energy during the day, they may need a little extra food. 

So, how can you tell if you are feeding your Lab too much? As a rule, you should be able to feel your dog's ribs under subtle padding of fat. If you can't find your dog's ribs, they may be overweight. However, if your dog's ribs protrude against their skin, they may be underweight.

what to feed a labrador

What to Feed a Labrador Retriever

Let's take a moment to talk about nutrition. While Labradors can eat everything in sight, that does not mean they should. Labradors, like any dog, need a special diet to stay healthy and happy. So treat your dog to the best food by researching what they should eat.

You should feed your Labrador retriever a dog food approved by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). Furthermore, the prominent ingredient should be a source of protein. Foods preserved with natural vitamins are another plus.

Remember that dogs and people maintain different diets. For example, while humans are omnivores, dogs are carnivores. Therefore, Labradors thrive on a protein-heavy diet. Furthermore, their diets should primarily consist of meat. 

Does this mean grains are off the table? On the contrary, some grains are okay since they can also provide protein. Still, carbohydrates are more challenging for dogs to digest. So it is best to find a food that lists at least two meat sources in the first five ingredients.

Furthermore, the one preservative you should avoid is ethoxyquin, which is a known carcinogen. Luckily, most dog foods today use Vitamin E or Vitamin C to stay fresh.

How Can I Slow Down My Labrador Retriever's Eating?

Did you know that how a dog eats is as important as what and how much they eat? Fast eating can cause problems, like bloat, for your Labrador. So what can you do to slow them down?

You can slow down your Labrador retriever's eating with small decisive changes. Boundaries and limits, like a feeding schedule, can help your dog pace itself. Plus, environmental changes, like separating your pets at mealtime, will remove the pressure to scarf down food.

Here are five ways you can slow down your Labrador's eating:

  • Invest in a programmable feeder: Consider products like the PetSafe Healthy Pet Automatic Dog Feeder, which allows you to feed your dog at preset times. This product works great for when you are away from home.
  • Use a compartmented food bowl: Food bowls with compartments provide obstacles that encourage dogs to take their time while eating. For reference, think of the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slo Bowl - Slow Feeder Dog Bowl. Muffin tins are another suitable option.
  • Create a feeding schedule: Labs, like any dog, are creatures of habit. Creating set meal times with smaller portions will help them understand when is the right time to eat. Furthermore, consistent small meals will keep your Lab from binging large spaced-out meals.
  • Add water to your dog's food: Soaking your dog's dry food in warm water can make it more filling. In turn, your dog will need more time to eat it.
  • Create a specific eating environment: Distractions and stressors can pressure dogs to eat quicker than they need to. For example, if you have multiple pets, make sure they eat in separate areas to avoid competing. 

Will My Labrador Retriever Starve Itself to Death?

We know that it is unlikely for Labrador retrievers to eat themselves to death. Still, it would be significantly out of character for them to stop eating. So is it possible for a Lab to starve itself to death?

Your Labrador retriever will not starve itself to death, at least not on purpose. Dogs have a strong survival instinct that guides their eating. Plus, they can survive longer without food than water. Still, if your Lab stops eating for more than 24 hours, check for any underlying problems.

Reasons Labradors Stop Eating

A Labrador without an appetite is a scary thing. For pet owners, a dog refusing to eat may indicate illness. Luckily, there are plenty of reasons your Lab is not eating. Furthermore, some reasons are so simple that you may have overlooked them.

Your Labrador retriever would stop eating due to illness, bad habits, or stressors. Rather than take an alarmist approach, it is better to observe your dog's behavior. There are often other internal and external factors affecting their appetite. Always keep your vet informed when you notice changes.

For more information, check out WebMD's highly informative article. This page expands on the many reasons your dog may not be eating. Furthermore, they offer great solutions to get picky Labs eating again when they lose their appetite.

Note: None of this advice is equivalent to a veterinarian's knowledge and experience. Always consult with your vet when addressing specific problems.

Final Thoughts

In short, your Labrador retriever will not eat itself to death as long as you take care of them properly. While they may have a big appetite, there are many ways you can train them to develop positive eating habits. For instance, Balanced portions, consistent feeding schedules, and a healthy diet are all great places to start. Also, remember to pay attention to your dog's behavior. It will indicate what areas of your Lab's nutrition require improvement.