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How To Choose The Right Food For Your Labrador

As a Labrador owner, you’ll know that they love to eat! But with a dizzying array of Labrador food options lining the shelves of your local pet store, it’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed.

Fear not, for we’re here to help you navigate the Labrador food jungle and discover the perfect feast to keep your furry companion thriving.

When choosing the right food for your Labrador, look for high-quality dog food that contains protein, fats, and carbohydrates in the right balance. Avoid filler foods and artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. Your dog’s age, activity level, weight, and health should also be considered.

In this guide, we’ll address your most important questions about choosing the right food for your Labrador.

We’ll help you understand your Labrador’s unique dietary needs, explore the different types of food for your Labrador, and learn how to read and interpret dog food labels.

By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to make the best decisions for your canine friend’s nutrition and well-being.

So, let’s dive into the world of Labrador nutrition and discover how to keep your doggos tail wagging with delight!

How To Choose The Right Food For Your Labrador

The Challenge of Choosing the Right Labrador Food

With so many brands and types of dog food available, choosing the right food for your Labrador Retriever can be overwhelming. However, providing your Labrador with a healthy and balanced diet is essential for their overall health and quality of life.

When choosing food for your Labrador, look for a high-quality, protein-rich formula. Labradors are prone to weight gain, so choosing a food that is low in calories and fat is essential. Look for a formula with whole food ingredients like meat, fruits, and vegetables.

You must also consider your dog’s age, lifestyle, and any specific dietary needs they may have. For example, puppies require more calories for growth and development, while senior Labradors may need a lower-calorie diet to maintain a healthy weight.

“As the owner of a senior dog, I carefully monitor my dog’s weight and take her for veterinary check-ups every 6 months.”

Additionally, Labradors with certain health conditions may require a specialized diet prescribed by a veterinarian.

Labrador owners must also carefully watch their dog’s weight as they are prone to obesity due to a genetic variation associated with appetite.

According to a study by scientists at the University of Cambridge, UK, this genetic variant (known as POMC) may help explain why Labradors are more food-motivated and likely to become obese than other breeds.

By choosing the right food for your Labrador, you can help ensure that your furry friend stays healthy and happy.

Labrador Trying To Steal Food Off Table. Choosing the Right Labrador Food
Labrador trying to steal cookies off the table

Understanding Your Labrador’s Nutritional Needs

Labradors (and all dogs) have evolved to become obligate omnivores due to their long association with humans and their diets.

A study found that dogs have adapted to digest a wider range of nutrients found in plant-based foods, such as grains and vegetables, in addition to animal-based proteins.

However, scientists also noted that dogs still require a diet primarily composed of high-quality animal protein to meet their nutritional requirements.

When choosing food for your Labrador, it’s essential to look for a product that meets the nutritional requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

The AAFCO sets standards for pet food manufacturers to ensure their products are nutritionally complete and balanced.

Stages of life matter too. As mentioned, puppies, for example, require more protein and calories than adult Labradors. In contrast, senior Labradors may need a diet that is lower in calories and fat to maintain a healthy weight.

Labradors with certain health conditions may also require a specialized diet. For example, those with urinary tract issues may require a probiotic supplement that can build up the growth of healthy bacteria in your Lab’s body.

Vitamin C also helps to strengthen the canine immune system. (However, you should consult your vet first to ensure the correct dosage, as excessive amounts of vitamin C can alter the urine pH and predispose your dog to form bladder stones).

Understanding your Labrador’s nutritional needs and choosing a high-quality, nutritionally complete food can help ensure that your furry friend is happy and healthy.

Types of Food for Labrador Retrievers

There are several types of Labrador food to consider, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the most common types:

Dry Dog Food 

Dry Dog Food

Also known as kibble, dry dog food is a popular option because it is affordable, convenient, and has a long shelf life.

However, some cheaper brands can be high in carbohydrates and low in moisture, leading to dehydration and urinary tract problems in some Labradors. Hence, you must ensure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water.

Look for high-quality dry dog food with real meat as the first ingredient, and avoid brands that use excessive fillers like corn and wheat.

Some owners think kibble is bad for dogs. But is that so? Check here, Is Kibble Bad For Dogs? What No One Is Talking About.

Wet Dog Food (Canned)

Chunks of Canned Wet Dog Food.

Canned dog food is a moist and flavorful option that can appeal more to Labradors than dry food. It is also higher in moisture, which can help prevent dehydration. However, it is more expensive and has a shorter shelf life than dry food once opened.

Look for canned dog food containing high-quality protein sources like meat, and avoid brands that use by-products and fillers.

Semi-Moist Dog Food

Semi-moist dog food contains about 60-65% water by weight, making it more expensive per energy calorie than dry food. Although it offers a diet with higher moisture content and softer pieces than traditional dry dog food, semi-moist dog food generally contains more sugar and salt than either dry or canned dog food, making it inappropriate for every dog.

The high sugar and salt content can lead to health problems like obesity and high blood pressure. Moreso, the high water content does not provide the same dental benefits as dry food.

Some Labrador owners like to feed semi-moist dog food as a treat once in a while. In general, it’s best to avoid feeding your Lab semi-moist dog food regularly.

Check out the pros and cons below before making your decision…

Pros of Semi-moist Dog FoodCons of Semi-moist Dog Food
Convenient and easy to serveMore expensive than dry dog food
Soft texture is appealing to some dogsContains more sugar and salt than dry or canned food
Higher moisture content helps keep dogs hydratedMay not be appropriate for dogs with certain health conditions
Longer shelf life May not provide the same dental benefits as dry food
Can be a good option for picky eatersThe soft texture is appealing to some dogs
Pros and Cons of Semi-Moist Dog Food for Labradors

Raw Diet

Raw Dog Diet

A raw dog diet is a controversial option that involves feeding your Labradors a diet of raw meat, bones, and organs.

Proponents of raw dog food claim that it is more natural and nutritious than commercial dog food. Still, there are also risks associated with feeding Labradors raw meat, including bacterial infections and nutrient imbalances.

In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) strongly advises against giving dogs any animal-derived protein that hasn’t undergone a pathogen-elimination process. This recommendation aims to protect the health of our pets and ourselves from potential illnesses.

If you choose to feed your Labrador raw food, make sure to consult with a veterinarian and follow proper food safety guidelines.

I also have the following guides if you’re contemplating a raw diet for your Retriever:

Homemade Dog Food

Labradors Eating Raw Diet

A homemade dog diet involves preparing food for your Labrador at home using fresh ingredients. This can be a good option if your Retriever has specific dietary needs or if you want to have more control over what your dog is eating.

Additionally, preparing food for your Lab at home can be a great way to bond with your pet and ensure they get the best possible nutrition.

“However, please note that homemade diets can be challenging to formulate properly and may not provide all of the necessary nutrients that your Lab needs.”

They can also be time-consuming and expensive to prepare and may not be appropriate for dogs with certain health conditions.

It’s essential to consult with a veterinary nutritionist before starting a homemade diet to ensure it is nutritionally balanced. This is especially important for Labs due to their innate desire to overeat.

Pros of a Homemade Diet for LabradorsCons of a Homemade Diet for Labradors
Ability to tailor the diet to your Lab’s specific needsCan be time-consuming and expensive to prepare
Use of fresh, high-quality ingredientsMay not be nutritionally balanced if not formulated properly
Potential for improved digestibilityMay not provide the same level of convenience as commercial dog food
Can be a great way to bond with your dogMay not be appropriate for dogs with certain health conditions
May be a good option for dogs with food allergies or sensitivitiesRequires careful planning and consultation with a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist
Provides more control over what your dog is eatingCan be difficult to ensure that your dog is getting all of the necessary nutrients
Pros and Cons of a Homemade Diet for Labradors

If you are considering feeding your Labrador a homemade diet, check out my below helpful guides:

How To Choose The Right Food For Your Labrador

Dry vs. Wet Labrador Food

The two most common choices for feeding Labradors are dry (kibble) and wet (canned).

In this section, I will compare these options, discussing the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for your Labrador. Remember, feeding a combination of dry and canned is also fine!

Wet (Canned) Dog Food Pros

  1. Wet dog food has a higher moisture content, which can help prevent dehydration and promote urinary tract health, especially in Labradors prone to these issues.
  2. Many Labradors find wet food more appealing due to its aroma and texture, making it an excellent option for picky eaters.
  3. Canned dog food often contains more animal protein than dry food, which is essential for Labradors as obligate carnivores.

Wet (Canned) Dog Food Cons

  1. Wet dog food is typically more expensive than dry food, which can be a concern for budget-conscious pet owners.
  2. Once opened, wet food must be refrigerated and consumed within a short period, leading to potential waste if not eaten promptly.
Young Yellow Lab

Dry (Kibble) Food Pros

  1. Dry dog food is easy to store, has a long shelf life, and can be left out for free feeding without spoiling.
  2. Kibble is generally more affordable than wet dog food, making it a budget-friendly option for many Labrador owners.
  3. Dry dog food is good for keeping your dog’s teeth clean by reducing plaque buildup.

Dry (Kibble) Food Cons

  1. Dry food has a lower moisture content, which may contribute to dehydration or urinary tract issues in some Labradors, especially if they don’t drink enough water.
  2. Cheap kibble often contains higher levels of carbohydrates, which can contribute to obesity and related health issues in Labradors.
  3. Some Labradors may not find dry food as appetizing as wet food, making it more challenging to feed a picky-eating Lab.

When choosing between wet and dry food, consider your Labrador’s preferences and the benefits and drawbacks of each type. Wet food can provide more moisture and protein, while dry food can be more convenient and affordable. Mixing both types can be a good compromise. In fact, this is how I choose to feed my dog!

To help you out, I’ve created this comparative table –

Wet Dog FoodDry Dog Food
Typically has a higher moisture content, which can help keep dogs hydratedHas a lower moisture content, which can make it more convenient to store and serve
Can be more palatable to some dogs due to its soft texture and strong smellCan be less appealing to picky eaters due to its texture and lack of strong smell
Tends to have more animal protein and fat, which can be beneficial for dogsMay have more carbohydrates and fillers, which can be less beneficial for dogs
Can spoil more quickly and needs to be refrigerated after openingHas a longer shelf life and does not need to be refrigerated after opening
Can be more expensive per serving than dry foodIs generally less expensive per serving than wet food
May be a better option for dogs with dental problems or missing teethCan help promote dental health by reducing plaque buildup
Wet Dog Food vs. Dry Dog Food

Reading Labrador Food Labels

Reading the nutrition label on dog food packaging is crucial in choosing the right food for your Labrador. The labels provide valuable information about the ingredients and nutritional content of the food.

Here are some tips on how to read dog food labels:

Look For a Statement of Nutritional Adequacy

This statement indicates that the food meets the minimum nutritional requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Ensure the statement specifies that the food is complete and balanced for your Labrador’s life stage.

Check the Ingredients List

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Look for high-quality protein sources, such as chicken or fish, as the first ingredients.

What about by-products?

While it’s true that the quality of by-products can vary, when sourced from USDA-inspected facilities and reputable pet food manufacturers, they can offer an ecological, practical, and affordable way to include animal-based protein in your Labrador’s diet.

These by-products are superior to many plant-based fillers that may not provide the necessary nutrients for an obligate carnivore like a Labrador Retriever. By-products in dog food should not be considered inherently bad.

Instead, you should focus on the overall quality and composition of the dog food and choose products from reputable manufacturers to ensure your Labrador receives a balanced and nutritious diet.

A healthy Labrador running in a field.

Check the Guaranteed Analysis

This section lists the minimum and maximum protein, fat, fiber, and moisture levels in the food. Make sure the levels meet your dog’s nutritional needs.

Avoid Artificial Additives

Artificial colors and flavors may not provide any nutritional benefits for your Labrador and are often added to make the food more visually appealing to you as the pet owner or to enhance the taste.

On the other hand, preservatives play a crucial role in maintaining the freshness and safety of dog food. However, some artificial preservatives have been linked to health concerns. Natural preservatives, such as vitamin E or C, can be safer alternatives.

While it is generally advisable to avoid dog foods that contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, it’s essential to strike a balance between food safety, shelf life, and the nutritional needs of your dog.

Should Labradors Have Grain-Free Food?

Grain-free dog food has become increasingly popular among pet owners, driven by concerns over grain allergies and the belief that grains are unnecessary in a Labrador’s diet.

But is grain-free dog food the right choice for your canine companion?

As mentioned, Labradors are obligate carnivores, which means their diet should be primarily animal-based protein. However, this doesn’t imply that grains are inherently harmful.

In fact, some grains can be a source of essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals, contributing to a balanced diet for your Labrador.

The primary concern with grain-containing dog food arises when grains are used as cheap fillers, displacing high-quality protein sources.

The concern is legitimate.

However, you should focus on the quality and proportion of ingredients in your Labrador’s food rather than merely seeking a grain-free label.

For some Labradors with specific food sensitivities or allergies, grain-free dog food might be a suitable option. Just keep in mind that grain allergies are relatively rare in dogs, and protein sources like chicken, beef, or fish are more common allergens.

Choosing the Right Labrador Food

Let’s recap some tips on how to choose the right food for your Labrador –

  • Consider your Labrador’s life stage: Labradors have different nutritional needs depending on their age and activity level. Look for food specifically formulated for your Labrador’s life stage.
  • Read the label: The nutrition label on food packaging is the best way to compare dog foods. Look for a food that has a high percentage of animal protein and a low percentage of carbohydrates.
  • Ask your vet: Your veterinarian can provide valuable advice on choosing the right dog food for your Lab.
  • Ignore the hype: Pet food manufacturers often make claims about their products, such as “grain-free,” “human-grade,” or “natural.” Ensure you read the ingredients list to ensure the food is actually healthy for your Labrador.

By following these tips, you can make an informed decision when choosing the right food for your Labrador.


  • Sharon Waddington

    Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Find her on Linkedin!