Have you ever felt like calling your Lab a glutton for how much he loves food? Well, don’t, because your dog is not necessarily to blame for always being hungry. You should instead learn the truth behind Labradors’ obsession with food to answer the question, “Why do Labs like food so much?”
Labradors eat so much because many have a genetic mutation of the POMC gene that stops their brain from receiving the signal that they are full. But some Labradors may also overeat because they are sick, have a medical condition, have nutrient deficiencies, or are stressed.
I have also wondered why Labradors are food motivated. Especially regarding my rather portly neighbor’s Labby called Cooper. So I queried the science behind why Labradors eat so much and put together this article.
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Read on to discover why Labradors eat so much and the surprising answers that I found!
Do Labradors Love to Eat?
Labradors love to eat, which is why so many of them tend to beg constantly for treats and scraps. They also tend to wolf down their meal when it’s given to them and soon go on the hunt for more. Labradors love food so much the AKC lists them among the 10 dog breeds that love to eat.
More characteristics qualify Labradors as lovers of food which are also common among other dog breeds that love to eat. These are:
- They are readily trainable with food treats. Because Labradors are food-motivated, owners may easily train them with a treat reward system.
- They indulge in food-begging behavior. Labradors are clever manipulators of their owners’ emotions, exhibiting hungry behavior and pawing or whining.
- They are more prone to obesity. A study on dog breed predisposition to overweight dogs in the UK placed Labradors 3rd among dogs with high odds of being overweight after Pugs and Beagles.
But what is it that really causes your Labrador to love to eat and manifest these characteristics of a food-loving dog? That’s what I’ll be answering in the next section.
Why Are Labradors Always Hungry?
Most Labradors are always hungry because of a POMC gene mutation that compromises the process through which the brain receives signals to end the feeling of hunger once your dog has eaten. Other Labradors might always be hungry due to medical conditions, nutritional deficiencies, or stress.
Learn Why Labs Love To Eat In This YouTube Video…
Labradors Are Always Hungry Due to the POMC Gene Mutation
In its normal function, the POMC gene codes the beta-MSH and beta-endorphin proteins responsible for satiety. As such, they will signal the brain to neutralize the feeling of hunger once your dog has had its meal.
In Labrador Retrievers, however, the mutation of the POMC gene distorts this process, and your dog’s brain does not receive the cease-hunger signal, making your Lab stay hungry even after a good meal.
The study that discovered these facts also found that the POMC gene mutation does not characterize all Labradors but only 25% of the Lab population. What’s more, there’s a 76% prevalence of dogs with POMC mutation among service Labradors.
If your Labrador has a POMC gene mutation, it will have these three characteristics:
- A higher body weight.
- A higher body fat composition than other dogs.
- An increased appetite and food motivation.
These characteristics explain the risk of obesity in Labradors. Note, however, that although obesity is often linked to diabetes mellitus in dogs, Labs with the POMC gene mutation are not at risk of diabetes mellitus, according to a 2017 study. The study ruled out any association between the two conditions.
Also, there’s no known treatment for POMC gene mutation yet. As such, Lab owners with affected dogs have to manage the condition by consulting their vet about a diet and exercise plan that would help their dogs maintain healthy body weight.
Labradors May Always Be Hungry Due to Medical Conditions
Some medical conditions could be the answer to the question, “Why do Labradors eat so much?” These conditions include:
- Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Intestinal worms steal your Lab’s food nutrients. They can cause intestinal bleeding, leading to issues like anemia and causing your dog to feel depleted of energy, hence requiring to eat more frequently.
- Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). It causes poor blood glucose conversion to energy, making your Lab constantly need to eat to replenish the low energy levels.
- Cushing’s disease. Excessive cortisol levels stimulate your dog’s appetite and can lead to being overweight.
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. It causes your dog’s food not to be fully digested, and nutrients are not adequately absorbed.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Chronic inflammation of the intestines interferes with nutrient absorption.
- Cancer. It increases the need for energy in the body, leading to increased appetite.
Labrador owners need to learn the symptoms of these medical conditions to consult a vet if their Labrador is always hungry and shows clinical signs of any of the diseases. Your vet can then conduct testing for increased appetite in your dog.
Labradors May Always Be Hungry Due to Nutritional Deficiencies
If you are not giving your Labrador the right food portions for his age, weight, and activity level, your dog’s daily meal could lack essential nutrients. In this case, your Lab will always feel hungry as he needs to eat more to meet his energy requirements.
Due to poor nutrition, low energy can cause your dog to constantly beg for scraps or eat anything he finds on his way, including non-food items.
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Do you want to know the best diet to feed your Lab? Check out this article, Best Diet for Labradors: Nutrition, Types, and More! You can also consult your vet about your Lab’s diet to ensure your dog gets the nutrition he needs.
Labradors May Always Be Hungry Due to Stress
Hunger and overeating have been linked to stress. So, if your Labrador is always hungry and eating, it could be due to anxiety, phobia, or fear. A study found that emotional eating in dogs was associated with stress.
This kind of perpetual appetite in your Lab is not healthy either as a cause or consequence, as it can lead to overweight or obesity. As such, you should ensure that your Labrador is happy and has the physical and mental stimulation characteristic of a high-energy dog.
Conclusively, whether your Lab is always hungry due to the POMC gene mutation, a medical condition, nutritional deficiencies, or stress, you should create a healthy Labrador feeding schedule to keep his eating under control and address the hunger-triggering factors.
How Often Should a Labrador Be Fed?
As a general rule, Labradors should be fed twice a day, 12 hours apart. But you may adapt this rule depending on your Lab’s age, gender, food type, activity level, and health. Each Labrador has unique requirements, and you should not be rigid with recommended daily allowances.
A quick focus on these factors will help you understand why you can adapt the twice-a-day feeding Labs rule.
Younger Lab puppies have different energy needs than older dogs and need to eat smaller meals more often. Instead, healthy adult Labs have higher energy needs and can eat larger meals less often.
For example, this is how a mature Labrador (1-2 years) and a 3-month Lab puppy feeding schedule should look, courtesy of Purina.
|Labrador Age||Recommended Food Amount (in cups)||Number of Meals in Day|
|1 to 2-year-old Labrador||5 ⅝ – 11 (1.3 – 2.6 L)||2|
|3-month-old Labrador puppy||1 – 2 ⅔ (250 – 630 ml)||4|
A couple of gender-related factors can create a difference in the number of times you should feed your Labrador.
Male Labradors have higher body weight than females and may need more food than their female counterparts. For example, a male Lab can grow up to 80lbs (36 kg), and going by the Purina feeding chart mentioned earlier, if your male Lab is 80lbs (36 kg), you’ll need to give him between 5⅝ and 11 cups (1.3 – 2.6 L) of food daily.
Female Labradors can grow up to 70 lbs (32 kg). If your female Lab is 70lbs (32 kg), you’ll need to feed her between 2⅝ and 6¼ cups (620 ml and 1.5 liters) of food daily.
Considering the larger food amounts required by your 80lbs male Lab, you may want to divide his 11 cups (2.6 L) of food into 3 small meals rather than the traditional 2 meals a day. Dividing your Lab’s food portion will work better for your dog’s digestion.
Female pregnant Labradors may require to eat a bit more food to sustain their gestating body, especially during the first weeks. A larger amount of daily food for a pregnant Lab is best served in smaller multiple meals instead of more food in the usual two meals a day.
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The type of food you feed your Lab can determine how often you feed him. For example, though they have to meet specific requirements, commercial dog foods may differ in nutrient composition, where one type of dog food carries the nutrients your dog needs in a small amount while another gives the nutrients in a larger amount.
In the first case, feeding your dog twice daily would be enough. But if your dog needs a larger amount to meet his nutritional needs, then you may need to feed him more times.
Reading the dog food listing on the package should help you decide on the number of times to feed your Lab. Alternatively, refer to the serving instructions on the dog food package.
Let’s take the Royal Canin Labrador Dog Food from Amazon as an example. This dog food is made to provide a balanced feed to Labradors older than a year and balances out the fat and protein ratio to suit the breed.
To answer the question of how often you should feed a Labrador with this particular product, the serving suggestion on the Royal Canin Labrador food package shows the number of cups your Labrador should eat per day in relation to its weight and activity level, divided into two meals.
For example, a 44-pound (20 kg) Labrador with an hour of daily activity should be fed 4 cups (1 L) of Royal Canin divided into two meals.
Labradors with a high activity level should be fed more food to replenish the energy expended during exercise. The more food a dog eats, the more you should break it down into smaller meals.
For example, a 77-pound (35 kg) male Labrador is assigned 6 cups of Royal Canin food if he does 1 hour of activity daily. If the number of activity hours rises to 2, you should feed the Lab 7 ¼ cups (1.7 L) daily.
The increased food amount would be better divided into three meals rather than the usual two. This rationing is because feeding your dog more than it is used to eat in a single meal can cause slowed digestion and, consequently, bloating and stomach discomfort.
A healthy dog feeding option is a 3-meal daily schedule (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
Labradors with health issues need special feeding plans. The rule for the number of times a sick Labrador should be fed is they should eat in small quantities several times daily. The food should be easy to eat and digest, like chicken breast or gravy.
A sick Labrador feeding plan should be made in consultation with your dog’s vet. Doing this will ensure that your dog gets the required nutrients and does not risk malnourishment.
Other factors that may determine how many times Labradors should be fed include:
- The Lab owner’s schedule: if you work outside the home for the most part of the day, a morning and evening meal may be the best feeding plan for your dog. Instead, if you work from home, you may opt for healthier, smaller meals 3-times a day.
- Your Lab’s preference: While this might sound contrary to what we’ve said so far, dog owners should study their dogs and notice what works best for their pets.
For example, you may already feed your Lab the right amount of food recommended for his age, weight, and activity level twice a day, but your dog always leaves food in his bowl.
In this case, you may want to divide the food into three smaller meals. Dividing the food will ensure your dog eats the recommended amount and gets the required nutrition.
Creating a Labrador feeding plan also means not allowing your Lab to eat every bit of food or non-food items he finds on his way. We will tell you how in the next section.
How Do I Stop My Labrador From Eating Everything?
We’ve already established that allowing your Labrador to overeat is detrimental to your dog’s health, even if his hunger is caused by genetic or disease triggers. As such, it’s crucial that you stop your Labrador from eating everything:
Here are 4 ways how to stop your Labrador from eating everything:
- Feed your Lab high-quality food.
- Don’t give your Lab table scraps.
- Use dog puzzles/slow feeders.
- Consult your vet.
Feed Your Lab High-Quality Food
If you have a Lab and often find yourself asking, “Why are Labradors always hungry” because that’s the case with your pooch, you might be giving your pet poor-quality food. Lab food with all the recommended nutrients and the right amount of fiber will make your dog feel full and not required to eat always.
If you use kibble and your food choice doesn’t seem to be satiating your dog, consider human-grade dog food with meat and Lab-safe vegetables. You can search for companies that deliver fresh dog food if you don’t feel up to the task of making it at home.
One advantage of human-grade fresh dog food is that it is made to meet your dog’s specific nutritional needs. You can work that out with your vet before reaching out to a dog food company.
Ollie is among the most trusted human-grade dog food delivery services in the US, and they offer 50% off your first box. I really like Ollie as it makes feeding times so easy, and you can relax knowing your doggo is getting all the proper nutrients.
Don’t Give Your Lab Table Scraps
As much as your cute Labrador knows his begging tricks at your table, you should desist from giving in to his puppy dog eyes. Understanding why Labradors always feel hungry due to a genetic cause is reason enough not to give in to their begging.
Giving in once means giving in always, and that will keep your dog asking for food at the table or even stealing it himself when you are not around. The solution is: don’t start it and don’t nurture it!
Use Dog Puzzle/Slow Feeders
Slow feeders and puzzles are usually used to slow down your dog’s eating speed. But they also occupy your dog’s time while he tries to reach his meal. If your Lab is the kind that likes to eat everything, time spent working the puzzle could save him a few extra bites.
For example, keeping your Lab busy with slow feeders while you have your meal is a perfect way of keeping him from begging for table scraps. Also, a slow eating pace helps your dog feel fuller and stops him from wanting more when he doesn’t really need it.
If a puzzle or slow feeder sounds to you like an answer to the question of how to stop a Labrador from eating everything, I recommend the Outward Hound Slow Feeder Dog Bowl from Amazon. I love this brand’s fun slow feeder bowls, as there are loads of funky designs and colors to choose from.
This bowl will slow your doggo’s eating pace while creating a mental stimulation challenge to reach their food and occupy time that would have been used begging for a share of your meal.
Consult Your Vet
Talking to your vet about any of your Lab’s issues can never be a wrong decision. If, lately, your Lab’s eating behavior seems to leave you asking the question, why are Labradors obsessed with food, or why are Labradors so greedy? If you don’t seem to find an obvious answer, talk to your dog’s vet.
As explained earlier, it could be that your dog is among the 25% of Labs with the POMC gene mutation. If not, your Lab may have hunger-triggering medical conditions, he’s malnourished, or he is stressed out. Whichever the case, your vet has the best answer to all these situations.
Labrador Love for Food FAQs
Questions about Labradors’ love for food are abounding among Lab owners. I’ll answer a couple more questions for you before wrapping up my comprehensive write-up on the umbrella question, “Why do Labradors eat so much?”
Why Do Labradors Eat So Fast?
There are several reasons why Labradors eat fast: your dog may have the POMC gene mutation that makes him always hungry and wanting to gobble down his food; your Lab may have a hunger-triggering illness like diabetes, or your Lab may be unsure of his next meal if your feeding schedule is irregular.
Other reasons your Lab may be hurrying to eat his meal include:
- A learned behavior to eat quickly.
- Poor nutrition that makes him always hungry and in a hurry to replenish his energies.
- Competition for food resources with other pets in the home.
Do Labs Grow Out of Eating Everything?
If your Lab eats everything that’s food because he has the POMC gene mutation, he will not grow out of it since no cure has been found yet. If, instead, your Lab has a medical, nutritional, or stress issue, resolving the causes will help your Lab grow out of eating everything.
If the POMC gene mutation is the answer to the question, “Why do Labradors eat everything,” you’ll need to manage your dog’s condition for life.
For example, you can break down your dog’s daily food ration to more than two meals without needing to increase the amount so that your dog feels like you are feeding him more and more often.
If by “eating everything,” you are also referring to pica or the behavior of eating non-food items, then you’ll need to use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog to “leave” non-food items where they belong.
In addition, you can also remove the occasion of eating non-food items by removing them out of your dog’s way or muzzling your dog during walks.
Do you want to learn more about pica in Labradors? Check out this article, Why Do Labradors Eat (Poop, Grass, Bees, Dirt, Socks, & More)?
Let’s Wrap This Up!
Why do Labradors eat so much? For no fault of their own. A good number of Labs have a mutation of the POMC gene that makes them perpetually hungry and always want to eat.
Some Labs may eat a lot due to nutritional deficiencies, illnesses that trigger hunger like diabetes, or stress.
The next time your Lab’s eating behavior makes you wonder, “Why do Labs like food so much,” talk to your dog’s vet and get a professional verdict on the causes that make your dog eat a lot.