Being one of the most warm natured breeds, Labradors are a loyal and loving companion to have by your side.
To ensure your four-legged sidekick is always at their best, it’s important to make sure their eating habits meet the unique requirements Labradors have.
Keeping up with everything you need to know about your Labrador’s diet can be tricky, so we’ve put together all the information you need to know about keeping your pup in optimal health.
A Brief History of the Labrador
What’s recorded of the Labrador Retrievers’ history goes back to the 19th century, when the English aristocracy began to import ‘St. John’s’ dogs from Newfoundland, a large Canadian island on the east coast of North America.
These dogs would eventually be bred into what we know today as the Labrador, a breed prized as a sporting and hunting dog.
Labrador Size and Life Expectancy
The size of your pet can depend on their gender, and in general, female dogs can weigh from 25-32 kg and grow up to 55-60 cm tall. Being slightly larger, male dogs can weigh from 29-36 kg and grow up to 57-62 cm.
If your dog doesn’t fit into the average, remember that these are just guidelines; it’s been known for female Labradors to grow larger than males. If their weight matches their build, this is completely normal, but if they’re underweight or obese, you should take action and seek advice from your vet.
The life expectancy of Labradors can be impacted by a number of factors like care, diet, exercise and health checks. But, on average, their lives span between 10-14 years long.
As the most popular dog breed in all of the UK and US, it’s no wonder that there are many celebrity Labradors out there. Perhaps most famous was the Clinton's chocolate labrador Buddy who resided in the White House with them, as pictured below.
Source: The Dodo
However, there are also Labradors that serve humans throughout their lives; there are millions of heroic Labradors who continue to work, or give their lives with the Military and Police Force, to improve and protect our way of life. Being a highly intelligent breed, many are trained to work as disability assistants, bomb detectors and search and rescue dogs, saving lives every day.
A Labrador Diet
Preferred Food for Labradors
Much like most other dogs, the best food for Labradors is one that’s high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Since Labradors are a very high energy breed, they need more calories to replace what they’re rapidly burning.
You can easily identify if your labrador’s food is suitable by looking at the ingredients: if it’s at least 25% protein (fish or meat), it’s definitely good-quality and high-protein. To determine whether it has enough complex carbohydrates, you can check the ingredients for peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
Preferred Food for Labrador Seniors
Like us Humans, as your dog gets older, what’s best for their body changes. There are specialised ranges of food for senior dogs who are beginning to exercise less and show signs of aging, like their metabolism slowing down for example.
These foods are formulated to help maintain weight and provide nutrients to aid them throughout the process of aging. The best food for Labrador seniors will include:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin to promote joint repair and mobility.
- Seaweed oil that contains DHA (Docosahexenoic Acid) to support a healthy brain, vision and nervous system.
Preferred Food for Labrador Puppies
If you’ve just welcomed a labrador puppy into your family, it can be overwhelming figuring out what and when you should feed your puppy, when there’s so much advice out there.
The best food for labrador puppies is specifically made for younger dogs. Adult or senior dog food doesn’t contain the minerals and vitamins that are vital for the newborn to 18-months old stage of growth.
To check whether it’s the best labrador food for your puppy, you should look out for a couple of things. Ideally, puppy food should:
- Be hypoallergenic.
- Contain calcium and phosphorus to support healthy bone and teeth growth.
- Contain omega 6 & 3 for their energy, skin and hair.
We recommend that you feed your puppy hypoallergenic food to begin with: this makes it really easy to identify if your Labrador has a food allergy. If they develop a reaction, you will be able to pinpoint it to something you’ve recently introduced.
Labrador Feeding Guide
How much your Labrador should be fed depends on their age and level of activity. This Labrador food chart can help you work out where your pet fits in and whether you need to adjust their portion sizes.
When a labrador is around nine months old, they’re then considered an adult. This is when you should begin to gradually change their portion sizes according to our labrador food chart.
Once a dog hits adulthood, they need less calories to support their growth. However, still be sure to break their feeding into separate portions to ensure their stomachs don’t get stretched too quickly.
We advise you break up the portion into two or three feedings per day - most owners find morning and evening easiest to fit into their schedules.
Labrador Puppy Food Chart
Whether it’s your first pet or your fifth, getting to grips with looking after a puppy can be overwhelming. But don’t panic, here’s a labrador puppy food chart that takes you through until adulthood.
As puppies grow so rapidly, this uses up loads of energy. Because of this, their calorie intake should be higher than adults. After nine months, you should gradually switch to the adult portions.
We’d recommend feeding a labrador puppy this amount over four different meals throughout the day. This is to make sure the volume isn’t too much for their tiny stomach's to handle! Feeding them all their food in just one or two portions could result in a stomach ache or diarrhea.
Ideally, you should try feeding your labrador puppy their last meal of the day about two to three hours before your pup’s last toilet break before they sleep.
Although it’s easy to automatically give your pet some of leftovers after dinner, some foods that humans consume can actually be extremely harmful to dogs. Even some vegetables, which are so beneficial for humans, can have adverse effects.
Avoiding feeding your dog scraps is easy, but there are some allergies that could be caused by your dog’s normal food. Some allergies that dogs suffer from are types of protein and carbohydrates such as wheat, wheat gluten, dairy, pork, beef and soya. These types of allergies can provoke a wide range of symptoms from itching and skin problems to upset stomachs and diarrhea.
The most effective way to avoid this is to ensure you’re buying hypoallergenic dog food that excludes common allergens. Hypoallergenic dog foods are specifically formulated to prevent these symptoms and are suitable for all dog breeds, including Labradors.
Sometimes more a walking dustbin than a dog, Labradors are known to have an insatiable appetite. With pet obesity becoming a growing problem in the UK, your Labrador’s love of food could become dangerous.
If you’ve noticed that your Labrador overeats and always wants more food, it might be a good idea to take a look at the ingredients of their current food. Cheaper dog foods can be made up of byproducts and fillers that don’t actually fill them up. Foods with a high percentage of protein are more effective at keeping your pet full and putting a stop to their overeating habits.
Whether or not you’ve found the right Labrador food, it’s finding the balance between food and exercise that is crucial. Generally speaking, Labradors should have around 1 hour of exercise per dayo, and for the more laid back and relaxed pups, just 45 minutes. For the more energetic dogs, 1.5 hours or more.
At Lovejoys, we aim to provide you with all the right information so that you feel confident about caring for the four-legged member of your family. With this Labrador feeding guide to aid you, we hope you feel confident and informed about what’s best for your dog’s wellbeing.
Regardless of what you end up feeding your dog, it’s important to remember that if you make a change, this should be introduced in gradual stages so their digestive system can slowly adjust to it.
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