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Feeding Your Labrador Puppy
The best way to ensure that your dog lives a long and healthy life is to make sure you feed them properly.
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And this is particularly true for healthy Lab puppies. Feed them right to keep them fit. Labradors can quickly gain weight, which is why what you feed them matters.
To give your Labrador the best life, you need to understand their nutritional needs and how to use their diet to support their lifelong health.
Here are some helpful tips I’ve learned throughout my years as a Labrador parent to help keep your pup healthy and happy, no matter what age!
Table of Contents
What to Feed a Lab Puppy? What Can Lab Puppies Eat?
When choosing food for your Lab puppy, remember that good nutrition is essential for growing puppies. Now, quality food can help ensure your puppy grows into a healthy dog. It’s always wise to talk to your veterinarian when you’re considering changing food, but here are some points to consider when you select a food for your puppy:
- Health: To maintain your Lab health, you need a balanced, nutritional diet.
- Food allergies: Some dogs have specific food allergies that can include milk, eggs, wheat, soy, or corn.
- Age and size: Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs; large breed and small breed dogs have different dietary needs.
- Activity level: Your dog’s activity level affects how many calories you need to feed him.
- Your lifestyle: How much time do you have to shop and cook for your dog?
- Taste: Dog food must taste and smell good to your dog.
Feeding Your Labrador Puppy Kibble
Dry food, also known as kibble, has ingredients that vary by brand, but all have to meet the nutritional needs of your pup. For this reason, it’s essential to choose a high-quality brand rather than those marked “economy” or “cheap.”
Kibble consists of ingredients that are cooked together and processed. Required ingredients include proteins like beef and poultry, grains such as rice and wheat, cereals such as corn and barley, and vitamins and minerals. All dry dog foods contain preservatives that prevent fats from spoiling. Some brands have high-carbohydrate contents and low-quality ingredients.
Dog owners who feed their dog kibble have these advantages:
- Reduced plaque and healthier gums
- Reduced risk of bacteria
- Lower cost
- Easier storage
- Less risk of spoilage
However, some dog owners prefer to switch to fresh food like Ollie because of the risks of kibble.
What to Look for in Kibble
To choose a Lab puppy food, read the ingredients label. Choose food that lists protein among its first three ingredients, not grains, and is high in quality protein, such as lamb or chicken. Grain-free dog food might lack some essential nutrients for your pup (it is important to remember that carbohydrates are required for energy) so look for one with grains such as rice, oats, or barley.
Feeding Your Labrador Puppy Fresh Food
Feed your Lab a diet with natural ingredients, such as beef, chicken, lamb, peas, spinach, carrots, and blueberries, to improve their overall well-being by boosting the dog’s energy level and making their coat shiny and breath smell better.
However, it can be challenging to keep your dog healthy while giving them a homemade diet. Merck Veterinary Manual advises that homemade pet diets “should be prepared under the supervision of a veterinary nutritionist.”
Dog food delivery services like Ollie work with canine nutritionists to create customized recipes and cooking methods to meet AAFCO standards for dog food. They estimate the exact number of calories required based on your pup’s age, breed, weight, activity level, and body composition. And they take any allergies your dog has into account.
Ollie’s food is made by hand using only human-grade ingredients, sourced from reputable farms, and approved by veterinarians. They never use fillers, by-products, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Ollie’s recipes are cooked in small batches at low temperatures in a U.S. FDA (USDA)-regulated kitchen. Each recipe is pre-portioned and stored in the freezer. They even offer single-ingredient treats that dogs love.
What to Look For in Fresh Food
Most fresh food services are subscription-based and deliver dog food to your door. The best ones work with canine nutritionists to craft a feeding plan based on your dog’s dietary needs. They also offer recipe options, portion sizes, delivery frequencies, and information about preparing the food and keeping it fresh.
Feeding Your Labrador Puppy Raw Diet
Raw dog food is a homemade, store-bought, freeze-dried, or dehydrated diet that typically includes organ meat, whole or ground bone, muscle meat, raw eggs, vegetables, dog-safe fresh fruits, and a dairy product like yogurt. Advocates of raw food diets claim the following benefits: improved dental health, healthier skin, shinier coats, smaller stools, and increased energy.
Veterinarians warn that raw food diets are inappropriate for dogs shared with young children or people with compromised immune systems. Raw food handling, preparation, and sanitation can require meticulous care. Dogs with cancer, pancreatitis, or other diseases may need cooked food. Puppies also do better with cooked food.
The American Veterinary Medical Association warns against feeding raw foods to cats and dogs because of the risk of illness, spreading from animals to humans.
What to Look for in Raw Food
Find a veterinarian who is familiar with raw foods and can help you address possible health concerns.
Feeding Your Labrador Puppy Wet Food
Complete wet dog food is a balanced, complete food, so you should feed nothing else in combination with it. Everything needed is in this one food.
Do not mix complete wet food with anything, or you will upset the balance of nutrients in your puppy’s diet and cause overfeeding.
Complete wet foods are available in individual pouches or cans containing one serving.
Some dogs described as picky eaters often prefer the natural meaty flavor of wet food, although whether they are fussy or simply spoiled is another story.
You should also know that wet food often costs more than kibble and doesn’t help a dog maintain the same level of dental health.
Dry vs. Wet Puppy Food
There are many options for puppy food. Some are available in wet form, and some are in dry form. Both kinds of foods can be healthy, tasty choices for your puppy. Just make sure that each type is complete and balanced before you feed it to your puppy. It’s also important to remember that some “all-meat” wet foods may not meet your puppy’s nutritional needs.
If you’re trying to decide between dry and wet food for your Lab puppy, there are a few things to consider. Most puppy owners choose to feed their puppies dry food, which doesn’t spoil as quickly because it’s less moist than wet food.
When feeding your puppy, you have three options–feed wet food exclusively, feed dry food exclusively, or feed a combination of both. You should also keep in mind that you should adjust the daily calories you provide based on your puppy’s size. Our puppy feeding chart for dry food will help you figure out how much to feed your Lab pup.
How To Choose A Dog Food for Your Labrador Puppy
When you’re picking dog food, you might think, “What do dogs eat? Meat!” Well, your puppy was born a carnivore, but that doesn’t mean he needs an all-meat diet. Your puppy needs balance, so choose ingredients from both meat and veggies. Talk to a breeder or your vet to ensure you get the right amount of everything.
When looking for a high-quality diet, it is essential to consider which proteins are in it. A lower-quality dog food could contain protein, but fillers like corn and rice are not high-quality protein sources.
Puppies should eat puppy food with around 22% to 30% protein. You would rarely go above 30% for adult labs unless it’s medically necessary.
Most lab rats’ diets consist of 75 percent protein and 25 percent fat. A lab rat’s diet should be composed of this ratio, with the protein outweighing the fat.
However, the source of fat is essential — your puppy should be getting a diet with a good amount of Omega-3s and 6s. Dogs tend to convert fat into glucose, which is an important energy source. Try to stay between 15 percent to 25 percent of fats in your puppy’s diet.
Dogs need protein and fats, but carbs are also necessary. A low-carb diet is best for puppies, but you still need the right amount of carbohydrates for your dog to feel complete. These include starches, fibers, and sugars.
Choose complex carbs such as fruits, whole grains, and vegetables since they’re easier to digest.
VITAMINS & MINERALS
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are macronutrients. You should also provide trace nutrients from micronutrients for a balanced diet. Make sure your Lab puppy gets:
- Vitamins A and C, E,
- Vitamin B12 (specifically during puppy development),
- Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus,
Vitamins and minerals contribute to the health and well-being of a puppy. They also prevent problems like obesity. Vitamin A helps your dog’s body burn calories, and vitamin E keeps skin and eyes healthy.
Vitamin D, phosphorus, and calcium are part of a trio that helps strengthen teeth and bones. Potassium is an important part of a healthy heart.
What Human Foods Can A Lab Puppy Eat?
Labradors can eat certain human foods beneficial to their growth and health. These include:
- Meat – puppies eat meat because they are carnivores by nature. Meat is an excellent source of healthy protein.
- Small fish – sardines, mackerel, and anchovies are a great source of omega3 fatty acids.
- Organ meat is essential to feed your puppy organ meat such as spleen, pancreas, kidneys, heart, lungs, and liver.
- Other foods contain berries, eggs, green vegetables, bone broth, and fermented foods.
What Human Foods Are Dangerous For A Lab Puppy?
Some human foods are dangerous or even poisonous to dogs. The foods below are not safe to give your Labrador puppy:
- Chocolate is a toxic substance for many animals; it contains theobromine which can adversely affect dog health.
- High sugar foods like ice cream and candy can contribute to heart disease, joint pain, obesity, diabetes, and dementia.
- Garlic – can cause anemia in dogs. If you think your pup has eaten garlic, monitor your dog for a few days – this type of poisoning has delayed symptoms.
- Raw salmon and raw wild boar contain parasites that can make dogs ill.
- Salty foods can be dangerous for your puppy’s kidneys; in general, salt is hazardous because it can increase water retention (potentially fatal for labs).
- Pecans, Walnuts, and Macadamia Nuts can make your puppy vomit, have a high fever, and tremble.
- Cinnamon might irritate your Lab puppy’s mouth, and too much could lower your dog’s blood sugar.
- Grapes, wine, and raisins contain toxins that can damage your puppy’s kidneys.
- Others—including tea, coffee, alcohol, and foods with xylitol such as sodas, candies, and toothpaste—can also harm your dog’s health.
Many human foods are toxic to your Lab puppy that you should avoid at all costs.
Should You Feed A Lab Puppy Supplements? Are They Necessary?
Your Lab puppy will most likely be eating a commercially available complete and balanced diet, in which case you won’t need to supplement his food.
A puppy food labeled “complete and balanced” has everything in the right amounts. Adding supplements to this kind of food may contain too much of one or more nutrients, making it unbalanced and possibly harmful for your Lab puppy.
Labrador retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia, arthritis, and other joint problems. One familiar mistake owners make is supplementing with calcium because they believe calcium is good for strong and healthy bones.
But too much calcium in a Lab puppy’s diet can cause skeletal development problems. So adding a calcium supplement to an already complete and balanced diet can do more harm than good.
Besides, there are many examples, so you shouldn’t generally supplement your Lab puppy’s food.
However, if you’re feeding your Lab puppy a raw food diet, homemade, they might need extra supplements to make sure they get the vitamins and minerals they need. Your vet might also advise you to do so.
If you’re going to feed your puppy a raw diet, I urge you to learn more about nutrition than I do. Trust me, though; you’ll want to make sure you get professional advice from a veterinarian.
How Much Should A Lab Puppy Eat?
You know what to feed your Lab puppy now, but how much food does he need each day? You should get your puppy eating complete and balanced puppy food as soon as you get him home, usually between six and eight weeks.
How much food you may need to feed your puppy depends on how much he’ll weigh as an adult dog. For example, a Labrador Retriever will weigh more than a Russell Terrier at maturity. So, your Labrador Retriever puppy will eat more than your Russell Terrier puppy.
Please use the chart below to determine how much dry dog food to feed your Lab puppy. You may also wish to review the instructions on the back of his food bag and consult with your veterinarian.
Keeping Your Puppy’s Weight Right
As a dog owner, you might have noticed that Labradors tend to develop weight problems. Studies show that obesity affects 56% of all dogs, increasing their risk of other health problems like cancer and orthopedic difficulties.
High-calorie food and less activity are some of the problems affecting all dogs. Some Labs are genetically unable to turn off their sense of hunger even after they’ve eaten—even after their stomachs are complete, they feel perpetually hungry.
That’s great for training, but it’s best to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Maintaining nutritional guidelines and age-appropriate weight ranges is easy if you start as early as possible.
Labrador puppies change rapidly as they grow, and the best way to determine if their nutritional needs are being met is to evaluate both age and weight. You’ll need to vary your Lab puppy’s feeding schedule and amounts based on her growth and energy.
As a general rule, your Lab’s daily nutritional needs can be divided into three major stages:
Lab Puppy Feeding Chart by Age
Feeding Guide For Your Labrador Puppy
A puppy needs a consistent number of calories between 4 and 12 months of age to ensure proper growth.
Remember, though, that it’s essential to feed your puppy only enough to maintain a healthy body condition, not just preferred weight. If your puppy is on the larger side but falls within, the higher end of the weight range for its age, try feeding smaller portions or reducing the frequency of meals at the 4-6 month mark.
body condition scoring chart
Use this chart to see whether your dog is at a healthy weight:
How Much To Feed A Lab Puppy?
There’s an old saying in dog feeding: “Watch the dog, not the dish.” You should base portion size on your pup’s body condition, not how much of his meal he eats or leaves behind in his bowl. Metabolic rate and body type vary from dog to dog, and nutrition requirements are unique for each puppy.
If your puppy skips a meal or two now and then, it doesn’t mean he is sick; maybe he is ready to eliminate a feeding, or you just fed him too much, in which case reduce the quantity served.
Also, if you are using treats for training, decrease the amount of food you give your pup at mealtime. Using small pieces of treats for training can help too.
How Often to Feed a Lab Puppy? (Lab Puppy Feeding Schedule)
Lab puppies need to eat more often when they are younger and can eat less often as they get older.
Feeding your new Lab puppy is one of the most important things you can do for him during his first year. Good nutrition from complete, balanced dog food will promote your pup’s growth and development.
So, how often should you feed a Lab puppy?
How Many Times To Feed A Lab Puppy Each Day?
It’s essential to establish a feeding schedule for your Lab puppy, no matter his age. A set routine will make potty training easier because you’ll have a better sense of when your puppy needs outside.
Puppies Less than 6 Months Old
Puppies usually stop nursing by six to eight weeks. Once weaned, puppies should be given three or four scheduled feedings a day.
Make sure you know how much food to give him based on his weight; divide that amount among three or four feedings. We created an in-depth puppy feeding chart to help with this.
Please refer to the label on the back of your Lab puppy’s food for more information.
Puppies 6 Months to 1-Year-Old
From six months to a year of age, reduce the number of meals to two per day: in the morning and the evening.
Again, you’ll want to divide the amount of food he needs for the day between his two daily meals.
1 Year & Up
Most puppies are fully grown by their first birthday. Some large breeds take a year and a half to two years to mature fully.
For a Labrador puppy, maturity is reached at 12 to 16 months. It would be best if you fed him once or twice a day. Choose the feeding schedule that works best for both you and your Lab puppy.
Please remember to read the feeding instructions on the food label and consult your veterinarian with any questions.
No matter what age your Lab puppy is, it’s essential to stick to your feeding schedule. A routine is a great way to introduce expectations to your puppy and help him grow up to be well-behaved.
How Long To Feed Lab Puppy Food Before Switching To Adult Dog Food?
You can tell when your puppy is ready to begin eating adult food. If he has stopped growing upward, you are likely ready to start feeding him the adult diet. It’s recommended to switch your puppy to an adult diet when he has grown to full height. Not at maturity, which can be much later, but when they’ve grown to full size.
For small breeds, this happens when they are between 8 and 10 months old. For medium breeds, this can be between 10 and 16 months. For giant breeds, it can be up to 2 years until they are fully grown.
These are only guidelines, so feel free to tweak them as you see fit.
I’ve seen people switch their Labrador to adult dog food at six months, read food labels that say their dog is safe to switch at 12 months and read articles and forum answers that say to wait until their dog is 18 months old.
Nobody switches before six months of age, though many owners switch before 12 months.
Typically, it’s good to switch between 6 and 12 months, but let your Lab puppy’s growth be your guide.
If you’re unsure, your vet is always the best person to ask. Remember, each puppy is different.
It’s best to gradually switch from puppy food to adult food over several days. A sudden change in diet can lead to stomach problems for your dog.
What Is The Best Dog Foods For Lab Puppies
- Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Puppy
- Purina Pro Plan Dry Dog Food
- Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
- Purina ONE Smart Blend
How Much Water Should You Give Your Labrador Puppy?
When puppies have finished nursing, they require water to make up for their lost hydration—one cup of water per puppy every two hours is recommended during the weaning period.
Breeders recommend that puppies drink an ounce of water per pound of body weight. If you are housetraining your puppy, be sure to remove the water dish at night.
You should schedule the procedure so that you can remove it before bedtime and let your dog relieve himself one last time.
Your Labrador’s overall health depends on what you feed him. Finding the right balance can make a big difference to your dog’s happiness.
Lab puppies need more than good nutrition and training to grow big and strong. Love, playtime, and cuddling are also crucial for your puppy’s well-being.
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