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Basic Guidelines to Labrador Nutrition


When first bringing home a new Labrador Retriever, many people worry about what they ought to feed their new pet. Just like all other animals, a Lab’s diet ought to depend on its unique requirements. In general, certain dietary needs must be met for all dogs, but Labrador Retrievers also have a few specific needs. Most Labrador Retrievers will be able to survive on a diet of commercial dog food, but you might be surprised to learn that these commercial dog food preparations do not always contain everything your Lab will need to flourish. The wrong type of dog food can leave your Labrador Retriever feeling lethargic or tired, and it might not be able to build strong muscles and bones. As a pet owner, it is important for you to understand how you can meet your furry friend’s needs. Once you know all of the nutrient, protein, and calorie requirements for your Labrador Retriever, you can ensure that whatever brand of dog food you get will completely fulfill your dog’s nutritional needs.

When you are trying to find the right type of food for your Labrador Retriever, you need to consider your pet’s age, weight, height, specific breed type, and particular environment. Depending on the stage of growth that your Labrador Retriever is experiencing, it may need higher levels of food, vitamins, minerals, and protein. We’ll get more into all of these specific needs later, but the main thing to keep in mind when choosing foods for your Labrador Retriever is that they need a lot of protein. Most animal dietary experts advise that Labrador Retrievers should have pure proteins for at least one-quarter of their entire diet. Labs use far more protein than humans or some other types of animals, and without enough protein, they cannot function properly.

Typically, the best type of protein for a Labrador Retriever will be items made from meat, dairy, or fish. If you feed your dog real food instead of dog food, any bones should be removed from the meat or fish. One of the biggest risks to giving your pet “human food” is that they can choke on improperly prepared items and require an urgent trip to the vet’s office. Bones can also cause digestive upsets if they are swallowed, so it is typically best to avoid giving food with bones in it to your dog. Though nutritional studies have shown that Labrador Retrievers digest real, whole foods better than processed dog foods, you should never give them table scraps or other food items prepared for humans. Labrador Retrievers have a tendency to get obese from a steady diet of scraps because human meals tend to have more fat than your dog needs.


Though the nutritional needs of Labs mostly fall under general guidelines for all dogs, there are a few unique requirements for this particular breed. The first step to finding the right foods for your Labrador Retriever is discovering your pet’s individual needs. Labrador Retrievers are extremely energetic, athletic, and active animals. Therefore, they typically need slightly more food and higher levels of vitamins and minerals than other breeds of dogs. Each Labrador Retriever is an individual creature of course, so you may want to use slightly lower than the recommended amounts of food if you have an older Lab that is less energetic. Keep an eye on your dog and try to adjust their food if they do not seem to be getting their needs met. If your dog appears to be gaining weight, you may want to decrease their food amount, but if your dog seems to be reaching an unhealthily low weight, they may need more food.


Because they were originally bred as working dogs who retrieved prey for hunters, Labrador Retriever is very energetic and athletic. This makes them a fun, playful breed that is well-suited to living with an active family, but it also means that they burn more calories than more sedentary breeds. Even in old age, Labs tend to remain healthy and energetic. In general, an adult, active Labrador Retriever who is a healthy weight needs about 1000 to 1200 calories per day. You can precisely calculate the caloric requirements of your Lab by finding their Resting Energy Requirements and multiplying it by their activity level. A dog’s RER is 30 times their body weight in kilograms, plus 70. A puppy under four months needs three times its RER, an adolescent over the age of four months needs two times its RER, an active adult needs 1.8 times its RER, and a very active adult Lab needs four times its RER.


Once you figure out the overall amount of food that you should be feeding your pet, you can make sure it is getting enough protein by ensuring that one-quarter of the overall amount of food it eats is made of protein. Proteins are used to build the muscles that Labrador Retrievers use to run and play, and without enough protein the quickly become malnourished. If you choose to use a pre-prepared dog food brand, be sure to read the nutritional information on the container and see if it contains enough protein for your pet. Protein takes longer to digest, so it leaves your Lab feeling fuller between each meal. This will help your pet to avoid begging for extra snacks that may cause obesity.


Labrador Retrievers may have a few specific dietary needs, but as long as they get enough protein, carbohydrates, fats, and nutrients, they will be able to keep their signature playful, fun personality. High-quality foods that are packed with all of the nutrition your dog needs will give them enough energy to stay healthy and remain at a proper weight. If you still are not sure what your Labrador Retriever’s dietary needs are, you can talk to your pet’s veterinarian to decide what sort of food is right for your pet.


Comments to Basic Guidelines to Labrador Nutrition

  • Love the info. TY

    Darleen Hoffman February 20, 2015 1:08 pm Reply
  • I appreciate you sharing this information on basic Labrador nutrition. Like you said, it is important to consider your dog’s size, age, breed and environment in order to determine their nutritional requirements. It is good to know that protein is the fundamental feed nutrient in a dog’s diet. I just bought a Labrador and he is so much fun. I want him to be healthy and enjoy the food that I feed him. Thanks!

    Christophe Carlier May 2, 2015 3:01 am Reply
    • Thanks for the feedback Christophe. To us Labs are the most fun 🙂

      Joan Gouldie May 2, 2015 8:27 am Reply
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