Every year for 21 years in a row, the Labrador Retriever has been ranked as the most popular dog breed in the USA by the AKC.
If you are one of the lucky ones to have a Lab at home, you may be wondering – are you feeding it right, and what the best dog food for labs is?
Like any other dog, it needs the right food for its breed, size, age, level of activity, and health to stay healthy and live a long life.
Labrador Retrievers are considered large dogs with specific nutritional needs related to the common health issues that can affect the breed and large dogs in general.
Read on to find out how to choose the best dog food for your Labrador Retriever and the potential health issues and other considerations to keep in mind when buying dog food for your four-legged companion.
We have also included our top selections for the best dog food for puppies, adults, and senior Labs on the market.
How to Choose Dog Food for Labs
Your lab’s health, well-being, and happiness depend on the quality of the dog food and the diet you feed it.
Here are the ingredients and nutrients to look for:
- Animal-Based Protein
Labrador Retrievers are large, active dogs with lean muscles but are prone to weight gain. Look for dog food that has an animal-based protein as the first ingredient. If possible, opt for food that has real meat or fish as the primary ingredient and protein source.
- Controlled Fat Content
Fats are essential for the well-being of your pup because they provide calories, fatty acids, and other vital nutrients for the dog’s coat, skin, cognitive development, and health.
But because Labs are prone to becoming overweight, you should be careful about the fat content of the dog food.
Low to moderate fat levels are the way to go when choosing the best food for your Labrador Retriever.
- Digestible Ingredients
Many high-quality dog foods are made of ingredients like real vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and others that are highly digestible and help support the healthy digestive systems of canines.
- Nutritionally Balanced
Look for dog food that is labeled as complete and balanced. This means that it complies with the guidelines by the AAFCO for healthy dog food and has the recommended crude protein, crude fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrient and supplement content and ratio for the life stage of your pup.
8 Best Dog Foods for Labs Reviewed
Here are the top-rated dog foods for Labrador Retrievers that are currently being offered on the market.
Best Adult Dog Food
Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food
- The first 5 ingredients are: chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, whole grain sorghum, and whole grain barley
- Guaranteed Analysis: 22% min. of crude protein, 13% min. crude fat, and 4% max. crude fiber
- Caloric Content: 350 kcal per cup
- Type of food: dry dog food for large dog breeds, high-protein, immune, skin and coat health support, no corn, wheat, peas, soy, molasses, or GMO products
- Life stage: adult dogs of large and giant breed
This is a protein-rich dry dog food with three top-quality lean animal-based protein sources: chicken, lamb, and salmon.
Other ingredients include 15 non-GMO natural superfoods like chia, coconut, blueberries, kale, pumpkin, carrots, and more sources of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other micronutrients.
It is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of large and giant dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers.
The second ingredient, chicken meal, is a natural source of chondroitin and glucosamine, which are essential for keeping your dog’s joints healthy.
No fillers, artificial preservatives, meat by-product meals, wheat, soy, peas, molasses, or corn are used to make this excellent dog food for Labs.
It is perfect for maintaining a healthy weight and lean muscle mass.
The linoleic acid in the sunflower oil is excellent for keeping your furbaby’s coat and skin shiny and healthy.
The Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult dog food is very palatable, even to fussy eaters.
This dry dog food is also available for toy and small dog breeds. You can buy it in bags of 4, 8, 15, or 30 lbs.
Best Puppy Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy
- The first 5 ingredients are: deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, oatmeal, and barley
- Guaranteed Analysis: 26% min. crude protein, 15% min. crude fat, and 5% max. fiber
- Caloric Content: 386 kcal per cup
- Type of food: large breed puppy dry dog food, natural, with grain and no wheat, soy, or corn for immune, hip, and joint support, and with all vitamins and minerals needed
- Life stage: puppies of large and giant breeds
This high-protein, high-calorie dry dog food is formulated specifically for growing puppies from large or giant dog breeds, such as Labs.
It contains a healthy lean chicken protein as well as L-Carnitine, which promotes lean muscle growth in puppies.
The food also has healthy grains, vegetables, and fruits that give your growing puppy the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants it needs.
There are specially added LifeSource Bits with concentrated antioxidants and nutrients in the puppy-sized kibble.
The high-quality food has healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a shiny coat and healthy skin of your furbaby.
It contains ARA and DHA, which help promote the young lab’s healthy eye and brain development.
Also, its good phosphorus-to-calcium ratio will ensure that your growing fluffball has strong teeth and promote its healthy bone and joint growth.
This dry dog food doesn’t contain any fillers, wheat, soy, corn, or poultry by-product meals and is shaped and sized to be suitable for smaller puppy jaws and to help keep the teeth clean.
You can buy a variant for senior dogs too. The kibble is offered in bags of 15, 30, or 34 lbs.
Related: Best Large Breed Puppy Foods – 2023
Best Senior Dog Food
Wellness Complete Health Senior Dry Dog Food
- The first 5 ingredients are: deboned chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, ground barley, and ground brown rice
- Guaranteed Analysis: 22% min. crude protein, 10% min. crude fat, and 4.25% max. crude fiber
- Caloric Content: 416 kcal per cup
- Type of food: dry senior dog food for digestive, hip and joint, and skin and coat support and health, weight control, no corn, soy, or wheat
- Life stage: senior dogs
This premium-quality Complete Health dry dog food by Wellness is an excellent choice for an aging Labrador Retriever.
It is made of all-natural animal and plant-based ingredients. They are excellent sources of all the essential nutrients your furry friend needs to stay healthy, fit, active, and happy as it enters its golden years.
The dry dog food for senior Labradors contains only non-GMO, carefully sourced ingredients, including high-quality proteins and easily digestible, wholesome grains.
It contains antioxidants, omega fatty acids, probiotics, glucosamine, taurine, and beta-carotene, all sensibly selected to promote whole-body health in senior pups.
Plus, it will provide your furbaby with enough glucosamine for joint and mobility health.
The omega fatty acids will help ensure the coat and skin of your dog is beautiful and healthy.
The kibble also contains taurine, which is essential for the health of your dog’s heart.
The natural probiotics included in the recipe will help keep its gut and immune system healthy and functioning properly.
There are no harmful fillers used for making this dry dog food, and no soy, wheat, or corn is used.
The high-quality dog food is made in the USA and sold in bags of 5, 15, and 30 lbs.
Related: Best Senior Dog Food Reviews – 2023
Breed Specific For Puppies or Adult Labs
Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Labrador Retriever
- The first 5 ingredients are: chicken by-product meal, brown rice, oat grouts, corn gluten meal, and brewer’s rice
- Guaranteed Analysis: 28% min. crude protein and 11% min. crude fat for the adult formula, and 31% min. crude protein and 12% min. fat for the puppy formula. The senior formula has a lower crude fat content of 9% min.
- Caloric Content: for adults, 275 kcal per cup; for puppies, 308 kcal per cup; and for seniors, 277 kcal per cup
- Type of food: breed-specific dry dog food for Labrador Retrievers for weight control, bone and joint health, and healthy skin and coat
- Life stage: the food is available in three options: for puppies, adult dogs over 15 months, and dogs aged 5+
This dry dog food by Royal Canin is the best option for dog parents who want to feed their lab with food specifically formulated for the breed.
The breed-specific dry dog food comes in options for puppies, adults, and Labs that are 5+ years old.
The kibble is shaped and textured in a way that promotes slower chewing, which is a perfect solution for quick-eating Labrador Retrievers.
It has added glucosamine, EPA, and DHA to promote joint and bone health support, which is essential for large Labs that are prone to mobility and joint problems.
Dry dog food contains healthy fatty acids and nutrients that help keep the dog’s skin healthy and the coat and undercoat healthy, water-resistant, and beautiful.
It contains only 275 kcal per cup, so it can help keep your dog fit and prevent weight gain and obesity, which is another problem that many Labrador Retrievers are prone to.
You can buy the food in bags weighing 17, 28, and 30 lbs. It is available in formulas created for a total of 60 different breeds.
Best Wet Dog Food
Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Canned Dog Food
- The first 5 ingredients are: white fish, fish broth, turkey broth, water, and turkey
- Guaranteed Analysis: crude protein content is 8% min., 4% min. crude fat, 1% max. fiber, and 82% max. moisture
- Caloric Content: 364 kcal per can
- Type of food: wet dog food, chicken-free, and grain-free
- Life stage: adult dogs
This palatable salmon and gravy wet dog food is an excellent choice for picky eaters and for pups who prefer wet rather than dry dog food.
It has natural sources of protein like real salmon, turkey liver, and other high-quality animal-based ingredients. It also has peas, potatoes, and other fresh ingredients like vegetables and fruits that are natural sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, digestible carbs, and fiber.
The Wild Pacific Stream brand of canned dog food provides a complete and balanced diet for adult dogs.
It is formulated with high-quality nutrients for promoting lean muscle strength and a healthy, balanced diet for the lab.
The tasty food is made in the USA with trusted local and leading imported ingredients and contains prebiotics and fiber for a healthy and regular digestive system.
Each 13.2-oz can contain 364 kcal and can be given to the pup as a topper, mixed with the kibble, or as the main meal.
The food is grain-free and chicken-free, making it perfect for dogs with allergies or intolerances to chicken or grains.
Related: Top 21 Best Wet Dog Foods 2023
Best For Sensitive Stomach
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food
- The first 5 ingredients are: salmon, menhaden fish meal, sweet potatoes, tapioca starch, and potatoes
- Guaranteed Analysis: 24% min. crude protein, 10% min. crude fat, and 4.5% max. fiber
- Caloric Content: 373 kcal per cup
- Type of food: limited ingredient diet for sensitive digestion, grain, wheat, pea, chicken, and soy-free, supports the heart, bones, teeth, joints, skin, coat, digestion, and immune system
- Life stage: adult dogs
Even if your beautiful Labrador Retriever has an allergy or is intolerant to common ingredients such as chicken or grains, it can still eat complete, balanced, and healthy dog food.
This dry dog food by Natural Balance has salmon as its single protein source and the first ingredient. This is great news if your four-legged companion likes fish or has a sensitivity to chicken or other proteins.
Salmon is a superb source of protein, amino acids, and healthy omega fatty acids.
The food contains sweet potatoes, which will provide the pup with grain-free fiber for a healthy and regular digestive function.
Thanks to its limited ingredient formula, the dry dog food is suitable for pups with allergies or sensitivities to chicken, wheat, soy, or grain.
The dry dog food offers a complete and balanced diet with all essential nutrients to keep your Labrador Retriever healthy, fit, and happy.
The kibble is available in a variety of other flavors and limited ingredient recipes, including Chicken and Sweet Potato, Duck and Potato, Sweet Potato and Bison, and Sweet Potato and Venison.
You can buy it in bags of 4, 12, 22, and 24 lbs.
Best Dog Food For Joint Health
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Healthy Mobility Large Breed
- The first 5 ingredients are: chicken meal, brewer’s rice, whole-grain sorghum, brown rice, and whole-grain wheat
- Guaranteed Analysis: 17% min. crude protein, 12% min. crude fat, and 3% max. fiber
- Caloric Content: 367 kcal per cup
- Type of food: large and giant breed dry dog food for digestive health, hip and joint support, and mobility
- Life stage: adult large and giant dogs
This top-rated dry dog food for large and giant dog breeds by Hill’s Science Diet is another excellent option if you are looking for a complete and balanced food that will help promote your lab’s joint health and mobility.
It is formulated for Labrador Retrievers and other adult large dog breeds, especially for promoting their joint health and mobility, which are common issues among large pups.
The included fish oil contains EPA and omega fatty acids, and there are natural sources of chondroitin and glucosamine in the food, which help preserve the cartilage of the bones and boost the joint health of your lab.
The kibble contains ingredients that are natural sources of all vitamins and minerals for stronger bones in large dogs.
There are vitamins C and E, which are potent antioxidants that keep the cells of the body, including those in the bones and joints, healthy and undamaged by free radicals.
The dry dog food is made of carefully sourced ingredients and has added minerals, vitamins, and amino acids to provide a complete and balanced diet for your pup.
The kibble is sold in 30 lbs. bags.
Related: Best Dog Food For Joint Health
Best Weight Loss Dog Food
CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Healthy Weight
- The first 5 ingredients are: chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, and peas
- Guaranteed Analysis: 28% min. crude protein, 9% min. crude fat, 5% max. crude fiber
- Caloric Content: 409 kcal per cup
- Type of food: dry dog food for sensitive digestion, weight control, grain-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free
- Life stage: adult dogs
This dry dog food by Canidae is formulated to help promote healthy weight and prevent obesity, a common problem with Labs.
Its main ingredient is antibiotic-free real chicken, an excellent source of protein and amino acids essential for your pup’s lean muscles and healthy immune system.
The weight-control kibble is grain-free and made of a limited number of 9 real ingredients, which is excellent news if your four-legged friend has food intolerances or allergies to grains, gluten, wheat, soy, corn, or other ingredients.
It is fortified with a trademarked Canidae HealthPlus blend of antioxidants, probiotics, omega-3, and 6 healthy fatty acids.
The food is made in Texas, USA, with zero artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors used.
You can buy it in bags of 12 or 24 lbs.
Related: Best Weight Loss Dog Food 2023
What Do You Need to Look For In the Best Dog Food For Your Lab?
If you are still unsure what to look for when picking the best dog food for your lab, read on for the main ingredients and nutrients you should look for in the ingredient list and guaranteed analysis of the food.
Labradors are large and active dogs that need to eat food that has at least 22% crude protein from high-quality lean animal meat.
Opt for one that has real meat or fish as the first ingredient and as the primary protein source.
If possible, stay away from dog foods that list meat by-product meals as their first ingredient.
When they are still growing, young Labs will need suitable puppy food for large dog breeds, which contains more proteins and calories.
Labrador Retrievers love eating, which is one of the reasons they are predisposed to becoming overweight or obese.
If your pup has such issues, then you may want to opt for a food with a lower to the medium fat content of up to 18% minimum.
Still, every dog, including your lab, needs to consume healthy fats like fish meat, fish oil, flaxseed, and others to have a healthy and shiny water-resistant coat, healthy skin, and a strong immune system.
A healthy adult Labrador Retriever needs to eat moderate amounts of digestible carbohydrates, which are stored and turned into energy fuel.
The best dog foods contain whole grains or grain-free carbs, such as sweet potatoes.
Choose a dog food that doesn’t have refined carbs because it can also make your dog gain weight.
Vitamins and Minerals
The dog food you choose has to comply with or exceed the guidelines for healthy dog food nutrition provided by the AAFCO.
This means that it contains the recommended quantities and ratios of essential nutrients, including vital vitamins, minerals, and other supplements for your pup.
- Chondroitin and Glucosamine
Labrador Retrievers, like most other large dog breeds, are predisposed to joint problems such as hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, and others. So, eating dog food that contains chondroitin and glucosamine can help prevent degenerative damage to the cartilage of the bones, which can occur as the dog ages or due to hereditary and other conditions.
- DHA and Taurine
DHA is a healthy omega-3 fatty acid that is crucial for the dog’s coat, brain function, and joints.
Labs need foods that contain natural sources or supplements providing healthy fatty acids. They are essential for their skin health and for their water-resistant coat.
Taurine is an essential amino acid that promotes heart health and reduces the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other heart problems in dogs.
- Calcium and Phosphorous
The best choice for Labrador Retriever puppies is puppy food for large dog breeds. It contains the right amount and ratio of calcium and phosphorus to ensure that your pup grows up healthy and without any skeletal issues.
Many of the high-quality dog foods for Labs include natural or added probiotics. They help introduce healthy bacteria in the dog’s gut, boosting its digestive and immune systems.
Labrador Diet and Health Issues
The diet of your lab is crucial for its overall health and well-being. It can also help prevent the development of certain health issues that are common among dogs of this popular breed.
Here are the most common health issues in Labs and how to prevent them, spot them, and treat them with the help of the right dog food and care.
Bone and Joint Problems
We already mentioned the higher risk of joint and bone problems among Labrador Retrievers and other large or giant breed dogs.
The reasons can be hereditary and also due to the rapid growth of puppies and their increased weight.
The first and foremost thing to do to lower the risk of joint and bone problems and mobility issues for your dog is to make sure to keep its weight healthy. Every extra pound added will add further stress to your furbaby’s bones and joints.
Also, choose a dog food containing nutrients and supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, calcium, and phosphorus, which can help alleviate the inflammation of the joints, limit the damage to the cartilage causing osteoarthritis, and strengthen your pup’s skeleton.
These adorable dogs are known for their love of eating. Also, Labs are sweet-natured and loving pups, so often, dog parents can’t resist giving them treats and snacks, which can easily cause them to become overweight and obese.
Obesity can shorten the lifespan of your furbaby by two or more years, which is why you should be careful about the caloric intake, portion control, and snacks you feed your pup.
Watching the caloric intake by checking the calories in the dog food and in any treats you give to your pup is one way to make sure your furry friend is fit and healthy. Also, make sure you are providing it with enough exercise and high-quality food without any filler ingredients or unnecessary empty calories.
Like other deep-chested dogs, Labrador Retrievers are prone to bloating. This is a life-threatening condition that can develop quickly and, if not taken care of immediately, can lead to death.
Bloat is caused by gas or air filling the stomach of the dog, which causes it to expand and can lead to it twisting around itself, thus causing an obstruction and blockage of the blood flow to the organs.
Some of the ways to prevent this from occurring are to use a slow feeder or dog puzzles if your lab tends to gobble up its food in seconds.
Also, divide its daily food into two smaller portions and feed the pup in the morning and evening instead of serving it one big meal per day.
Use raised dog bowls so it can drink water and eat without bending down.
And avoid feeding your furry friend right before or right after vigorous exercise.
These popular and loved dogs, unfortunately, are at a higher risk of congenital heart disease than other pups.
While genetics play the main role in the development of heart disease, the diet that you feed your pup can also play a role.
An overweight or obese dog is at a higher risk of developing heart disease.
So, once again, managing your pup’s weight throughout its life is crucial for its overall health and for as long a lifespan as possible.
In many cases, heart failure is due to the retention of salt, which is why your vet may recommend that you put your four-legged companion on a low-sodium diet.
Also, feeding it food with added taurine can help reduce the bad cholesterol levels and the high blood pressure of your pup.
Like most aging dogs, Labradors can develop cataracts as they go into their golden years. This leads to the lens of the eye becoming opaque, which can cause problems with the dog’s vision and lead to blindness.
Another eye problem that is common among Labs is retinal dysplasia, which consists of abnormal development of the pup’s retina.
Feeding your Labrador dog food that contains healthy antioxidants, such as vitamin E, can help promote its eye health and hopefully prevent these or other problems with its eyes and vision.
Labrador Dog Food FAQs
Does a Labrador have any special dietary needs?
These large pups need at least 22% of crude protein in their daily diet in order to grow and be healthy when they are puppies, and later, a minimum of 18% of protein as adults for maintaining lean mass.
Most Labs are prone to overeating and obesity, so you may want to choose foods with less fat and fewer calories or special healthy weight formulas for your pup.
Do labs need joint-supporting nutrients in their diet?
Like most large dog breeds, Labrador Retrievers are at a higher risk of genetic and degenerative joint problems, such as hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, and others.
The leading causes of joint and bone problems are overfeeding and being overweight, genetics, and too much calcium in dog food.
Young Labrador puppies need to eat specialized puppy food for Labradors or for large dog breeds.
How many calories does a Labrador puppy require in a day?
A puppy Labrador Retriever will need about 40 calories per every pound of its body weight.
How many calories does an adult Labrador need in a day?
An average adult Lab needs about 30 calories per pound of body weight, which is about 1,500 to 1,600 calories per day. If you have a very active or working Lab, then you will probably need to feed it up to 1,900 calories a day.
As for senior dogs who are more sedentary, the caloric intake should be lowered to about 1,100 calories per day.