Labrador Retrievers are amazing dogs. They are strong, active, high energy, and loving pets. You made a good choice when you picked up a Lab puppy. You are in for a lifetime of love, loyalty, and fun. There is nothing quite like a Lab’s big goofy grin. Speaking of big, your puppy is going to grow into a large, solid dog. She has a lot of work to do. It’s not easy growing from a tiny, flopsy puppy to a powerful Lab, but that’s what you have in store so you need to be sure to choose the best puppy food for your Lab.
Labs are considered a larger breed as they are greater than 50 lbs when they are full grown. And large breed puppies have unique requirements when compared to small and medium breeds. Your Lab puppy will experience initial rapid growth and then will take a long time to fully mature. It’s a gift and a curse: you get to have a puppy for a longer period of time, but then again, you have to deal with a puppy for a longer period of time. Don’t worry, it’s going to be great!
Since growth and development is different for larger breeds like Labs, they require specific amounts of certain nutrients. Namely calcium and phosphorus. Lab puppies need the right amount of each, not too much, not too little, so that they can experience healthy growth. If they get too little, skeletal growth can be stunted. If they get too much, they will have a greater risk of developing orthopaedic issues like hip dysplasia.
You also need to look closely at your puppy’s caloric intake, which can be hard because Labrador puppies will eat anything! They’re like little garbage disposals. You don’t want to underfeed your pup because that can lead to malnourishment and stunted growth. However, overfeeding can have lasting consequences such as hip dysplasia, high blood pressure, and heart conditions.
There are some magic numbers to keep in mind. The optimum percentage of calcium is 0.7-1.2%; for phosphorus, it’s 0.6-1.1%. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be somewhere between 1:1 and 1.5:1. As for calories, the number of kilocalories per kilogram (kcal/kg) is best between 3500 and 4000.
This may sound tricky, but lucky for you, trusted companies actually make certain recipes specific toward larger breeds. We’ve done the research and found six products that will satisfy all the nutrition requirements of your Lab puppy. There are other, more generic things to consider, like ingredients and the amount of proteins and fats. For detailed information, please see this post on puppy food in general. But remember, your Lab puppy will grow into a large breed dog and she will need a formula specific to large breed puppies to exhibit healthy growth.
(26% minimum Protein, 12% minimum Fat, 5% maximum Fiber, 1.1% minimum Calcium, 0.9% minimum Phosphorus, 1.22:1 Calcium to Phosphorus, 3520 kcals/kg) The main ingredients include deboned chicken, whitefish, chicken meal, oatmeal, peas, ground barley, ground brown rice, salmon meal, tomato pomace, and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). Wellness specially formulated this recipe for the unique health needs of larger breeds. Their focus is on nutrition targeting paced and steady growth. This particular recipe has 20% less fat than their normal puppy recipe for the specific needs of a larger, longer-growing puppy. The large amount of protein will help your puppy grow lean, strong muscles. And importantly, the mineral levels are closely controlled for proper bone development. Wellness is only made in the USA, so you can be sure of a quality product. You won’t find any wheat, corn soy, meat by-products, or artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors.
(35% minimum Protein, 14% minimum Fat, 6% maximum Fiber, 1.2% minimum Calcium, 0.9% minimum Phosphorus, 1.33:1 Calcium to Phosphorus, 3551 kcals/kg) The main ingredients include deboned chicken, chicken meal, tapioca starch, peas, turkey meal, pea protein, tomato pomace (source of lycopene), and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). Blue Buffalo is made in the USA. This formula is specific to large breed puppies. It is grain-free and high in protein, perfect for growing lean muscles. The diet of wolves was the inspiration, with plenty of DHA to support cognitive development. You want your puppy to be smart! The kibbles are even shaped specifically to help knock tartar off of your pup’s teeth for good dental health. Fruits and veggies provide antioxidants for great immune function.
(38% minimum Protein, 16% minimum Fat, 6% maximum Fiber, 1.1% minimum Calcium, 0.9% minimum Phosphorus, 1.22:1 Calcium to Phosphorus, 3760 kcals/kg) The main ingredients include deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail ﬂounder, whole eggs, whole atlantic mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver, chicken heart, turkey heart, whole atlantic herring, dehydrated chicken, dehydrated turkey, dehydrated mackerel, dehydrated chicken liver, dehydrated turkey liver, whole green peas, whole navy beans, red lentils, chicken necks, chicken kidney, pinto beans, chickpeas, green lentils, alfalfa, natural chicken ﬂavor, lentil ﬁber, and herring oil. This formula is 85% poultry, fish, and egg ingredients and 15% vegetables, fruits, and botanicals. Orijen uses fresh, never outsourced ingredients. They especially use low-ash chicken and fish in order to keep the calcium and phosphorus levels ideal for large breeds. The recipe is high in protein, limits carbohydrates, and is grain-free in an effort to mimic the diet of the wild dog. On this food, your puppy will be healthy, happy, and strong!
(26% minimum Protein, 14% minimum Fat, 3.5% maximum Fiber, 1.08% minimum Calcium, 1.02% minimum Phosphorus, 1.06:1 Calcium to Phosphorus, 3809 kcals/kg) The main ingredients include duck, chicken meal, chicken, oatmeal, pearled barley, brown rice, menhaden fish meal, lamb, potatoes, dried tomato pomace, dried whole egg, and chicken fat. Your puppy will love this food! It contains fresh Wisconsin duck, low-ash lamb, hand-trimmed USDA chicken, and real Wisconsin cheddar cheese. It even sounds delicious to us! They added salmon oil, which will make your puppy’s coat luxurious, and probiotics to aid in digestion. This is a special recipe for large breed puppies with appropriate calcium and phosphorus levels, as well as ingredients rich in glucosamine. Fromm hand-processes their food and they are family owned and operated. It’s a brand you can trust to provide only the best for your pup.
(33% minimum Protein, 14% minimum Fat, 5% maximum Fiber, 1.2% minimum Calcium, 0.9% minimum Phosphorus, 1.33:1 Calcium to Phosphorus, 3652 kcals/kg) The main ingredients include chicken meal (source of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate), peas, chickpeas, chicken, chicken eggs, and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid). This one is unique. The formula includes high-protein, grain-free kibble with freeze-dried raw pieces mixed in. Your puppy will gobble it up. There is no corn, wheat, soy, or fillers. Nature’s Variety provides a nutrient rich diet and pure nutrition for digestive health. Your puppy will thank you for the natural DHA for brain and eye development, along with omegas for a soft coat and probiotics to help with digestion. They formulate this recipe to mirror your puppy’s ancestral diet. And it turned out great!
(22% minimum Protein, 13% minimum Fat, 4% maximum Fiber, 1.0% minimum Calcium, 0.8% minimum Phosphorus, 1.25:1 Calcium to Phosphorus, 3910 kcals/kg) The main ingredients include duck meal (source of L-carnitine), brown rice, oats, peas, ocean fish meal, barley, white rice, rice bran, and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). This recipe has the right levels of the nutrients your puppy needs to grow up into a large, strong, healthy dog. It is vet formulated for large breeds. One thing we like is the diversity of the carbohydrates that are all easily digested and will keep your puppy feeling fuller for longer. They use wholesome ingredients that come together to offer whole, balanced nutrition optimally suited to your growing large breed puppy. It’s a great choice
So now that you’ve done the research, have you decided what the best food for Labrador puppies is? We hope this post has helped you make an informed decision about the best path forward with your puppy. Here at ReadySetDogs, we love all dogs and want nothing more than to help their families make good decisions when it comes to their health and happiness. So feel free to contact us if you have any further questions.
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Anna is a canine enthusiast. She loves everything about dogs from their loyalty to their energetic spirits to their stubborn moments. She has a passion to learn everything she can to become a better "dog-mom" to her Toller, Penny, and to share her knowledge of dogs with all who are interested in the hopes of educating people on the best canine care.