Unquestionably one of the most well-rounded dogs of all-time, the gentle, people-loving Labrador retriever ranks first in the hearts of Americans among the 193 breeds registered at the American Kennel Club — 28 years in a row! But in addition to their celebrated versatility as an all-round family dog, rescue dog, guide dog, service dog, and sporting companion, Labs are infamous for being among the most voracious "foodies" of dogdom, which can lead to them getting a little too "well-rounded" — even obese.
Due to the breed's propensity to easily pack on the pounds, you will need to closely monitor your Lab's diet to ensure he is not overeating, and also that he gets adequate exercise throughout his life to keep him lean, fit, healthy, and happy. To help you out, you'll find a Labrador food guide, also known as a Labrador feeding chart, and a dog food calculator essential tools for maintaining your dog's optimum weight.
Feeding to maintain optimum weight
Your goal in feeding appropriate amounts of food to your Lab is to achieve a healthy balance in satisfying her hunger while maintaining an optimum weight. Unfortunately, Labrador retrievers are drawn to food, like moths are to a light, you might say. Fondly known as "bottomless pits" by Lab aficionados, it seems they can't eat enough, and they're not particularly fussy about what it is they consume!
With Labs, you must maintain a constant vigil on their caloric intake and try not to let that sweet face and those pleading eyes break down your resistance when it comes to treats and table scraps. Of course, feeding a diet consisting of high-quality animal protein, complex carbohydrates, and the proper fat ratio is paramount. Seek advice from your veterinarian, breeder, or from tons of online resources such as the AKC and the websites of some of the most popular commercial brands of dog food for nutrient and feeding guidelines. Among the many feeding guidelines online is a Labrador dog diet chart PDF that you can print for reference.
Labrador retriever food choices
When developing a diet for your Lab, you have several things to consider, most importantly, what type of food will it consist of, how much of it will you feed your dog on a daily basis, and at what intervals (for example, morning and evening, or three times or more per day.) If you feed her a commercial kibble, should you select one that's breed-specific, or an all-breed one? Some dog foods are specific to the dog's stage of life, such as adult or senior. Most lines of commercial kibble offer a puppy version to meet an immature dog's unique requirements.
Or maybe you have the kitchen savvy, time, and inclination to whip up your own homemade dog food. And don't forget a third diet type, the controversial raw meat and bones diet, also known as BARF (Bones and Raw Food Diet), which has its proponents and detractors in the veterinary community and among dog breeders.
Such a vast array of dog foods precludes any quick and easy decision; only research will help make clear what's best for your dog, your lifestyle and the convenience factor, and, of course, your budget.
Adult Labrador food guide
All commercial dog foods feature feeding guidelines specific to their food on the package label. Consequently, there is no gold standard for how much to feed your dog — it will vary between foods since each contains a different caloric value. Even within the manufacturer's guidelines, you will need to make adjustments in how much you feed your dog depending on his age, activity level, and temperament, says Eukanuba in regard to their breed-specific dog food for Labrador retrievers, which has 23% protein.
For example, these are the manufacturer's general recommendations for daily rations of Eukanuba Labrador Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food:
- For a 50-pound Lab feed 2-1/2 to 3 cups daily.
- For a 60-pound Lab feed 3 to 3-1/2 cups daily.
- For a 70-pound Lab feed 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups daily.
- For an 80-pound Lab feed 3-1/2 to 4 cups daily.
- For a 100-pound Lab feed 4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups daily.
- For a 120-pound Lab (yes, some are that big!) feed 4-3/4 to 5-1/4 cups daily.
Another popular, high-quality Labrador-specific dog food is Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food, which has 28% protein, and breaks its handy Labrador food guide into not only pounds but also activity level:
- For a 57-pound Lab with low activity feed 3-3/4 cups, medium activity feed 4-3/8 cups, and high activity feed 5 cups.
- For a 66-pound Lab with low activity feed 4-1/4 cups, medium activity feed 4-7/8 cups, and high activity feed 5-1/2 cups.
- For a 75-pound Lab with low activity feed 4-5/8 cups, medium activity feed 5-3/8 cups, and high activity feed 6-1/8 cups.
- For an 84-pound Lab with low activity feed 5 cups, medium activity feed 5-3/4 cups, and high activity feed 6-5/8 cups.
- For a 97-pound Lab with low activity feed 5-5/8 cups, medium activity feed 6-1/2 cups, and high activity feed 7-3/8 cups.
To avoid any gastrointestinal issues and bloat, divide the daily portions into two or three meals.
Labrador raw food diet
"Chase, catch, kill, and eat" is the mantra of the Labrador raw food diet proponents who compare the modern-day dog to its wolf ancestors. Dogs are indeed predators, and as such, eating a diet they would consume in the wild makes perfect sense for people who feed a raw diet to their Labs.
If you are weighing the pros and cons or sitting on the fence about the benefits and risks of a raw diet, join the crowd and do your research. While the percentage of dog owners who do feed raw is growing, key elements of the diet, for example, feeding raw bones and the dangers such as choking are a huge consideration. On the other hand, benefits include the exercise of his jaw and positive impact on the teeth, less chance of bloat, and many others.
As a feeding guideline for a raw diet, Pippa Mattinson of The Labrador Site suggests to feed 2 to 3% of your dog's body weight a day for an adult Labrador.
Overweight Labrador diet
To prevent an issue with your dog being overweight, it may help to visualize a not-so-pleasingly plump, lazy, and uncomfortable dog who is not behaving like the active, fun-loving Lab she was born to be, and who seems much older than her years — that's the picture of an overweight dog. Dogs like Labs that are not only highly intelligent but also highly motivated by food are a cinch to train, and humans quickly learn that treats are also the trick to getting their Lab to behave, explains Mental Floss.
But surely, those treats add up, and can lead to the bad habit of begging. Keep in mind that if you give in to your Lab's seemingly constant hunger, overweight is a slippery slope into obesity, and that's dangerous. Canine obesity causes a multitude of health problems, from strain on the joints that compromise mobility to chronic diabetes, lung disorders, immune dysfunction, and heart disease that ultimately shortens the lifespan.
If your Lab has become overweight — sometimes the pounds creep up on your dog without you even realizing it — Donna Spector, DVM has a simple solution to whittle your dog's waist down to size: consume fewer calories (eat less) than she burns (exercise more). Therefore, to achieve weight loss you should reduce her treats to zero, decrease the amount of food she eats by about a third less says The Labrador Site, and get active with your dog by taking more walks and other light exercises appropriate for her overweight condition — consult a dog food calculator to determine the proper serving size.
As she slims down and becomes more agile and fit, she will regain her enthusiasm for fun and that irrepressible joy for life that is so captivating about Labs, eagerly looking forward once again to her favorite activities like swimming, playing fetch, and jumping for a Frisbee.
- The Labrador Site: Raw Feeding for Dogs
- Mental Floss: Science Explains Why Your Lab Is Always Hungry
- Eukanuba: Labrador Retriever Dog Food
- AKC: Labrador Retriever
- Dog Food Advisor: How to Help Your Overweight Dog Lose Weight
- Ddog Food Advisor:Dog Food Calculator
- The Labrador Site: How to Feed a Labrador
- Royal Canin: Labrador Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food
- Lovejoys Pet Food: Labrador Feeding Guide