Top 5 Best Puppy Foods for Labs to Grow Up Healthy in 2019

Labradors grow from wiggly newborns to rambunctious adolescents in just a couple short years. During this time it is incredibly important that they receive adequate nutrition so they can grow into happy healthy adults.

If you’re not sure you’re feeding your lab the right food for their needs, you’ll want to read on to find out our pick for the best puppy food for labs.

Why Do Puppies Need Special Food

Just like growing human babies, puppies have specific nutrient and calorie requirements in order to grow properly. Because puppies grow so fast it is even more important that they receive the right food during this time.

Puppies require more protein than the average adult dog. According to petmd.com, they also require different amounts of key amino acids.

Additionally, growing pups need a lot more calories than adults. They especially benefit from higher fat foods.

AAFCO, the people responsible for overseeing and standardizing the pet food industry, have different requirements for things like fats and proteins that must be met by foods marketed for puppies.

By buying your new lab pup a food made especially for puppies, you can be sure they are getting at least the very minimum nutrition they require.

Special Considerations for Large Breed Puppies

Because labs are over 50lbs when they are full grown, they are considered large breed dogs. In addition to selecting a puppy specific food for your lab, you’re going to want to find one made for large breed puppies.

Large and giant breed puppies grow at a different rate than a small dog like a chihuahua. Little dogs reach their adult size way before their first birthdays while large breeds continue to grow well past theirs.

It is important that labs and other large breed pups get the nutrition that will foster this long and steady growth. Normal puppy foods can be too rich for labs and can cause their bones to grow too quickly.

According to Dr. Ashley Gallegher, large breed puppy food is made with a specific balance of phosphorous, calcium and protein with relation to the larger serving size needed. Dr. Susan Wynn recommends foods that contain at least 30% protein and 9% fat with a calcium content around 1.5%.

How to Choose a Quality Puppy Food for Your Lab

In addition to making sure the food you select for your puppy is specifically made for puppies and for large breeds, you’ll want to look for specific indicators that the food has quality ingredients.

The first item listed in the ingredients list should always be a recognizable animal protein like “chicken,” “turkey meal,” or “lamb.” The highest quality foods include multiple animal ingredients listed in the first five on the label.

Avoid foods with a lot of grain and corn as these are filler ingredients that don’t provide dogs with much nutrition.

Choosing foods that are labeled as natural or human grade will reduce the number of chemicals your pup is exposed to during this critical time in their mental development.

How Long to Feed Puppy Food

Puppy food is formulated to give your pup the nutrition and calories to grow from a tiny newborn to an adult-sized dog in a relatively short amount of time.

If a puppy does not receive adequate nutrition during this time, they will not grow at the appropriate rate and will suffer health effects such as malnourishment and stunted growth. On the other hand, an adolescent dog whose growth has slowed will gain weight too rapidly if left on high-calorie puppy food.

It is important that you switch your dog over to an adult food for labs once their growth has slowed and they are about the size of a full grown adult. Most labs will reach this point at around 12 or 14 months of age.

Akc.org recommends erring on the side of caution when it comes to making this switch. It is better to feed puppy food too long than to switch to adult food too soon.

If you notice your dog starting to grow wider rather than taller, it may be time to switch to a lower calorie food. On the other hand, if you have switched to an adult diet and your lab starts to lose weight or their energy levels fall, you may have made the switch from puppy food too early.

Reviews of The Best Puppy Foods for Labs

#1. ORIJEN Dry Dog Food, Puppy Large, Biologically Appropriate & Grain Free

Best Overall
Orijen Puppy Large Breed
Score: (5/5)

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High quality, animal protein dense formula with optimal fat and calcium levels for lab puppies.
Pros

Contains naturally sourced DHA

Optimal protein, fat and calcium levels

85% animal ingredients

Cons

High price tag

Orijen is known for it’s beyond high-quality diets that focus on providing dogs with nutrients in their natural, biologically appropriate forms. So it is no surprise that their large breed puppy formula would be first on our list of the best dog foods for lab puppies.

Unlike most dry dog foods on the market, Orijen does not use added vitamins or minerals to meet AAFCO standards. Instead, they rely on nutrient-dense whole food sources like organ meats, ground bone, and leafy greens.

If you are looking for the highest quality dry food on the market to feed your lab puppy, you’ve found it. The first fifteen ingredients in this food are animal sourced, making it easily the best dry puppy food for labs.

All these quality ingredients mean your lab is going to get everything they need to grow up strong and healthy. And because this food contains above average recommendations for protein and fat while still containing the correct amount of calcium, you can feel confident your lab will grow at the right rate for healthy joints.

Of course, with all this quality comes a price. This food will cost you substantially more than the others on our list.

But, if you consider the importance of quality nutrition in puppyhood and the short time commitment you have for feeding this food, it is well worth the investment.

Customers love this product not only for the quality but also for the fact that the ingredients are sourced and processed in the USA.

#2. Tuffy’S Pet Food Nutrisource Large Breed Chicken & Rice Puppy Food

Runner Up

Nutrisource Large Breed Puppy
Score: (5/5)

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Quality ingredients with optimal fat and calcium levels to help labs grow.
Pros

Quality ingredients, contains DHA

High animal protein content

Recommended amounts of calcium and fat

Cons

Contains multiple grains

Nutrisources’s large breed puppy formula is a great option for those whose budget makes buying Orijen impossible. This food is more affordable but still contains quality ingredients.

This food contains near the recommended amount of protein and calcium and higher than average fat, making it one of the best puppy foods for labradors.

The first two ingredients are chicken and the food also contains fish meal. These are all great sources of animal protein to help your lab puppy grow.

The added fish meal also ups the healthy fat content which is great for your pup’s skin. We consider this one of the best foods for black lab puppies because it will help cut-back on dandruff.

This food is moderately priced and great for any discerning owner looking to start their lab out on the right foot.

Customers enjoy this food for the quality ingredients and how easily their dogs accepted it.

This formula does contain rice, oatmeal, and barley and may not work well for those few labs out there with sensitive stomachs.

#3. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dog Food Large Breed Puppy

Quality Ingredients on a Budget

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed Puppy
Score: (4.5/5)

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Moderately priced, quality ingredients with optimal levels of fat and calcium for lab puppies
Pros

Quality ingredients

Optimal fat and calcium levels

No corn, contains DHA

Cons

Lower than recommended protein

This food has a third less protein than our first two choices, but it still contains higher than average fat and the optimal amount of calcium. This makes it one of the best foods for labrador puppies.

This food is available in both lamb and chicken flavors. Both recipes include animal sourced proteins as the first two ingredients.

This food also contains DHA for growing brains to help your lab meet their full potential whether they’ll be working as a service dog or playing fetch in the backyard.

This food is moderately priced and can be fed up to 18 months of age.

Customers rave about this food for how shiny it keeps their pups’ coats as well as how great it works to keep their puppies growing while maintaining a healthy weight.

#4. Nutro Max Natural Puppy Dry Dog Food Large Breed

Runner Up Quality Ingredients on a Budget

Nutro Max Large Breed Puppy
Score: (4.5/5)

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Moderately priced with optimal levels of fat and calcium for growing lab puppies.
Pros

Optimal fat and calcium levels

Contains DHA, no corn

Affordable

Cons

Lower animal protein percentage

Lower than recommended protein

Our fourth food on the list of the best food for labrador puppies is also a Nutro product. This one has almost the exact same amounts of protein, fat, and calcium as our number three pick, making it an excellent choice for your growing lab.

The only reason this recipe appears lower on our list is because it contains fewer animal ingredients. This means that a larger percentage of the protein in the food comes from plant sources.

Because your lab is descended from ancestors who evolved eating meat-heavy diets, their systems are able to process this kind of protein more effectively. Still, Nutro’s Max formula is a great choice for many lab puppies.

This food is also less expensive than our number three choice and sits at the lower end of the price spectrum.

Customers love this product because of their confidence in the Nutro brand as well as how much their dogs enjoy eating it. Most customers see good, healthy growth in their large breeds as well as shiny coats.

#5. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Dry Dog Food Large Breed

Most Affordable

Purina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed
Score: (4/5)

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Affordable food with the correct levels of fat and calcium for lab puppies.
Pros

Affordable

Optimal fat and calcium levels

Contains DHA

Cons

Contains corn

Lower quality ingredients

Purina’s large breed puppy formula contains similar amounts of protein, fat, and calcium as our previous two foods. This food appears lower on our list, however, due to the inclusion of filler grains like corn.

Chicken is the first ingredient in this food. And, like all others on this list, it contains DHA, an important amino acid for growing brains.

We consider this one of the best puppy foods for labrador retrievers because it offers all the necessities for a growing large breed puppy but at a fraction of the cost of our number one pick.

Customers love this food for the budget-friendly pricing as well as how happy their dogs seem to be on it. Many customers comment on the solid stools and consistent growth they see when their pups are on this food.

This recipe does contain corn and multiple other grains and would not be recommended for labs with sensitive stomachs or allergies.

What is the Best Puppy Food for Labs?

After researching a number of large breed puppy foods on the market, we have named Orijen’s Puppy Large Breed as the best puppy food for labs. This food has zero fillers, the highest protein content of any dry food, quality whole-food sourced ingredients, and all while exceeding the recommendations for large breed puppy food.

This brand of food will cost you and may not be an option for all families looking to feed their new lab puppy a quality food. Luckily, there are a number of great foods included on our list from all price ranges.

Make sure your lab pup gets everything they need to grow up strong and healthy by choosing one of these quality foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I feed my puppy?

Puppies need more food more often when they are growing the most, which is in the first six months. Most vets recommend feeding three or four meals a day during this time.

Once your lab’s growth has started to slow down after six months, you can switch them to a normal twice a day feeding schedule.

How do I know if my puppy is getting enough food?

Your puppy will grow rapidly during the first six months of life and then grow more slowly until they reach adult size around one year of age.

If you notice is a sudden decline in growth or can see your puppy’s ribs at any point during this first year, you should talk to your vet about adjusting their food intake or other possible health problems.

How do I switch my lab to adult food?

As with transitions between different brands, the transition from puppy to adult food should be gradual. Start by mixing 25% adult food with 75% puppy food. Increase the ratio over the course of a week or two until you are feeding all adult food.

If your puppy has a sensitive stomach, you may need to increase the ratio more slowly and in smaller amounts.

How do I choose an appropriate adult food for my adolescent lab?

Most teenage labs are very active and can burn a lot of calories in a day. Switching your former puppy to an adult maintenance or all life stages diet should be adequate for the first couple of years of young adulthood.

If your lab does not get a lot of exercise or is prone to weight gain, you may need to switch them straight to a weight management food. Because labs are genetically predisposed to weight gain, many owners do have to put their labs on a weight control diet as they age.

Summed Up: The Best Puppy Food for Labs

Orijen Puppy Large BreedNutrisource Large Breed PuppyNutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed PuppyNutro Max Large Breed PuppyPurina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed
Features for Lab PuppiesHigh protein, high fat, correct calcium amount, high in animal-sourced ingredients.High animal sourced protein, correct fat and calcium levels, quality ingredients.Optimal fat and calcium levels, quality ingredients.Optimal fat and calcium levels.Optimal fat and calcium levels.
Ingredient Quality5/55/54.5/54.5/54/5
Price$$$$$$$$$$

Sources

  1. Susan Wynn. “Feeding Large Breed Puppies.” ivcjournal.com, 1 March 2013.
  2. Erika Mansourian. “Puppy Feeding Fundamentals.” akc.com, 16 June 2016.
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