Labradors grow from wiggly newborns to rambunctious adolescents in just a couple of 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.
Best Puppy Foods For Labs
Reviews of The Best Puppy Foods for Labs
#1. Instinct Raw Boost Large Breed Puppy
There are a lot of reasons to love Instinct Raw Boost diets. This high-quality line packs in a ton of great, biologically appropriate ingredients and includes nutrient-dense freeze-dried bites for extra flavor and nutrition.
And now, this great food is available in a large breed puppy specific formula.
Because of its high-quality ingredients and nutrition profile specific to growing large breed puppies, this food is easily one of the best puppy foods for Labradors. This brand also happens to be featured multiple times on our list of the best dry dog foods.
The first two ingredients in this food are chicken and chicken meal and the recipe also contains other nutritious animal ingredients like lamb meal and menhaden fish meal. The inclusion of healthy fats like this fish meal as well as ingredients like salmon oil and vitamin E make this the best food for black Lab puppies on our list since they often suffer from dry skin and dandruff.
Overall, this diet includes 33.5% protein and 18.5% fat, the perfect amount of these important macronutrients to keep your pup growing strong without gaining too much excess weight.
But this food also provides plenty of micronutrients that are important to Lab pup health as well. In addition to some added synthetic ingredients, this diet includes plenty of nutritionally-dense whole foods like pumpkin seeds, kelp, and blueberries.
While this food will cost you a touch more than others on this list, it is more than worth it to invest in the healthy future of your growing Labrador.
#2. Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy
Like our first choice of food, this Wellness Complete Health diet is specifically formulated for growing puppies who will be over 70 pounds when they reach full size.
Also like Instinct, this dry kibble diet contains plenty of quality animal ingredients to help your Lab pup grow up big and strong. We would easily rank this as one of the best foods for Labrador puppies.
The first two ingredients in this diet are deboned chicken and chicken meal. While the fresh chicken adds plenty of protein, its actually the second ingredient, chicken meal, that adds the most in terms of nutritional value.
Chicken meal is packed with protein, fat, and tons of necessary micronutrients growing dogs need.
This food also contains salmon meal and plenty of other easily digestible ingredients, an important feature if your pup tends to have a sensitive stomach. If that is the case, you may want to check out this article on the best dog foods for sensitive stomachs before choosing an adult kibble for your fast-growing pup.
This dry diet does have quite a bit less protein and fat than our number one choice at 29% and 13%, respectively, but it is still a great choice for Lab pups, especially those who are not as active or are prone to weight gain.
If you are looking for the best dry puppy food for labs, you can’t go wrong with this simple, high-quality, easily digestible formula.
#3. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dog Food Large Breed Puppy
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 Large Breed Puppy
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 Large Breed
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 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 be not the recommendation for labs that have a food allergy or sensitivity.
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 Labrador Retriever is over 50lbs when they are fully 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 PetMD, large breed puppy food is made with a specific balance of phosphorous, calcium and protein with relation to the larger serving size needed. PetMD 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.
If you need help finding a quality food for your puppy of another breed, you’ll want to read this article.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
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 exercises 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.
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.