Best Dog Food for Labs – The Ultimate Labrador Food Buyer’s Guide

best dog food for labsIt could be tough to choose the best dog food for Labs when there are literally countless of choices on the shelves, all claiming to be the best dog food. To determine which ones are the best dog food for labs, we follow these guidelines that we have gathered from many sources. Following these guidelines, we have reviewed and selected the best 5 dog foods for Labrador puppies and Adult Labrador.

Best Dog Foods for Labs – Comparison Table

 Best Dog Food for LabsOur Ranks
1Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog FoodThe Winner
2Blue Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Adult Dry Dog FoodRunner Up
3Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Dry Dog FoodAlso Great
4Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog FoodBest for Labrador Puppy

Determining Your Dog’s Dietary Needs

Labrador Retriever is classified as a large dog breed. Large breed dogs are those whose adult weight will ultimately exceed 50 pounds. Other large dog breeds include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Bullmastiffs, Rottweilers, and more. For a complete list of large dog breeds, check out this large dog breeds list here.

Before shopping for dog food, you need to determine your dog’s dietary needs first. The dietary needs of large dog breeds are slightly different from small or medium dog breeds. Large dog breeds require special diets to avoid certain health risks: orthopedic disease, obesity, and bloat. We will talk more about these health risks later.

If your Labs is still a puppy, you should read the following section. If you have an adult Labs you can skip the following section and jump right to the “Choosing The Best Dog Food for Adult Labs”.

Choosing The Best Dog Food for Labrador Puppies

Feeding your Labrador puppies with the right dog food can help them lower the risk of getting many health problems when they grow into adult dogs. It is important to follow the guidelines that we outline here before start shopping as we tell you everything you need to know to help you choose the best food for your Labrador puppies.

The Wrong Diet can Lead to Orthopedic Diseases

Labrador puppies require different diet requirements from smaller breeds. Why?

Because Labrador puppies can grow quickly and keep growing longer than smaller breeds. A Labrador born weighing one pound can grow to 70 pounds within in the first 12 months of their life. What’s more, they keep growing and can still be considered puppies until 12 to 24 months.

This rapid growth makes them very sensitive to nutrient and calorie intake – nutritional imbalances, deficiencies, and excesses. Also, excessive rapid growth can put them at a risk of many orthopedic diseases (Developmental Orthopedic Disease (DOD)), which include a range of joint and bones disorders such as panosteitis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, and osteochondrosis.

How to Lower Your Dog’s Risk of Orthopedic Diseases

According to studies, orthopedic diseases in large dog breeds is caused by one of these three factors: genetic, overnutrition and overfeeding. While there is nothing you can do to change your puppy’s genetics, but you can control overfeeding and overnutrition.

According to studies that it’s important for Labrador puppies to grow slowly to prevent orthopedic diseases later in life. To control your puppy’s growth rate, you just need to avoid overfeeding and overnutrition.


Not all dog foods are created equal. To avoid overnutrition, which causes excessive growth rate, it’s important to feed your Labrador puppy a good large breed puppy food. The best dog food specially formulated for large breed puppies should be lower in fat, calcium, and phosphorus.

According to the AAFCO, a dog food for large breed puppies must contain about 30% protein and 9% fat. It’s also important to pay special attention to the calcium and phosphorus level in your dog food.

Feeding your dog too much or too little calcium can present a problem on its own. Feeding too much calcium can increase the risk of orthopedic diseases while feeding too little can make your puppy suffers from the medical condition known as hypocalcemia.

AAFCO has determined an amount of calcium that is safe for large breed puppies must be around 1.2 to 1.8% calcium or about 3 grams per 1000 calories and 1 to 1.6% phosphorus. With the calcium: phosphorus ratio should be between 1:1 to 1.8:1. The overall recommended energy density of food should be around 3.5 to 4.0 calories per gram.

Don’t Add More Supplements

No matter how tempted it might be, you must never add more supplements to your puppy’s feeding schedule. Oversupplementation can actually do your puppy more harm than good. It can upset what already a good, balanced puppy food. Studies have linked a high level of calcium and phosphorus to the occurrence of DOD.

It’s actually a lot beneficial for your Labrador puppy to limit the intake of calcium, phosphorus, and calories. Limiting the intake of calcium, and phosphorus reduces the risk of DOD while limiting calories helps to slow the growth rates.

All your puppy needs just a good quality, balanced puppy food, don’t make things worse by adding unnecessary supplements that could screw their development.


How much you feed your Labrador puppy also matters. Overfeeding makes your Labrador puppy gains weight quickly which ultimately lead to obesity. That extra weight puts stress on your puppy’s skeleton, add to that the fact that large breed dogs have fewer bones density compared with other breeds which mean your puppy has a significant increase in the risk of getting an injury and developing DOD.

Most dog owners adopt one of these two popular feeding methods when they feed their dogs: free feeding and restricted calorie diet. Free feeding is the most popular feeding method. You just fill your puppy’s bowl and let your puppy eats it whenever they want.

However, this method only works with dry foods, since dry dog foods won’t spoil as quickly as wet dog foods. Free feeding is the most popular feeding method among dog owners especially for people with a busy schedule.

Despite the convenience, this method is highly discouraged for feeding large breed puppies. Free feeding large breed puppies will make them grow too fast and lead to serious health problems. Instead of free feeding, you should feed your Labrador puppies with the second method, restricted calorie diet.

Restricted calorie diet is a feeding method where you feed your puppy several smaller meals throughout the day. In this way, you will ensure your puppy won’t grow too fast.

Don’t forget to continuously monitor your puppy’s weight. If your puppy gains too much weight, cut back their portions and give them more exercises.

To Recap

To recap this section, the best dog food for Labrador puppies has low fat, calcium, and phosphorus. Aside from feeding high quality and balanced dog food, you should also feed your puppy several smaller meals throughout the day to make sure they won’t grow too fast and gain too much weight.

Choosing The Best Dog Food for Adult Labrador

Once your Labrador puppy has reached into adulthood, it’s time to find another dog food. Adult Labrador has different nutritional needs compared with Labrador puppies.

Now we talk what happens if you don’t feed your Labs with complete balanced dog foods that meet their nutritional requirements.

What Happens if Your Labs Don’t Get The Right Dog Food?

Choosing the best dog food that can meet their nutritional requirements is important. If you don’t feed them enough nutrition, your Labrador could run a risk of being affected by these three health conditions: orthopedic diseases, obesity, and bloat.

Orthopedic Diseases in Labrador Retriever

Orthopedic diseases are commonly found in large and giant breed dogs such as Labrador Retriever. Genetics, exercise, nutrition and feeding methods play important roles in developing orthopedic diseases.

As we have talked in the previously, there is not much you can do about your dog’s genetic, but you can be sure to choose your Labs from a responsible breeder. For the other three factors, you do have full control over them.

Among the three factors that you have full control, nutrition probably is the most important here. Feeding your Labs with a complete balanced large breed dog food can actually lower the dog’s risk of developing musculoskeletal and orthopedic disorders.


Do you know that an estimated 54% of dogs in the United States are obese or overweight? Obesity is something that you should take seriously if you have large breed dogs such as Labrador. Obesity has been linked to many serious health conditions, including orthopedic diseases, kidney diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.


Bloat is a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition that affects large breed dogs. Bloat happens when gasses accumulate in stomach rapidly, have no way to escape and as a result making it expand. The stomach then puts pressure on other organs and cause dangerous problems.

According to WebMD, these are some possible causes of bloat:

  • Eating from a raised food bowl
  • Having one large meal a day
  • Eating quickly
  • A lot of running or playing after he eats
  • Other dogs he’s related to have had bloat
  • Eating or drinking too much
  • Stress

By giving your dog the right large dog breed formula together with the right feeding method, you can reduce your dog’s risk of developing those three health conditions.

What You Need to Look For?

These tips below will help you to find the best dog food for your Labs:

1. Choose large breed formula dog food

Tip no 1 might seem simple enough but you have no idea how many dog owners keep making this silly mistake of feeding their dogs with wrong dog food.

2. Talk to your Veterinarian

Different Lab has different conditions. Some dogs have a particular health problem that requires certain diet plan, other dogs might need a little less or a little more than what your dog food packaging suggests to make sure your dog’s weight is on-track. Ask your vet for a dietary recommendation based on your dog’s condition.

3. Look for AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Official) Statement

Many good brands don’t list AAFCO statement on their packages, but whenever possible we always look for AAFCO statement first when we review certain dog foods. It’s the easiest way to make sure the dog food meets the basic nutritional requirements for your dog.

4. Decide between canned and dry dog food

The decision between canned and dry dog food largely depends on your dog’s condition. It’s better to ask your vet to make sure.

5. Looks for lots of animal protein at the top of the ingredient list

You want to see a lot of top quality animal protein at the top of the ingredient list. You want to see something such as beef, chicken or lamb meal.

6. Read the ingredients list

Ingredients are listed by weight. Ingredients that have large amounts of moisture (such as beef, poultry, chicken, or fish) usually listed at the top of the list. Ideally, if fresh meat is first on the list, you want to see another source of animal protein listed in the top three ingredients.

7. Check The Proximate Analysis 

Proximate analysis can be found on the side of the most pet food bags. Proximate analysis acts as a basic guideline to tell the suggested amount to feed your dog, based on your dog’s healthy weight.

8. Your dog also needs good sources of fat

Look for good sources of fat such as chicken fat and fish oil which provide needed nutrients essential for your dog’s health. Avoid generic fat source such as animal fat.

9. Consider glutens and grains

The controversies surrounding glutens and grains are often exaggerated. Unless your dog is sensitive to gluten or grain, they are safe for your dog, and there is no need to spend the extra money on a gluten or grain free dog food.

10. Don’t believe the gimmick about by-products

Many advertising gimmicks would make you believe that by-products are unfit for consumptions. It is often advertised, by-products include things like hair, horns, or hooves. The truth is, many reputable dog food companies include highly digestible and nutritious by-products, such as the liver and lungs. The key is to choose a brand you can trust.

11. Pick the freshest package of dog food

Make sure you check the sell by (or best before) date on the dog food container. Look for a best-by-date that’s at least 10 or 11 months away.

12. Avoid Added Sweeteners

Some unresponsible dog food companies add sweeteners to increase your dog’s appetite so they will eat dog foods comprised mainly of grain which offer little to no healthy animal protein.

13. Check for nutritional adequacy statement

Check the food label for nutritional adequacy statement. To choose dog’s food for adult Lab, you want to check the statement that read something like “This food is complete and balanced for adult maintenance”.

14. Store the dog food

If you buy dry dog food, you can store the food in the original bag in an airtight container in cool and dry place, such as the freezer. As for canned food, you can store the leftover in the refrigerator.

The Best Dog Food for Labs

1. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food is our top pick. This is high-quality large breed formula dog food, which is made by Wellness in the USA. Just by looking at the first three ingredients, which consist of deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal, you will understand why we fall in love with this dog food at the first sight.

This dog food is made with natural premium ingredients, added with many essential ingredients such as antioxidant, omega fatty acids, probiotics and more, and enhanced with glucosamine and chondroitin, which is essential ingredients for large breed dog. Glucosamine and chondroitin are essential ingredients that can help to decrease joint and bones problems.

Other things that we like, this dog food is made entirely with natural ingredients without using artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.


2. Blue Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Adult Dry Dog Food

Blue Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Adult Dry Dog Food is another excellent dog food for your Labrador. Many Lab’s owners have told us many good things about this product. The dog food is made with real meat consisting deboned salmon, chicken meal, and fish meal. The dog food is also free from by-product meals, corn, wheat, or soy.


3. Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Dry Dog Food is made specifically for large breed dogs who weight more than 55 pounds. The dog food is made by Hill’s Science diet in the USA using premium natural ingredients. If your dog is weighing more than 55 pounds, you should seriously consider buying this dog food to help your dog gets their ideal weight back.

The Best Dog Food for Labrador Puppy

4. Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food is our recommended dog food for Labrador puppy. The dog food is made with high-quality ingredients including real chicken as #1 ingredient and enhanced with other ingredients such as DHA, phosphorus, calcium and other minerals, which is essential ingredients to building strong bones and lowering your dog’s chance of getting bones and joint disorder when they grow up.

What makes Purina Pro Plan so impressive is because this dog food is regularly chosen by competitors and champions nationwide. With 85 years experience under its belt, you can’t go wrong feeding your Labrador puppy with Purina Pro Plan.