A Review of the Best Labrador Puppy’s Foods on the Market

Are your Labrador pups on the right diet? Compared to smaller breeds such as Pomeranian or Chihuahua, Lab puppies have different nutritional needs due to their size. Their size also predisposes them to nutritional imbalances such as hip and elbow dysplasia along with other musculoskeletal malformations.

With the increasing number of commercial foods in the market, even an old doggy parent can get knocked off. If you are planning on being a Labrador owner, this post provides you with a review of the top 10 pet foods that are suitable for your pup.

Best foods for your Lab pup at a glance

  • Wellness Complete Health Large breed puppy food
  • Wellness core dog food
  • Diamond Naturals large breed puppy formula
  • Blue buffalo life protection large breed puppy food
  • Purina Pro plan focus Large breed puppy food
  • Hill’s Science diet puppy food
  • Carnivora large breed puppy food
  • Solid Gold Love at first bark wet puppy food
  • Whole Earth Farms puppy Recipe Wet Dog Food
  • Nutro Puppy Wet Dog Food

Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food

Key ingredients: chicken meal, deboned chicken, ground brown rice, oatmeal, peas, and salmon meal

Nutritional value and nutrients

  • Calorie content:         366 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein            29%
  • Crude fat                     13%
  • Crude fiber                 5%
  • Calcium                       1.3%
  • Phosphorous              0.9%

As the name suggests, Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food product from Wellness Complete is specially formulated for the breed with a high growth rate. The ‘chicken meal’ in this bran’s formulation provides your furry friend with the necessary proteins for healthy growth. Also, the kibbles are made of deboned meat and are larger thus reducing the chances of accidental swallowing.

The grains in this food’s formulation are also rather impressive choices. Barley, brown rice, and oatmeal are as healthy for your pup. For instance, the brown-rice is a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour. Oats provide your pup with the necessary dietary

The formulation also includes peas which are a rich source of natural fiber. The presence of flaxseed albeit in small amounts ensures that your Lab puppy is adequately supplied with Omega-3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.

Why we like it

  • Addition of DHA in its formulation makes it perfect for your pup’s brain development
  • Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Food is specially formulated for the formative years of your pup
  • Its formulation contains probiotics and prebiotics which support a healthy digestive system
  • It also has Vitamin A and E which promote a healthy immune system

Wellness Core Dog Food

Key ingredients: chicken meal, deboned chicken, dried ground potatoes, peas, and turkey meal

Nutritional value and nutrients

  • Calorie content:          417 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein             34%
  • Crude fat                     14%
  • Fiber                            4%
  • Calcium                       1.6%
  • Phosphorous              1.3%

Your Labrador pup needs special nutrition to ensure all their nutritional needs are met. The protein levels in the Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Dry Food formulation for large pups is higher compared to other brands making it perfect for your furry friend. The high protein and fat content along with the low carbohydrate content makes the nutritional profile of this food perfect for most dogs.

Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Dry Food contains Salmon oil in which is a natural source of DHA. Apart from supporting brain development, DHA helps improve your pup’s vision. Salmon oil is also a good source of Omega 3 and 6. The spinach and broccoli in this formulation are an excellent source of iron and magnesium.

It contains zero artificial colors, corn, flavors, meat by-products, wheat, and artificial preservatives.

Why we like it

  • It is coated with probiotics which are critical for your furry friend’s digestive health
  • The calcium and phosphorous ratio is perfect even if you do not feed him with supplements
  • The grain-free formula is ideal for pups with sensitive digestive systems

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula

Key ingredients: chicken fat, cracked peaked barley, ground rice, lamb meal, and millet

  • Calorie content:         337 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein             23%
  • Crude fat                     14%
  • Fiber                            4%
  • Calcium                       1.2%
  • Phosphorous              1%

This food brand makes it into this list largely due to its key ingredient which as lamb meal. While most people would argue that whole lamb would have been better, lamb meal has a higher concentration of protein. This can be attributed to the rendering process which reduces the moisture content in natural lamb. Animal-based proteins are the perfect source of amino acids required by large pups.

The whole grain brown rice, ground white rice, cracked peaked barley, and millet are the main sources of carbs. They take time to digest thus keeping your pup feeling fuller for longer. The brown rice is a rich source of fiber and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous.

Additional products include egg products, dried beet pulp, flaxseed, and fish meal among others. However, these ingredients are of no consequence to the food’s overall rating or quality.

Why we love it

  • The food is infused with vitamins and antioxidants from natural fruits and vegetables which include coconut, garbanzo beans, papaya, and peas
  • It has no artificial flavors, colors, corn, filler, wheat, or preservatives
  • The kibble is laced with probiotics for easy digestion

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Puppy Food

Key ingredients: barley, brown rice, chicken meal, and deboned chicken

  • Calorie content:          386 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein              26%
  • Crude fat                      15%
  • Fiber                            5%
  • Calcium                       1.2%
  • Phosphorous               1%

The Blue Buffalo Company is a US-based company that provides holistic pet foods. The gluten and grain-free formula make the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Puppy Food perfect if your furry friend is prone to allergic reactions. 

As with other highly-ranked large puppy foods, the main ingredient in the Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Puppy Food is meat-based. The deboned chicken provides your furry friend with sufficient protein to support muscle development. Brown rice provides your Labrador pup with vital minerals and B vitamins. It is also the main source of carbs, energy, and fiber.

As your pup’s immunity system is not fully developed, the large pup food formulation from Blue Buffalo is infused with antioxidants, chelated minerals, and vitamins to boost it. The formula contains optimal levels of Omega-3, and DHA for healthy brain development, visual health, and the health of your pup’s skin and coat.

Why we love it

  • It contains no artificial colors, corn, flavors, wheat, or soy
  • The wholesome formulation which contains fruit, garden veggies, and whole grains are a rich source of fiber
  • It contains L-Carnitine which is a high-quality protein necessary for lean muscle growth

Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed Puppy Food

Key ingredients: Chicken, brewer’s rice, corn gluten meal, and whole-grain corn

  • Calorie content:         417 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein             28%
  • Crude fat                    13%
  • Fiber                            6%
  • Calcium                       1.1%
  • Phosphorous              0.8%
  • Linoleic acid              1.6%

Large puppy breeds have a distinct nutritional needs which the Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed Puppy Food promises to meet. This crunchy kibble’s main ingredient is chicken which provides your furry friend with sufficient protein and energy for muscle development.

Every ingredient in this formulation has a functional or nutritional purpose. For instance, it contains chondroitin and glucosamine which support the development of your pup’s joints and cartilage. It is also infused with prebiotics which eases your furry friend’s digestion especially as the food contains corn. The formula contains antioxidants that are critical for your pup’s immune system.

The formula contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

Why we love it

  • The real chicken in the formulation is a rich source of protein and amino acid
  • It contains Omega-6 fatty acids which help with skin allergies
  • The formula is gentle on your young pup’s digestive tract
  • The Pro Plan line from Purina is backed by behaviorists, nutritionists, and veterinarians
  • It contains natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin which are vital for the health of your pup’s joints

Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Food

Key ingredients: Chicken meal, whole grain corn, oats, sorghum, and wheat

  • Calorie content:         394 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein             24%
  • Crude fat                     11%
  • Fiber                            3%
  • Calcium                      0.8%

Give your Labrador pup a good start of their life by providing him with this formula. The key ingredient in the large breed puppy food from Hill’s Science Diet is a chicken meal which is the main source of protein. Your Labrador pup is assured of lean build due to the high-quality protein. The whole grains infused in the formula are an ideal source of carbs and dietary fiber.

The formula contains controlled calcium levels. This promotes the health of your pup’s bones while not compromising his health. Another critical ingredient in the formula is fish oil which is a rich source of DHA for healthy cognitive and visual development. It is laced with prebiotics which makes it easy to digest the whole grains.

Why we like it

  • It is offered in different packages weighing from 15.5 to 33 pounds
  • The packages have clear feeding instructions based on your pup’s weight
  • It is specially formulated for pups that will weigh 55 pounds or more when they are adults
  • It contains antioxidants, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E for a healthy immune system
  • The natural ingredients make this formula perfect for sensitive pups

Carnivora Large Breed Puppy Food

Key ingredients: Chicken, dried chicken, chicken meal, deboned turkey, and tapioca starch

  • Calorie content:            422 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein               40%
  • Crude fat                      17%
  • Fiber                            5%
  • Calcium                       1.2%
  • Phosphorous                1%

In addition to the chicken, Carnivora Large Breed Puppy Food from Blue Buffalo contains dried chicken, chicken meal, and turkey. This implies that this is a protein-rich formula for your large pup’s bone and muscle development. The dried chicken is also a reliable source of amino acids. The tapioca starch is gluten-free as it is derived from cassava roots.

While they are not among the key ingredients, the formula contains chicken liver and heart. Both are a reliable source of high-quality protein, fat, and it provides you pup with essential minerals and vitamins.

The formula has zero anonymous meat ingredients, artificial colors or preservatives

Why we like it

  • As the name suggests, the protein-packed formula mimics what your furry friend would eat in his natural habitat
  • 85% of the protein in the formula is sourced from animals
  • It is infused with Omega-3 and 6 which promotes your pup’s coat and skin health
  • The formula is grain-free and contains no peas or potatoes
  • The additional organs provide your pup with additional minerals and vitamins thus ensuring you provide him with a well-balanced diet

Solid Gold Love At First Bark Wet Puppy Food

Key ingredients: Water, chicken, chicken meal, dried egg whites, dried ground peas, and potatoes

  • Calorie content:            334 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein               9%
  • Crude fat                      3.5.0%
  • Fiber                            1%
  • Moisture                       82%

While this formula has a rather high carb to protein ration compared to other large puppy foods on this post, it makes it to this list as it is grain-free.

The chicken and chicken meal provide your friend with the proteins necessary for a lean and strong build. The dried ground peas provide your Labrador pup with carbs, proteins, and fiber. Peas are also rich in Vitamin A, B6, and C not to mention phosphorus and magnesium.

The formula contains Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and the natural proteins necessary for ideal cognitive development. The fiber-rich prebiotics and probiotics in this formula are viable and will stay alive until consumed by your pup. 

You will have to watch your pup’s weight when feeding him with this formula as the high carb content could cause your Labrador to gain weight quite fast.

Why we like it

  • Its ingredients are highly digestible
  • It has no carrageenan, corn, gluten, wheat, or soy
  • The formula is devoid of artificial colors and flavors

Whole Earth Farms Puppy Recipe Wet Dog Food

Key ingredients: Chicken, chicken broth, turkey, chicken liver, and peas

  • Calorie content:            436 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein               9%
  • Crude fat                      6.5%
  • Fiber                            1.4%
  • Moisture                       78%

As with most large breed puppy foods, the main ingredient in this formula is chicken. The protein source is necessary for the pup’s growth and development. The chicken broth adds moisture and flavor to the food. The third ingredient is turkey which is a highly digestible source of protein for your pup. Providing your pooch with foods containing turkey is advisable especially if he is prone to food allergies and sensitivities.

Chicken liver is the fourth ingredient in Earth Farm’s grain-free puppy food. The nutrient-rich organ provides your pup with fat, proteins, and Vitamin A. Apart from being a reliable source of iron, phosphorus, zinc, and copper, it provides your Labrador pup with Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. The last critical ingredient is peas which provide your pup with essential natural fiber.

Why we like it

  • The formula is free of corn, soy, and wheat
  • It is infused with blueberries, rosemary, sage and thyme all of which are natural and nutritious

Nutro Puppy Wet Dog Food

Key ingredients: Lamb, chicken broth, beef liver, chicken, salmon, and potato

  • Calorie content:            358 kcal per cup
  • Crude protein               9.5%
  • Crude fat                      3%
  • Fiber                            1%
  • Moisture                       82%

What makes the Nutro Puppy Wet Dog Food for large pups stand out is that it has three high-quality protein sources in its first four ingredients. The pasture-fed lamb, chicken, and salmon are sure to meet all the development needs of your furry friend. Besides, these ingredients are reliable sources of fat that will suit your Labrador’s high-energy needs.

The formula contains whole grains such as dried peas that are not only fiber-rich but also help when it comes to nutrient absorption. It is also packed with antioxidants to support your pup’s immune system. The natural oil promotes a healthy and glowing coat.

Why we like it

  • It is grain-free and has zero GMO ingredients
  • Your pup will love the chicken broth

Nutritional Requirements for a Large Breed Puppy

According to a recent journal, large puppy breeds go through a 70-fold increase in their size during the first year of growth. For them to develop into healthy and happy adult dogs, the rapid growth in such pups has to be met with sufficient nutritional needs for a healthy transition. There are a few critical nutritional factors you need to consider when coming up with an appropriate recipe for your Lab. They include:-

Calcium, Phosphorous, and Vitamin D

Pups have no ability to regulate the absorption of nutrients such as calcium from the foods they ingest. For this reason, high levels of calcium predispose your pup to skeletal malformations such as abnormal joint growth, wobbler syndrome, osteochondrosis, radius curvus syndrome, and pansteatitis. Until your pup gets to 6 months, its small intestines tract only absorbs 70% of the calcium in his diet.

Also, foods high in phosphorus could lead to reduced calcium absorption leading to the soft bones. On the other hand, a low amount of phosphorous could result in poor weight gain.

Experts recommend that you provide your Lab pooch a diet that contains calcium and phosphorus in the ratio of 1.1:1. This ensures the pup’s hormones stay balanced.

Vitamin D plays a critical role in the metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. After ingestion, the Vitamin D from your pup’s diet goes to the liver where it is converted into 25-hydroxyvitamin and is stored. When the pup has low calcium or phosphorus levels, vitamin D is converted into calcitriol, which is its active form. This increases the absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the pooch’s gastrointestinal tract.

Energy Intake

A major downside of the rapid growth in large pups is the development of mechanical stress to the cartilage in the pup’s joints. The only way you can counter this is through meal restricted feeding. This means that you should calculate your puppy’s daily energy requirement (DER) and divide it into two to four meals daily. The DER is calculated by multiplying the pup’s resting energy requirement (RER) with its weight. The formula for calculating the RER is (RER= Bodyweight in Kgs x 70)

The energy requirements for an average large breed puppy can be tabulated as follows:

Puppy’s development period Daily Energy Requirement
Weaning to 50% of an adult dog’s body weight 3 x total RER
50% to 75% of adult dog’s body weight 2.5 x total RER
75% to 100% of an adult dog’s body weight 1.8-2 x total RER

Remember to factor in a 10% allowance for treats.

Overnutrition could lead to calorie overload which results in excessive body weight. This is especially true for large breed pups as they tend to have a lower bone density compared to smaller breeds. This is one of the major reasons why you should provide your Labrador pup with diets that are specific to large breeds.

The Dos and Don’ts When Feeding a Large Breed Pup

While there is not a single recommended method of feeding your pup as they have different preferences, there are certain dos and don’ts you should be aware of.

DO: Know that your pup is truly a large breed

As you would expect, a small pooch will have a smaller appetite compared to one which will grow to thrice or even four times its size. Large breeds are those that are likely to be about 70 pounds or more as adults. Establishing that your pup is a large breed earlier enables you to budget and plan for their dietary needs appropriately.

DO: Observe your pup’s growth rate

While they may all be Labradors, different pups will have different growth rates depending on their age, appetite, exercise habits, and distinct genetic factors. At only a few weeks old, it is normal for your pup to have a little fat, but by 10 weeks old, he will begin to thin out.

You can monitor your puppy’s growth by using a body condition score (BCS). This is a tool that helps you determine how close your pooch’s weight is to the recommended or ideal weight. The objective is to keep your pup’s weight as close to the BCS as possible.

DO: Provide him with a nutrient-balanced diet

Avoid giving your pooch too much kibble and other highly processed foods. While most pet owners prefer cooking for their pups, you could end up messing up with the delicate nutrient balance your Lab puppy requires. Besides, home cooking is often laborious and expensive. The only foolproof way of ensuring that your pup’s diet is nutritionally balanced is by providing them with a large-breed pup specific diet. \

DO: Look out for supplements

Adding supplements to your Labrador pup’s diet may appear harmless. After all, supplements are supposed to counter such issues as your dog’s digestion, joint issues, mood, and the skin or coat. Although some simply go through your pup’s digestive system without causing any problems, others such as calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D may result in health problems as discussed above. Your vet should walk through the supplements that are ideal for your pup’s age.

DON’T: Forget to feed him in stages

Large breed pups that are between one to around six months experience near-constant growth. This implies that they are almost constantly hungry will probably be unable to self-regulate their food intake. This makes it easy for them to become overweight.

Once your Lab pup is weaned (this normally at around 6 weeks) until they get to six months, spread out their feeding schedules to 3 or 4 times a day. This gives their tiny bodies sufficient time to digest and process what they have ingested before their next planned meal. After this age, you can feed them twice a day.

Feeding Your Labrador Puppy

As mentioned, what and how to feed your pooch largely depends on factors such as his activity levels and age. For instance, if your Labrador pup is quite active, protein-rich diets would be perfect. When choosing your pup’s food you will come across different types.

Dry foods

As the name suggests, these are dried foods and are usually packed in bags. They are perhaps the most popular type of dog food due to the ease in apportioning which means that they could last you longer. Dry foods may be in the form of biscuits, flaked cereals, and kibble.

Wet foods

This is commercially manufactured food with high moisture content. In most cases, such foods consist of chunks of meat and gravy. Vital nutrients and vitamins are added to the food to make it nutritionally balanced.

Raw diets or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF)

Raw foods include raw meat, frozen bones, vegetables, and fruits. Compared to other diets, administering a BARF diet on your Labrador pup reduces the risk of obesity and maintains the shine on his skin and coat. However, you will have to consult your vet so that he can advise you on what food combinations will result in a nutritionally balanced diet for your pup.

Experts have varying opinions on what is the best food for Labrador pups. One school of thought believes that kibble is the best while the other prefers a natural diet. One of the age-old debates when it comes to puppy food is the choice between wet and dry foods

Dry vs wet food: Which one should I choose?

The difference between these two is clear: dry food has significantly lower moisture content compared to wet or canned food. Dry pup foods have a moisture content ranging from 3-12%. On the other hand, canned foods have between 60 to 85%.

Dry food for your Labrador pup

Most pet owners prefer dry food or kibble due to its significantly lower price tag. They are also convenient to handle as you can easily measure out your pup’s portions. Due to their high energy content, you only need to feed your pup only a small portion of kibble to meet their energy and nutritional needs. Also, dry foods rarely go bad as long as they are used before their expiry date is due. This means that you can buy in bulk which is good for your pocket.

While they are cheaper and more convenient to handle, dry foods tend to have more artificial flavors and preservatives. The hard texture that’s typical of most kibble could be quite challenging, particularly at the weaning stage.

What about wet foods?

Given a chance, your Labrador pup would prefer wet foods as they tend to have more intense smell and taste. Wet foods also bear a closer resemblance to meat compared to dry foods. They can be particularly helpful if your furry friend does not like drinking water or if he is prone to dehydration.

If left open, wet foods spoil rather quickly. Therefore, it is important that you cover and refrigerate the leftovers immediately. Also, preparing and apportioning wet foods could become messy quite quickly.

Which one should you choose?

In truth, both have benefits and risks. The right type of food for your Labrador pup is not decisive; the content is. Check that the ingredients have all the necessary proteins, nutrients, minerals, and vitamins for your pup’s growth and development. You can also give your furry friend a bit of both. However, be careful about mixing brands. Always consult your vet if you are uncertain about the type of food to feed your pup and which types of food you should avoid.  

Feeding schedule for your Labrador pup

From zero to about six to eight weeks, of your Lab pup’s life, it is advisable that he nurses from the mom. Weaning can begin at around six weeks where you introduce puppy chow. As mentioned, divide the food portions into three or four sessions, allowing a gap of at least three hours between meals.

The amounts will depend on your furry friend’s size and metabolism rate. However, most store-bought puppy foods will come with a well laid out feeding guide.

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