Do Labrador Retrievers Have Special Nutritional Requirements?
Labradors have the distinction of being one of the most common breeds around, so there are actually a large number of foods made specifically for the breed.
In general, as high-energy dogs a diet high in proteins and fats is desirable. Those dogs who are actually being put to work will need to have a special emphasis on this.
In addition, due to a fairly large number of health problems which labrador retrievers often suffer from, the addition of certain supplements is common in food targeted towards them.
To choose the best dog food for labs or any active breed, or really any dog in general, the first thing to check for is the protein content of the food in question. Protein provides dogs with the bulk of their energy, and it’s especially important for growing puppies so they can develop muscle mass as they grow.
As with most dogs, 20%-30% is pretty much ideal. Perhaps a bit higher when your canine is still young.
Fat content is also important. Labrador retrievers were originally bred as working dogs, which means they have an enormous appetite, but when a dog is primarily confined to the house it’s wise to keep the fat content down since labs also tend towards obesity.
Something in the range of 10%-15% is good, although up to 20% is the way to go if your dog regularly works out.
As with all dogs, carbohydrates should be present but fairly low. Dogs metabolize them differently than we do and grains readily become fat on dogs.
So, an ideal food for an adult labrador retriever would have the following macronutrient distribution:
- 20-30% protein
- 10-15% fat
- Less than 30% carbohydrates
It’s not too hard to find foods that meet that range, but they’ll generally cost more than a bag of Purina dry chow from Walmart.
Older dogs will want a lower protein and fat content, without raising the carbohydrates if possible. Puppies will want a higher protein and fat content.
Since they’re large dogs, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t have too high of calcium content in a pup’s diet. 1%-1.5% is ideal for puppies.
This is actually to keep the bones from growing too quickly. This can cause a lot of issues with larger dogs and hurt them in the long run.
Fiber should remain at roughly 4% until the dog is a senior, at which point 5%-9% is better to ease their bowel movements.
You should also keep an eye out for added glucosamine and chondroitin which are vital for the issues a labrador’s joints may face in the future. In fact, a supplement may be the best way to go to ensure they get adequate amounts of these vital supplements.
Equally important, for labradors, are DHA and taurine. This is because the dogs are prone to cataracts and other eye issues, and these nutrients can help counteract them. Once again a supplement is a good idea.
With some breeds, it’s rather important to make sure that calories remain low.
Labradors which aren’t being used as working dogs, or getting at least two walks per day and maybe a swim or two during the week, need a low-calorie diet. This means that super nutrient dense foods aren’t a good option for adult and senior labs.