Wouldn’t you love to feed your Labrador dog the best, high-quality food in the exact quantities it needs to thrive? Every dog owner wants this more than anything, yet they can never figure it out.
We don’t blame them! Thousands of dog foods exist, promising health and vitality. On top of that, every dog is different, so it’s hard to understand how much food to feed.
How in the world are you supposed to know how much food to feed your Labrador? Do you feed it twice a day? Once a day?
It sounds like you need a comprehensive feeding guide, and we’re here to deliver. Keep reading to learn more about feeding your Labrador dog. We’re covering both adults and puppies!
Labrador Puppy Feeding Guide
|Quantity of Food Per Day
|Number of Meals Per Day
Graph source: Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Puppy – Feeding Guide
What to Look for in Puppy Food
Let’s first answer the big question of every dog owner: What do you feed your puppy?
We could talk about what to feed your Labrador puppy all day. But to summarize, we’re focusing on these five elements:
All these are great components of any dog food. Later, we’ll discuss how to include these elements in adult dog food. But we’re focusing specifically on Labrador puppies right now. Let’s take a look at these five elements more in-depth.
How much protein a dog needs depends on the dog’s age, weight, and activity level. However, puppies need more protein than adult dogs because their bodies are still growing. The great thing about dogs is they benefit from protein sources of meat and plants.
Generally speaking, dogs need at least 18% crude protein on a dry matter basis for proper amino acid nourishment. But puppy food needs at least 22.5% crude protein for additional amino acids. Commercial dog foods meet this standard but sometimes add more protein to their recipes. Ideally, the higher the protein, the better the food for puppies.
It’s best to think about quality over quantity, especially with protein. High-quality protein sources will be easy for your dog to digest. This is much better than having several hard protein sources on your dog’s GI tract.
Good protein sources for dogs include:
Cheaper dog foods usually have high-carb ingredients instead of high-quality protein sources in the first five ingredients. Look for real meat at least in the first two ingredients (meat meal is okay) to ensure a higher-quality dog food.
Bonus Tip: Look for DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) in puppy food. DHA plays a significant role in brain development!
Fat is a source of fatty acids, the building blocks of fat. This is what the body uses to burn energy. Fat also protects your puppy’s organs, supports cell growth, controls cholesterol and blood pressure, and helps the body absorb nutrients.
Of course, you don’t want to give your puppy too much fat. Otherwise, your Labrador turns into a giant butterball. A good fat range to aim for is a diet that consists of 10%–25% fat.
Calcium is a mineral that helps build strong, healthy bones. Almost all calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, providing structure and strength. Calcium also helps muscles move and helps nerves carry messages throughout the body.
Most commercial puppy food will have the recommended amount of calcium and phosphorus, so you shouldn’t have to do much in this category.
Probiotics are good bacteria that help balance the microbiome in the gut. This helps keep everything else balanced, like the immune system and digestion.
There are five probiotic strains, all specific to canines:
Each strain helps balance intestinal bacteria and reduces intestinal ailments like diarrhea and infection. And yes, they are 100% safe for puppies.
Your puppy doesn’t need probiotics in its food but offering food with at least one or all of these probiotics is nice.
Feeding your dog a high-calorie diet equally high in fat and protein is ideal. Generally, a puppy needs about 990 calories per day. Active puppies need a few more calories to help them grow and stay active.
However, we also understand that some puppies are born with health issues that may require a different approach. For instance, a puppy prone to high triglycerides would need low-fat food.
Every dog is different, so it’s best to ask your veterinarian about hereditary conditions when your puppy goes for its wellness exam.
When to Switch Your Puppy to Adult Food
Your Labrador puppy is ready to switch to adult food when it reaches 12 months old. Continue to focus on the five elements we discussed above, but geared toward adult dogs instead.
You can keep feeding your dog a high-quality protein diet as long as your dog remains active. You shouldn’t have to exceed 30% in your dog’s formula, just as long as your dog gets at least 18% of high-quality protein. Keep in mind that high-protein dog food often has a high number of calories, so your dog risks obesity if you don’t exercise it properly.
Most commercial adult dog foods range between 10%–14% fat. You can stick with whatever food you feel is best for your dog unless otherwise instructed by your veterinarian.
As for probiotics, commercial dog foods list on the nutrition label which probiotics are present in the formula. Look out for the ones we mentioned above. But what about calories? How much food should you feed your Labrador when it becomes an adult?
Feeding Your Adult Labrador
How much to feed an adult labrador varies greatly. Even breed plays a part in how much you feed a dog. It doesn’t make sense to feed a Chihuahua and German Shepherd the same amount of food.
Instead, veterinarians use a Body Condition Score (BCS).
A BCS measures your dog’s body fat and how it’s dispersed throughout your dog’s body. Your veterinarian uses this score to compare your dog’s current weight to its ideal weight.
BCSs are measured one through nine. A score below five is underweight and/or malnourished. A score over six is overweight or obese.
An ideal weight is about a five or six and meets the following criteria:
How much your dog should eat depends on how much energy your dog burns and your dog’s current BCS. So, if your dog’s BCS is over six, your dog needs to exercise more and eat fewer calories.
How to Calculate Your Dog’s Caloric Intake
Knowing your dog’s BCS can determine how many calories your adult Labrador should eat. Thankfully, counting your dog’s calories isn’t tricky since dog food bags have done most of the work for you. All you have to do is:
3 cups of kibble x 350 calories = 1,050 calories per day
Additional Tips for Optimal Wellness
Feeding your Labrador can feel complicated and confusing, especially when your Labrador is a puppy. The puppy phase is already full of surprises. You have to keep up with a hungry dog all the time.
But you don’t have to fret like you used to. Now, you have a comprehensive guide to help you find high-quality food and feed your Labrador the proper amount of kibble through adulthood.
This means you can spend less time researching what to do and more time with your dog. So, get up and go play with your pup!
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock