The Definitive Guide To Puppy Food For Labs
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The lovable Labrador Retriever has been the #1 dog of choice in America since 1991. They’re easy to train, full of energy, good natured, and love being around people. Labs are a versatile breed and also make for excellent therapy dogs, military dogs and hunting companions.
They also love to eat and will try to chow down on anything resembling food…
I’m coming for your shoes!
You should also try not to leave table scraps and unattended food.
The food might be gone before you know it.
Lab puppies stomachs are essentially an endless pit, making it all too easy to gain excess weight.
Fat puppies, which while are freaking adorable, are at risk for obesity when they reach middle age.
Obesity is so common in Labs that they’ve been nicknamed ‘flabradors’ by veterinarians, not even joking.
So make sure your pup gets a lot of exercise and eats no more than they need to. We know how cute they are and how hard it is to say no to them, but try to limit the treats too.
Common Issues For Lab Puppies
Labradors grow rapidly between the age of 4-7 months. Within 12 months of birth, they can grow from under one pound to over 70 pounds, making them susceptible and predisposed to common joint disorders like Elbow Dysplasia and Hip Dysplasia.
Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can eventually cause painful arthritis of the joints and inability to move the body or walk.
In Elbow Dysplasia, there are growth disturbances in the elbow joint causing inflammation and arthritis. Both are painful for pet parents to witness and pups to experience.
All puppies are born with perfectly normal hips. Developing hip (or elbow) dysplasia occurs only after birth, and is more common in certain breeds than others. Labradors have been found to have a gene associated with hip dysplasia, so there is a genetic influence they’ll develop both disorders. However, the quality of their hips is only 15-40% related to genetics, which means that the majority (60-80%) of determining factors of a dog’s hips is entirely related to environmental influences, and not genetic factors.
Which Environmental Influences Cause Problems?
Joint laxity, bodyweight, and exercise are the three most common environmental factors that have been found to strongly influence the development of joint disorders, like dysplastic hips and elbows.
1) Joint laxity
Joint laxity, or looseness, is when the femur doesn’t fit properly into the acetabulum (the hip is a ball and socket joint). This usually happens for a number of reasons, like traumatic injury, overloading the joints by weight, lack of muscle strength or forces that push the legs together in an adduction motion (inwards). If there’s laxity in the joints, the damage done will depend on the force upon the joint. Think about it:
The heavier the dog, the greater the force. The greater the force, the higher the risk of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis (degeneration of joint cartilage)
The heavier the Lab at birth, the higher the risk of degenerative changes in the hip joint. Lab puppies also grow super fast. Therefore, their diet needs to be closely monitored so that they don’t grow and gain weight too fast. Just like for humans, being overweight and obese create a plethora of health issues and worsen current conditions.
Labs being naturally high energy and bouncy require plenty of exercise. Exercise strengthens leg and pelvic muscles, which will increase the stability of the hip joint. It also helps your Lab grow more blood vessels and effectively oxygenate his body, as well as build muscle and strengthen his bones. Plus, a bored Lab can be a mischievous Lab and direct it’s pent up energy into chewing or digging into things you’d rather leave whole. Your active pup needs high-quality nutrition to sustain him, like animal protein sources instead of protein from mainly vegetable sources, and higher protein and fat compared to carbohydrates.
Now that we’re up to speed with the predisposed conditions of our Labs and how important maintaining a healthy body weight is via top notch nutrition, let’s take a look at exactly what kind of food and nutrients they should be consuming.
What Kind of Dog Food Should I Feed My Lab Puppy?
There are two kinds of puppy food categories – small breed (under 50 lbs) and large breed (over 50 lbs). Labs are larger breeds and still considered puppies until 12-18 months old, compared to other breeds where adulthood begins at 12 months. So you’ll be feeding your Labrador puppy food longer before switching to an adult formula.
The best diet for your labrador puppy is high-quality, low-carbohydrate, low in calcium, contains moderate amounts of protein (mostly sourced from animals) and is moderate to low calorie.
Look for food containing calcium (it aids in bone formation), but too much calcium in a Labrador puppy’s diet increases the risk of musculoskeletal deformities, particularly hip and elbow dysplasia, and bones forming incorrectly since their bones already grow so fast. Look for puppy food reporting moderate and managed levels of calcium.
Note: If your Lab puppy doesn’t quite get enough exercise, you’ll also want to look for a diet lower in fat. Being overweight is the culprit of the most common disorders, and Labs just cannot help themselves to all the food (seriously, 25% of Labs are legit missing a gene that helps control hunger, according to an interesting study. Makes me wonder if I’m missing the human form, but I digress.).
One study showed that a fish-based diet with nutraceuticals did have beneficial effects on the development of severe osteoarthritis.
The Best Puppy Food For Labs
1. Nom Nom
(Starts as low as $3/day. Free Shipping)
Nom Nom offers perfectly portioned human-grade meals for your pup. You simply create an online profile of your Lab and they do the work of creating a personalized meal plan. Nom Nom diets have been carefully crafted to provide optimal amounts of calcium, to promote adequate bone growth, while also reducing the risk of potentially debilitating disorders later in life. They surpass standard AAFCO standards and take care to add essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acid DHA. On Nom Nom, your pup is sure to grow into a healthy, active dog. Pups go crazy for Nom Nom’s Heartland Beef Mash recipe.
Heartland Beef Mash
2. Spot & Tango
(Starts as low as $1/day. Free Shipping)
Spot & Tango’s recipes are vet-formulated and use human-grade ingredients (food up to human standards of consumption). They completely personalize the meals according to your pup’s activity level, age, and more, and the meals are delivered in individual portions right to your doorstep. You can choose from their three delicious recipes and give your Lab pup extra variety. The lower calorie Lamb & Brown rice recipe is a favorite of ours.
Lamb & Brown Rice
(Starts as low as $1.74/day. Free Shipping)
Ollie allows you to easily design your pups meals and have the food conveniently delivered to your doorstep. Ollie’s recipes are made with restaurant quality ingredients and come from wholesome and fresh ingredients. Since all recipes are personalized to your pups unique needs, you can rest assured your baby Lab is getting all the critical nutrients he/she needs. Their Healthy Turkey recipe will have your pup feeling like it’s Thanksgiving everyday!
Bonus: We like the fact that Ollie donates some of their revenue to various animal shelters and rescue causes, showing their commitment to healthy pups.
Healthy Turkey Feast