Feeding the Labrador Retriever

Nutrition tips for Labs in all walks of life.

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Its really helpful if you can keep them slim, right from the beginning when they're puppies and throughout their lives. And, the best way to do that is really just to do controlled feeding. They don't need a special diet. Any good-quality food is fine. You probably want to avoid the really high fat diets, though. With that exception, any good-quality food is fine.
Contrary to popular belief, Labs do not have an increased breed tendency for hypothyroidism, Dr. Davidson says . This is an often overdiagnosed condition, she says.

Lab owners simply need to count calories. If the dog is fat, feed less and exercise more if possible. If owners cannot stand to feed less, they should use a low-calorie type of diet in an adult dog. The dogs ribs should not be visible but should be able to be felt without excessive fat padding if the weight is correct.

The Labs penchant for eating, coupled with a tendency to be heavy, means pet owners must be diligent. Don't overfeed the Lab, but do encourage activity and limit snacks. Avoid excessive treats and table scraps. A little bit is okay; its not going to hurt anybody, but in moderation, Dr. LaFlamme says .

Dr. LaFlamme strongly discourages free-feeding of adult Labs. Instead, feed a meal once or twice a day, he says. Pups should not be free-fed either, but fed in more frequent meals. Pups that are not free-fed might grow a little more slowly, Dr. LaFlamme says, but will eventually reach their destined height, weight and size. Labs should be fed to be slimmer than you'd expect them to be, Dr. LaFlamme says. So rather than roly-poly, cute puppies, they really should be kept slim.

Diligence will pay off, especially if owners heed the warnings early in the Labs life. Labradors do not have special nutritional needs compared to other dogs of similar size, Dr. Davidson says. The only exception is that they have been shown through scientific studies to have a lower incidence of genetically mediated orthopedic disorders if they are not obese during puppyhood and grow at a slower, more organized rate. Hence the recommendation for large-breed puppy foods for Lab pups from the ages of 8 to 12 weeks to 1 year or 11⁄2 years of age.

Generally, a commercially prepared, complete-and-balanced diet is best for the Labrador Retriever. Dry food is best suited to all Labradors, Dr. Davidson says.  Canned food should really only be used as an appetite enhancer. Labs do very well on an all-dry-food diet. Dr. Davidson recommends adding warm water to kibble 10 minutes before it is served to allow the kibble to expand and become more chewy before it is eaten, which lessens the chance for gastric dilatation or bloat.  This also diminishes the tendency for vomiting after eating rapidly, as most Labs do, Dr. Davidson says.

How much food does the average pet Lab need? That varies with the individual, so Dr. LaFlamme recommends first reading the feeding instructions on the pet food label. You might start with what's on the bag as a starting point, she says. But recognize that feeding instructions on the bag apply to all dogs of that size. Each dog is quite different. It may be necessary to increase the amount of food. More than likely, though, it will be necessary to decrease the food.

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Janet   Bethlehem, PA

2/18/2012 7:38:29 AM

good article, thank you

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Mary W   Sedro Woolley, WA

3/27/2010 2:28:55 PM

I feed my lab Nature's Recipe Farmstand Selects Turkey. She loves it. It has no corn or wheat.

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