jump directly to our picks for best dog foods for labs by clicking on the link in the review box
CC image “Millie” via Phil Dolby on Flickr – thx Phil!When you think about the American dream you might picture something like:
Living in the suburbs with…
2.5 kids, and…
a white picket fence, and…
A golden lab (the most popular dog breed, forever, it seems) to greet you at the front door.
But for many of us, life is not exactly a “Leave it to Beaver” rerun.
Except for your Labrador Retriever.
No matter where the economy decides to go, you could never imagine giving up your friendly lab. In an optimal situation, you’d prefer not having to find a second job to pay for your dog’s high-quality kibble, but you know good health now will save you an expensive trip to the vet in the future.
So What are the Best Dog Foods for Labs?
We’re glad you asked!
Check out the following 4 dog foods that are excellent options to meet the specific health requirements of your lovely Labrador.
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance covers everything that matters including injuries, illnesses, genetic conditions, and emergency care. As part of your employee benefits program, you'll receive a special lifetime discount of up to 15%.
Learn more by getting a free quote and let Healthy Paws pay your vet bills while you care for your pet.
1. Blue Wilderness Denali Dinner with Wild Salmon, Venison & Halibut
If you’ve owned a lab for a good length of time, then you may be aware that this friendly breed has the tendency to develop sensitivities and allergies to their food.
One day, Rex is playing fetch and rolling over with the best of them, and the next he’s gnawing on his leg like it’s a prime cut of beef. His itching has become insatiable, and you’re thinking you might have to change his food to give him a bit of relief.
Blue Wilderness could be a great option if you’re looking to switch up your lab’s protein sources. Instead of the usual chicken, pork, and beef, Blue Wilderness has opted for wild salmon, venison, and halibut. It’s unlikely your lab will have had a lot of exposure to these types of proteins, so he probably won’t react to them.
Another plus is that Blue Wilderness is 100% grain-free.
We’re finding that more and more dogs are having trouble digesting grains. Signs like itching, gas, and runny stool can be signs that all is not well in your dog’s digestive department. Instead, your lab’s starch is going to come from potatoes, peas, and tapioca.
Unfortunately, just because the starch is grain-free doesn’t mean it will necessarily be problem-free for your lab. Plus, some of the starch in this formula comes in an isolated form (e.g., tapioca starch).
I’m not a big fan of isolated ingredients because you’re missing out on a complete nutritional package. It’s kind of like always opting for Wonder Bread over the Whole Grain variety. The former is a nutritionally-void version of it’s whole grain counterpart.
And like many big dogs, labs can get a little creaky in the joints as they get older. This can especially be a problem for more rotund pooches.
You may be thinking, but Rex is only ten pounds overweight, which means there’s just more of him to love! Well you may change your tune after having to carry porky around when his knees give out.
Fortunately, Blue Wilderness has added anti-inflammatory turmeric, which can help ward off stiff joints as your lab get’s older.
Overall, Blue Wilderness is a great choice for labs:
- Unconventional protein sources for sensitive dogs
- Grain-Free for better digestion
- Turmeric and naturally occurring Glucosamine for joint health
2. Wellness Core Adult Dog Food
Other than creaky joints and a a few extra pounds, labs can also be susceptible to getting cataracts. The combination of all three will leave you with a dog that is fat, cranky, and blind (always a winning combination).
But there are certain nutrients that are especially helpful in supporting the eye. One of which is called lycopene, which is derived from tomatoes. Wellness includes tomato pomace as a source of this vision-supporting vitamin, making Wellness Core a great option for owners who want to prevent any type of degenerative eye disease.
But Wellness is more than just the equivalent of a bowl of tomato soup. Whole animal protein from turkey and chicken will ensure your dog has enough muscle-building and energy-providing nutrition without excessive amounts of starch that will contribute to your lab’s extra spare tire.
Another plus is the addition of glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which are minerals needed to support healthy joints. Some pet owners are actually heading off to their local health food store to pick up a bottle of these for their arthritic dogs, but sneaking pills in cubes of cheese can get old after a while.
A better option is simply finding a food that contains the joint-building nutrients from the outset.
Is there anything ‘unwell’ about Wellness Core?
In fact, there is an ingredient I disapprove of.
I don’t like vegetable glycerin because it’s just a form of empty calories that preserves and sweetens your dog’s food without doing much else. And as labs have the tendency to be pudgy, they definitely don’t need additional incentive to eat more.
Overall, Wellness Core is a good option for labs:
- Grain-Free for better digestion
- Glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health
- Lycopene for eye health
3. Canidae Grain-Free Pure Resolve Weight Management Dog Formula made with Fresh Chicken
As we all know, labs have the tendency to really pack the weight on if given the opportunity. Although high energy dogs, their bodies seem to love to hold onto any additional fat if given the chance. And although you may love your curvy canine, you also have to understand that extra weight can negatively impact his health.
So if your chunky lab loves to inhale his food, and tries to sneak leftovers at every opportunity, then opting for a weight maintenance formula can be the best option to help your dog shed some of those unnecessary pounds.
Canidae has crafted a high protein and grain-free formula that is specifically designed to help your lab achieve a healthy weight.
Protein from whole chicken and turkey is satiating, so Mr. Mooch won’t be constantly staring at you with those puppy dog eyes every time you open the fridge. Plus, antioxidant-rich starch from sweet potatoes and chickpeas will give your lab the get-up-and-go he needs to run through the dog park or play with the family.
And although you may do your darndest to keep bad bugs off and out of your dog, you wouldn’t want your lab to live in a sanitary bubble. A certain number of good bacteria are extremely important for digestive wellness and immunity. Canidae’s addition of probiotics is a great step towards ensuring your dog’s digestion is up to snuff.
Is there anything missing from Canidae?
Well, there are a few bells and whistles missing from Canidae that would have made this food particularly excellent for labs.
Glucosamine and chondroitin, excellent for joint health, are both missing in action. And it would have been nice if Canidae had added fish oil or whole fish for its anti-inflammatory omega-3 content.
But other than me nitpicking over details, Canidae is a great option for labs:
- Grain-free for better digestion
- Weight maintenance to reduce obesity
4. California Naturals Venison & Green Lentils Recipe
Sometimes simpler is better, especially if you have a dog that seems to react to just about everything. Labs can be especially sensitive souls who experience digestive upset and itchy skin to many commonly used dog food ingredients.
If you do have an allergy-prone lab, then you’ll love California Naturals. This company makes a wide variety of limited ingredient formulations, so you can play around with different types to find the version that works best for your lab.
I selected the venison and lentil version because it’s great to have access to non-traditional proteins like venison. Most dogs have been raised on chicken, so it’s highly unlikely your lab will start breaking out in hives upon his first bite of deer.
But beyond the addition of venison, this food is an excellent choice for labs because the ingredient list is pretty sparse (which is a good thing!). You won’t find pork plasma, caramel colour, tapioca starch, and ten different types of filler in this food. All the ingredients have been carefully selected to provide the basis of a highly nutritious diet.
Plus, California Naturals is also completely grain-free.
And I did get pretty excited when I saw their starchy replacement. So usually grain-free means legumes or potatoes because starch has to come from somewhere, right? The only problem is that potatoes and legumes aren’t perfect substitutes either (we’ve all had that experience of eating too many baked beans). But lentils are interesting because they tend to be easier to digest than their hardier counterparts.
Unfortunately, this formula isn’t perfect.
The addition of inflammatory sunflower oil is a pretty poor substitute for fish oil or another animal fat. Plus, I looked high and low and I never came across any probiotics for digestion, or supplements for joint health like glucosamine.
Regardless, California Naturals can be a great option for your lab:
- Grain-free for better digestion
- Limited ingredients and unconventional proteins for sensitivities
You already knew your lab was special, but now that you have a better idea of what his nutritional needs are, you can find an excellent food that will keep him trim, supple-jointed, and eagle-eyed even into his golden years.