Feeding a Labrador Retriever properly is one of the most crucial tasks that owners of this large and versatile dog must complete daily. How well a Labrador is fed will primarily determine its health and energy levels.
How much to feed a Labrador Retriever will depend on its age. Labrador puppies should be given ¾ to 4 ⅓ cups of dry dog food daily. On the other hand, adult Labradors require 3 to 4 ¼ cups per day, while seniors may be given 2 ¼ to 3 ¼ cups.
If you are interested to know more, this article will cover everything about Labrador feeding, including the frequency and optimal times of feeding, what foods to avoid, and how to transition your dog to a new food. Read on!
What Factors Impact How Much to Feed a Labrador?
A lot of factors come into play when it comes to how much to give your Labrador puppies and adults. Being aware of these factors will help you determine the best approach to keep your dog well-nourished.
Below are the factors that influence your Labrador’s dietary requirements:
- Age: Age is the primary determinant of the number of calories and nutrients a dog needs to take in. Expect a Labrador puppy to have a different requirement from an aging dog. This is due to the difference in the support function that the food does to their bodies.
- Activity level: A Labrador with a higher level of activity, such as police, detection, hunting, search, and rescue, or service dog, will require more food compared to a Lab that functions as a normal family pet.
- Weight: The average weight of a healthy adult Labrador Retriever will be around 55 to 80 pounds. This factor is also the basis of the Labrador feeding chart and can guide you on how to adjust your dog’s feeding, depending on whether it is on the lower or upper limit of this range.
- Physiological status: A female Labrador Retriever undergoing pregnancy or nursing its pups must be given the proper food amount to support its physiological needs during this period. On the other hand, spaying or neutered dogs will require less caloric intake due to their bodies’ lowered metabolic rate.
Other factors, such as health issues and lifestyle, could affect a Lab’s diet. Further, some specialized types of this breed, like the miniature Labrador, may even have their own dietary requirements.
However, always remember that the amount to feed lab puppies and even adult dogs must always be based on their individual nutritional needs.
How Much to Feed Your Labrador Retriever
With all the considerations dog owners need to think about when feeding a Lab, it may seem that this daily task is too complicated. However, with the help of a Labrador feeding guide, this can be done seamlessly.
Always remember, though, that regardless of your Labrador’s age, dogs thrive on a complete and balanced diet. Hence, do not skimp on your dog’s nutrition, as this can dictate your dog’s quality of life.
The next few sections should help you with the feeding instructions for every life stage of a Labrador Retriever. As you go through each, remember to consider your dog’s current needs as well.
Labrador Retriever Puppy Feeding Chart (2 to 12 months)
As Labrador Retriever puppies are born, they will mostly rely on their mother’s milk. This will be their initial source of natural antibodies coming from colostrum.
In my experience of breeding Labradors, there are times when a dam cannot produce enough milk or the litter size is quite huge. During these instances, I give the puppies milk replacers as well to help support the mother Labrador, in feeding the puppies.
This ensures that the puppies are adequately nourished while ensuring that the lactating dam is not too stressed with feeding.
By the time the Lab puppy reaches its third or fourth week of life, your dog starts to enter its weaning stage, which is the transition to eating soft puppy chow.
As it grows older, the amount of dry dog food to feed a Lab puppy will vary month after month. However, you will realize that they will require more calories from puppy food compared to adult dogs.
Additionally, high-protein puppy food must be given to support the growing needs of your Lab puppy during its developmental stages.
Below is the Labrador puppy feeding chart to help you determine how many calories and cups of puppy food it needs during its first year of life:
|Age||Daily Feeding Amount|
|2 – 3 months||¾ – 3 ¼||388 – 1,488|
|4 – 6 months||2 – 3 ½||865 – 1,563|
|7 – 9 months||2 ¾ – 4 ¼||1,231 – 1,873|
|10 – 12 months||3 ¼ – 4 ½||1,456 – 2,070|
Naturally, large breed puppies, like the Lab, consume more puppy food than their smaller counterparts. Hence, it would be best to select dog food brands with high caloric density to meet their nutritional needs with smaller volumes.
Further, if you can give your puppy the best dog food possible, there is no need to provide puppy supplements anymore. This should be enough to support your puppy’s growth and keep it healthy.
Adult Labrador Retriever Feeding Chart (1 to 6 years)
As your Labrador puppy grows into an adult, its nutritional requirements will change. This will also mean that it needs to transition from eating a puppy’s food to adult dog food.
During this stage, it will already be much safer for your dog to explore other types of dog food preparation as well, such as wet food, raw diet, and home-cooked food.
However, just like how to determine the best puppy food, an adult’s food intake must also be nutritionally balanced. A balanced food intake means that it contains all the necessary dietary components in the right amounts.
The following adult Labrador feeding guide should assist you further in determining how much food to give your fully grown Labrador:
|Age||Daily Feeding Amount|
|1 – 6 years||3 – 4 ¼||1,165 – 1,656|
Aside from high-quality food for adult Labradors, a low-protein diet is also more fitted for them. This is to prevent instances of obesity, especially for non-working Labradors.
Senior Labrador Retriever Feeding Chart (7 years and above)
Unlike the high energy and metabolic rate of a Labrador puppy, a senior dog will have a more sedentary or laid-back lifestyle and a slower metabolic rate. These are the primary factors affecting their reduced diet.
Aside from this, senior Labradors also have diminished senses. Hence, for Labrador owners feeding kibble, you need to be creative in making their diet interesting and appetizing.
Senior Labrador food must also be easy to digest and must be free of harmful additives. Make it a habit to read the food labels on the packages of commercial dog foods.
The senior Labrador food guide below will be a handy reference for your old dog’s mealtime:
|Age||Daily Feeding Amount|
|7 years and above||2 ¼ – 3 ¼||932 – 1,325|
Additionally, eating wet food is something that may be considered for senior Labs because their teeth may begin to wear down. Dry food alone can be difficult for them to chew and may eventually cause their appetites to wane.
Lastly, consider giving the dog food that is rich in protein and with enough calcium and phosphorus to support an aging dog’s heart, bones, and joints.
How Often Should You Feed Your Labrador Retriever?
The frequency of feeding your Labrador also depends on age. A Lab puppy younger than two months must nurse freely from its mother. At 3 to 12 months, you must feed your puppy at least three meals daily. Meanwhile, an adult dog may be given two meals, and a senior Lab can thrive with a single meal daily.
Lab puppies are recommended to eat more frequently throughout the day since they have a faster metabolism rate than adults. This ensures that they have enough energy to fuel their rapid growth and development.
As puppies age, the frequency is reduced due to lower energy requirements. Adult dogs must feed just enough to ensure they have the energy to keep their bodily functions working properly.
The following Labrador food guide shows how often you must feed your puppy, adult, and senior dog:
|0 – 12 weeks||Free feeding or four times a day|
|4 – 12 months||Three times a day|
|1 – 6 years||Two times a day|
|7 years and above||Once or twice a day|
Take note that feeding them too often or too spread out may put our precious Labs at risk of hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or bloat.
Optimal Feeding Times for Labrador Retriever
Labrador puppies up to 12 weeks old may be fed every five hours and adjusted to every six hours until they are a year old. On the other hand, one meal in the morning and again in the evening will work for adult Labs, while senior dogs may be fed once in the morning or evening, depending on your schedule.
Developing proper eating habits in your Labrador puppy as early will instill discipline and optimize its digestive pattern and metabolism.
The table below illustrates the optimal feeding schedule for a Labrador Retriever based on its age:
|Age||Optimal Feeding Times|
|0 – 12 weeks||7:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m.|
|4 – 12 months||7:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.|
|1 – 6 years||7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.|
|7 years and above||7:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m.|
These schedules are not set in stone; you may adjust these to fit your personal schedule. More importantly, it must be scattered evenly throughout the day and followed consistently.
Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Labrador Retriever
Even with the knowledge on how much to feed a Lab puppy or adult, know that not all foods that humans can consume regularly are safe for our dogs to ingest.
A good number of these may contain ingredients that can be toxic to our furry friends, even in small amounts.
Below are some of the foods to keep away from your Lab puppy:
- Onions and Garlic: These may be staple ingredients for humans, but onions and garlic can damage red blood cells in dogs due to their thiosulfate compound. Dogs that ingest these may experience anemia, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing.
- Chocolate: Even in small amounts, the theobromine chemical found in chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart rhythm, and high blood pressure in dogs.
- Grapes and Raisins: Grapes and raisins are absolutely lethal to dogs and can give them acute kidney failure, abdominal pain, dehydration, and lethargy. However, the exact toxin causing these health problems has not yet been identified.
- Coffee: Humans love coffee for the burst of energy it provides, but it may not work well for our dogs. Its caffeine component may cause cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure, stomach upset, and multiple organ damage in dogs.
- Xylitol: The artificial sweetener xylitol is found in everyday substances like gums, candies, peanut butter, and some baked goods. This creates a rapid insulin release in dogs, causing hypoglycemia.
These toxins might scare you from giving your Lab different puppy foods aside from commercial dog food. However, many human foods also contain safe and healthy nutrients, even if consumed by a puppy regularly.
What is important is to research the ingredients well before introducing something new to your dog, whether it is raw meat, fruits, vegetables, or an entire meal. This will ensure that your Lab enjoys a long and healthy life.
Meanwhile, here is a video to guide you on foods you need to avoid giving your dog:
How to Transition Your Labrador Retriever to a New Food
Within your Labrador’s entire lifetime, expect a lot of circumstances where it needs to transition to new food. It can be due to dietary changes brought by age or when you need to be creative as it gets bored with its current food.
The best approach for this transition is to do this gradually by feeding the Labrador a ratio of the old and the new dog food and adjusting this until it gets completely used to its new diet.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests the following schedule for transitions in a dog’s diet:
|Day||Old Food||New Food|
|1 – 2||75%||25%|
|3 – 4||50%||50%|
|5 – 6||25%||75%|
Following this strategy in switching to a new food should prevent the onset of health issues associated with abrupt dietary changes, such as indigestion and upset stomach.
In line with the transition, it is also best to ask dog breeders what type or brand of puppy kibble they have been feeding puppies prior to rehoming.
Check with the local pet store if they have the same brand. If none, you may wish to ask the breeder to provide you with enough initial dog food for transition purposes in case you need to switch to a new brand right away.
Tips on Feeding an Overweight Labrador Retriever
The danger with feeding large breeds is that their owners tend to give them too much food because of their size. This is until they realize that their dogs are already overweight.
You can validate how healthy your Labrador’s current weight is by checking its body conditioning score. If your dog is already overweight or obese, this must be corrected right away before the problem becomes more severe.
Here are some tips on how to feed your overweight Labrador Retriever and help it lose weight:
- Monitor your dog’s diet. Whether you are giving dry food, wet food, raw food, or a home-cooked meal, you need to monitor and cut down on your dog’s calories. It is important to do this gradually until your Lab goes back to its healthy weight range.
- Avoid giving too many treats and snacks. Treats may be an effective way to train your Labrador puppy but remember that these should be given in moderation. Remember that treats and snacks should be part of the total calorie requirement of dogs and not beyond, so they do not pile on additional pounds.
- Increase physical activity level. Being a retriever, the Labrador is an active, high-energy dog. Hence, take advantage of its love for walking, running, playing, swimming, and other types of physical activities to help it reduce unnecessary weight.
- Add fiber-rich foods. adding high-fiber foods to your dog’s diet will make your dog feel full without adding too many calories. These foods may include beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, pumpkins, and apples.
In addition to the tips mentioned, consulting a pet nutritionist can also assist you in preparing a healthy and nutritious diet for your Labrador while ensuring that it maintains its weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Know If I’m Feeding My Labrador Enough?
One way to determine if you are feeding your Labrador enough food is by comparing your current feeding volume with the Lab puppy feeding chart in this article.
If your number of cups falls short of what is indicated, you can adjust accordingly to give it the right amount of calories for its daily needs.
Further, you may also check your Labrador’s body condition score. If its ribs, lumbar vertebrae, and pelvic bones are highly visible, and there is a lack of body fat and muscle mass, then you are not feeding your Lab enough.
Finally, you can bring your dog to the veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis of undernourishment.
Why Is My Labrador Retriever Not Eating?
If your Labrador Retriever is bored with its food or is undergoing a stressful situation at the moment, expect it not to touch its food. However, this should not be a serious concern.
You can try to feed kibble mixed with wet food, explore raw feeding, give flavorful dog treats, or substitute different dog foods to lift its mood and appetite.
However, if this loss in appetite is accompanied by lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, seek veterinary advice immediately. This can be an indication of a more serious health problem requiring urgent attention.
Can I Feed My Labrador Retriever With Human Food?
Being omnivorous, you can feed your Labrador different kinds of human-grade meat, fruits, and vegetables. In fact, complete puppy foods are also made up of these ingredients.
They can even be fed using different methods of preparation. It may be given as raw food or as a delicious home-cooked meal.
However, take note that not all of them are suitable for dogs. There are human foods with ingredients that may cause toxicity to your Labrador. Hence, make sure to fully research the components of any food you plan to give.
Do Labrador Retrievers Eat a Lot?
Labrador Retrievers are highly motivated by food and tend to eat a lot. Hence, to avoid overfeeding, follow the recommended Lab feeding chart, maintain a strict feeding schedule, and ensure adequate physical activities.
Can Labrador Retrievers Eat Bones?
Like with other breeds, it is safe to feed Labradors bones, but it needs to be served as part of their raw food diet. Not only are raw bones good sources of calcium and phosphorus, but they are also good for dental health.
Upon reading this article, you will realize that feeding a Labrador Retriever is not difficult at all. So long as you have guidance in terms of the right amount, frequency, and optimal times of feeding, everything should be a breeze.
Additionally, exploring the best dog foods and staying clear of the ones that can harm your pet can ensure they stay safe and happy with their mealtimes.
If you own a Labrador and have experience with its feeding, we would love to hear about your best practices. Share it with us in the comments!