The Best Dog Food for Labs for 2021

Best Dog Food for Labs and Lab Puppies

What’s the Best Dog Food for a Labrador Retriever?

Finding the best food for your Lab’s age is far more important than it is for most other dogs.

That’s because Labs are large breed dogs.

Which is not a concern for adult Labs.

However, unlike adults…

Lab puppies have an increased risk of developing a crippling and permanent form of hip disease… if they’re fed a diet that contains too much calcium for their larger breed size.1

Large breed dog with bilateral hip disease
Large Breed Dog with Hip Dysplasia

Unfortunately…

Only a limited number of foods meet these critical requirements.

For this reason…

The Dog Food Advisor has selected the 13 brands listed below because they contain calcium levels2 considered safe for Lab puppies… or adults.

Each selection is marked “Best for” to help you make a safe choice for your particular puppy… or adult.

Please keep in mind…

Some Lab puppies keep growing and aren’t ready to eat adult dog food until they reach 15 to 24 months of age.3

The following dog foods are listed in random order. Each was chosen because it meets or exceeds our selection criteria. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a referral fee. This helps cover the cost of operation of our free blog. Thanks for your support.

Editors Choice -- Best Dog Food for Labs

The Best Dog Food for Labs

Here are The Dog Food Advisor’s best dog foods for Labrador retrievers for October 2021.



Canidae Multi-Protein Formula Dog Food

Canidae All Life Stages Multi-Protein Formula

Rating:

Canidae All Life Stages Multi-Protein Formula is one of 5 dry recipes contained in our review of the Canidae All Life Stages dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, turkey meal, lamb meal, brown rice, white rice
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, white rice)
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: Lab puppies and adults

Multi-Protein Formula draws the major part of its animal protein from chicken meal, turkey meal, and lamb meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 27% protein, 16% fat and 49% (estimated) carbs… which results in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.

Contains no fewer than 4 animal meal ingredients for an especially diversified, balanced protein formula. One of the most popular dry dog foods in our database. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “I’ve been using this brand for almost 10 years and I’ve never been disappointed. The breeder of my Collies feeds this to her show dogs and recommended it to me. I’ve occasionally used another brand for a short period of time but I always return to Canidae. I have a puppy now and the “ all stages” is very convenient.”

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Wellness Core Large Breed Dog Food

Wellness Core Large Breed Adult

Rating:

Wellness Core Large Breed is one of 12 dry recipes included in our review of the Wellness Core dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, lentils, peas
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Profile: Maintenance
  • Best for: Lab adults only (not for puppies)

This Wellness Core formula derives most of its animal protein from deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 38% protein, 13% fat and 41% (estimated) carbs… yielding a fat-to-protein ratio of about 35%.

The fully balanced, grain-free design contains no corn or wheat. Cotains omega-rich flaxseed for healthy joints. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “Our Lab is just over a year and quite large. She was on puppy food and this was a first choice for adult food to maintain her great health, coat, energy, etc. it’s a winner. We don’t have to try anything else, so excited she likes it.”

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Nom Nom Beef Mash Fresh Dog Food

Nom Nom Fresh

Rating:

Beef Mash is one of 4 fresh human-grade recipes covered in our review of the Nom Nom dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Ground beef, russet potatoes, eggs, carrots, peas
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Profile: All Life Stages
  • Best for: Lab puppies and adults

The example formula displayed here obtains the major part of its meat protein from ground beef. Dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 33% protein, 19% fat and 40% (estimated) carbs… creating a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.

Nom Nom designs each customized feeding plan based on your dog’s weight, age, breed type, and activity level… and then creates a pre-measured portion size, according to the number of calories needed to keep your dog at ideal weight.

The food is delivered to your home fresh, on a flexible schedule. Store the package in your freezer… and thaw each meal (as needed) in your refrigerator.

Nom Nom is perfect for those who want to feed a scientifically balanced diet that’s as close to homemade as you can get… without all the fuss and hard work. Not cheap. Enthusiastically recommended

Sample buyer review… “Mya has suffered from colitis & IBS for many years, and she’s also the pickiest with food. Since being on Nom Nom she is eating much better & has perfect poop!!!”

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Taste of the Wild High Prairie Dry Kibble

Taste of the Wild High Prairie

Rating:

Taste of the Wild High Prairie is one of 9 dry recipes included in our review of the Taste of the Wild dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Water buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Profile: Maintenance
  • Best for: Lab adults only (not for puppies)

High Prairie acquires the bulk of of its meat protein from water buffalo, lamb meal, and chicken meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 36% protein, 20% fat and 36% (estimated) carbs… resulting in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.

Zinc proteinate plus 3 other chelated minerals for improved absorption and optimal blood levels. Fully balanced nutrient design ideal for adult Labs. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “We did careful research before purchasing this brand, and are extremely pleased with the results as our dogs are thriving. Their coats are much improved, and the dry skin/itching has disappeared, so it seems they were allergic to the grain based food they were reared on. Not only that, but they love the flavor and eagerly consume it dry, which they never did before. Their poops are smaller and more concentrated, and you could set a clock by their regularity. Truly great stuff…………”

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Nutro Ultra Adult Dry Dog Food

Nutro Ultra Adult Dog Food

Rating:

Nutro Ultra Adult is one of 10 dry recipes rated in our review of the Nutro Ultra dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, brewers rice, rice bran
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, brewers rice, rice bran)
  • Profile: Maintenance
  • Best for: Lab adults only (not for puppies)

Nutro Ultra Adult receives the major part of its animal protein from fresh chicken and chicken meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 28% protein, 16% fat and 49% (estimated) carbs… which creates a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.

Contains no BHA, BHT or other high-risk chemical preservatives. Also high in meat content with no plant-based protein concentrates for a natural, balanced amino acid profile. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “We have tried several foods once we decided to switch from Blue Buffalo. Lots of bags donated to the shelter. When we could no longer get Royal Canin I was forced to find, yet again, another food. After hearing that grain free foods are linked to heart disease, I decided to switch from Natural Balance to Nutro. Best decision ever. Not only do they love it, their coats look better, less itching, their weight is good and it’s less expensive without skimping in quality! Finally a food I can continue giving my dogs without worry if I am giving them the right food!”

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American Journey Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

American Journey Large Breed Adult Dog Food

Rating:

Large Breed Adult is one of 17 dry recipes covered in our review of the American Journey Grain-Free dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, peas, chickpeas
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: Lab puppies and adults

American Journey Grain-Free Large Breed Adult gets the lions share of its animal protein from deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 33% protein, 13% fat and 45% estimated carbs… resulting in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 40%.

An affordable, all life stages dry kibble, recently added to our best budget-friendly dog food list. Fully-balanced nutrient content with an exceptional calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “My dog has stomach issues and this is the best dog food I have found since Performatin is not available. Have tried Hills Science and most of the other high end dog foods without success. Highly recommend. I use the large dog instead of medium because the kibble is larger – about the size of a nickel.”

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Orijen Original Dry Dog Food

Orijen Original Dog Food

Rating:

Orijen Original is one of 8 dry recipes contained in our review of the Orijen dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, turkey, flounder, whole mackerel, chicken liver
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: Lab puppies and adults

Orijen Original draws most of its animal protein from fresh chicken, turkey, flounder, and whole mackerel. Dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 43% protein, 20% fat and 28% (estimated) carbs… producing a fat-to-protein ratio of about 47%.

From its founding, Champion Petfoods, the fabled maker of Orijen, has always favored and touted a meat-based, “biologically appropriate” canine diet… a proven, balanced formula which makes this food a top choice for Labs of all ages. Both puppies and adults. Enthusiastically recommended.

Sample buyer review… “I am so grateful to have found this food for so many reasons! Both of my picky pups enjoy it and devour every bite! I’ve had such a difficult time finding a food they actually want to eat but this is it!! I also really appreciate the honest marketing. The ingredients hold up to what they promote which makes this dog mama very pleased!”

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Gather Free Acres Free Run Chicken

Gather Free Acres Organic Free Run Chicken

Rating:

Free Run Chicken is one of 3 dry recipes evaluated in our review of the Gather dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Organic chicken, organic dehydrated chicken, organic peas, lentils, chicken fat
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Profile: Maintenance
  • Best for: Lab adults only (not for puppies)

Gather Free Acres recipe derives the lions share of its animal protein from organic chicken. Dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 33% protein, 17% fat and 42% (estimated) carbs… which yields a fat-to-protein ratio of about 50%.

A highly palatable, premium quality formula. Contains certified organic, free-run chicken as its primary source of animal protein. Sustainably harvested krill provides omega-3-rich, EPA and DHA fatty acids to support strong heart and brain function.

In addition, all plant-based ingredients are 100% non-GMO.

This nature-conscious recipe is a rare find in the pet food universe. Enthusiastically recommended.

Sample buyer review… “We changed to Gather and our dogs are very happy. One of our dogs hardly ever ate all of his crunch before gobbles Gather all up. I like that they try to source within North America as much as possible and minimize ingredients from overseas.”

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Eagle Pack Large and Giant Breed Adult Dog Food

Eagle Pack Large and Giant Breed Adult Dog Food

Rating:

Large and Giant Breed Adult is one of 7 dry recipes included in our review of the Eagle Pack dog food product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, pork meal, ground brown rice, oatmeal, rice
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, oatmeal, rice)
  • Profile: Maintenance
  • Best for: Lab adults only (not for puppies)

Eagle Pack formula derives most of its animal protein from chicken meal and pork meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the product contains 28% protein, 13% fat and 51% (estimated) carbs… delivering a fat-to-protein ratio of about 48%.

It’s important to note that this fully balanced formula contains zinc proteinate and 3 other chelated minerals, superior nutritional supplements typically found in higher quality dog foods. Reasonably priced. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “We used grain free before, but the risks led us to go wheat/soy free instead. Eagle Pack is fantastic. Our 6 year old Lab loves it and her coat is shiny — she’s eaten nothing but Eagle Pack since she was 4. She is a very active dog who retrieves every day, yet she thrives on amounts at the low end of Eagle Pack’s recommendation. Of the super dog foods, EP is consistently less expensive and yet we find it fully equal in taste and performance to the most expensive brands. We are committed users.”

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Editors Choice: Best Food for Lab Puppies

The Best Puppy Food for Labs

Here are The Dog Food Advisor’s best dog food for Lab puppies for October 2021.



Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy Food

Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy

Rating:

Large Breed Puppy is one of 8 dry recipes contained in our review of the Purina Pro Plan product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (rice, corn gluten meal, corn)
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: Lab puppies and adults

Purina Pro Plan Large Breed Puppy obtains most of its animal protein from fresh chicken. Dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 32% protein, 15% fat and 45% estimated carbs… which results in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 46%.

Pro Plan is one of the large breed puppy food brands most frequently mentioned by breeders and veterinary professionals. Each recipe has been expertly designed by a team of board certified nutritionists.

So, each recipe contains the ideal calcium-phosphorus balance to minimize the risk of hip and joint disease for growing Labs.

In addition, the entire Pro Plan product line is designed and manufactured according to rigorous guidelines recommended by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.

Purina Pro Plan is one of the very best large breed puppy foods you’ll find on this or any list. And it’s easy on the budget, too. Highly recommended.

Sample buyer review… “My puppy absolutely loves this food! She can never wait to get her next meal! Her coat is soft & shiny! Highly recommend this product!”

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Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy

Rating:

Large Breed Puppy is one of 13 dry recipes analyzed in our review of the Diamond Naturals product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Lamb, lamb meal, whole grain brown rice, cracked pearled barley, grain sorghum
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, barley, sorghum)
  • Profile: All life stages
  • Best for: Lab puppies and adults

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy receives the lions share of its meat protein from fresh lamb and lamb meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 30% protein, 17% fat and 45% estimated carbs… resulting in a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.

Typical with all Diamond Naturals products, this recipe is 100% free of anonymous meat by-products, generic fillers or artificial preservatives.

One of The Dog Food Advisor’s favorite large-breed puppy foods. Contains an exceptional nutrient balance of calcium, phosphorus and calories… a recipe that’s ideal for growing Lab puppies. Reasonably priced. Enthusiastically recommended.

Sample buyer review… “Really good product. I like he fact that it is a top quality food without the high, high price.”

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Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy

Rating:

Large Breed Puppy is one of 14 dry recipes contained in our review of the Wellness Complete Health product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, ground brown rice, salmon meal
  • Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice)
  • Profile: Growth
  • Best for: Lab puppies

Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Puppy gets the better part of its animal protein from deboned chicken, chicken meal, and salmon meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 32% protein, 14% fat and 45% estimated carbs… producing a fat-to-protein ratio of about 45%.

Along with its AAFCO nutrient profile for “Growth”, this 5-star formula contains just the right mix of calcium, phosphorus and calories to help reduce the risk of canine hip and joint disease… making it the perfect fit for Lab puppies.

By the way, Wellness products are some of the most frequent brands found on The Advisor’s best dog food pages. Enthusiastically recommended.

Sample buyer review… “I introduced wellness to my Great Dane since I got her at 8 weeks. I feel it provides her with essential needs. She has burst of energy after eating, and her coat is very soft. I believe Wellness will be a part of our fur babies life for good.”

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Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Chicken Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy

Rating:

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy is one of 18 dry recipes covered in our review of the Blue Buffalo Wilderness product line.

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, pea protein, tapioca starch
  • Type: Grain-free
  • Profile: Growth
  • Best for: Lab puppies

This Blue Buffalo formula draws the bulk of its animal protein from deboned chicken and chicken meal. Dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 39% protein, 16% fat and 38% estimated carbs… yielding a fat-to-protein ratio of about 40%.

We also note the inclusion of taurine, an amino acid supplement believed by many to help prevent dilated cardiomyopathy in large breed dogs. A time-proven formula, notable for its ideal mix of calcium, phosphorus and calories.

A well-balanced design to help reduce the risk of crippling hip and joint disease for growing Lab puppies. Reasonably priced. Recommended with confidence.

Sample buyer review… “My German Shepherd/Pittie mix puppy loves this stuff. She has never had any issues with it and prefers it over the science diet the vet was pushing. I like that it is grain free.”

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are 8 of the most frequently asked questions we get about feeding Lab puppies and adults.

Yellow Lab Puppy

How can I switch to a new food… without getting my Lab sick?

In Dr. Gary Richter’s video below…

You’ll find a simple feeding tip that can help reduce your Lab’s risk of suffering from digestive upset… whenever you switch to a new food.

It’s best to transition your Lab to a new food… gradually.

Start by mixing 20% “new” and 80% “old” food together. Then, gently increase that amount to a full 100%… over the next 8 to 9 days.

Transition Schedule Old Food New Food
Days 1 and 2 80% 20%
Days 3 and 4 60% 40%
Days 5 and 6 40% 60%
Days 7 and 8 20% 80%
Day 9 0% 100%

Do Labs need to eat special dog food?

The answer depends on your dog’s age. Adult Labs can eat almost ANY quality dry or wet food. However, to lower your dog’s risk of permanent hip and joint disease, Lab puppies should be fed a food that contains a safe amount of calcium for large breed puppies. For more options, be sure to visit The Dog Food Advisor’s best large breed puppy foods page.


What are the 3 feeding stages of a Lab’s life?

Since dog breeds mature at different rates, the feeding stages below can be used as a general guide to find the food that’s best suited for your Lab’s age.4 5

Life Stage Age
Lab puppy Under 15-24 months6
Adult Lab Over 15-24 months7
Senior Lab Over 6-8 years8 9

When can I safely switch my Lab puppy to adult food?

Lab puppies don’t stop growing and aren’t ready to eat adult dog food… until they reach 15 to 24 months of age.10 11 12 So, switching your puppy to an adult diet too soon can increase your pet’s risk of developing a crippling and permanent form of canine hip dysplasia.


When is my Lab considered a senior?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, larger breed dogs tend live shorter lives than smaller dogs… which is why they’re often considered seniors when they reach 5 to 6 years of age. If your Lab is over 6, you may wish to visit our best senior dog foods page for some safe recommendations.


What causes hip disease in Labrador retrievers?

Hip disease in Labs is caused by at least one of 3 factors:

  1. Genetics13
  2. Overfeeding14
  3. Too much calcium in the diet15

Since there’s nothing you can do to change your Lab’s genetics, be sure to avoid overfeeding your puppy. And choose a dog food that contains a calcium level that’s made to be safe for Labs and other large breed puppies.


How can I lower my Lab’s risk of hip disease?

There are 2 things you CAN do to help lower your dog’s risk of hip disease. First, don’t overfeed your puppy. Too many calories in the diet can increase your Lab’s risk of developing lasting hip damage.

Next, avoid dog foods that contain too much calcium for large breed puppies. View our best large breed puppy foods here.


How much food should I feed my Lab?

A landmark study found that dogs fed an amount of food that keeps them at ideal body condition lived almost 2 years longer… than other dogs.16

So, to help your Lab live a longer life

Start with the feeding instructions printed on the bag. Then, adjust that amount up or down… to keep your Lab at ideal body condition.

The following short video explains exactly how to help your Lab achieve and maintain an ideal weight.


A Final Word

The Dog Food Advisor is privately owned. We do not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration in preparing our reviews.

However, we do receive a referral fee from online retailers (like Chewy or Amazon) and from sellers of perishable pet food when readers click over to their websites from ours. This helps cover the cost of operation of our free blog. Thanks for your support.

For more information, please visit our Disclaimer and Disclosure page.

Important FDA Alert

The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.

References

  1. Lauten SD, Nutritional Risks to Large Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years, Vet Clin Small Anim 36 (2006) 1345–1359.
  2. AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2018 Official Publication, pages 155-159.
  3. Royal Canin, maxi breed, When does my puppy become an adult dog?
  4. Royal Canin, When does my puppy become an adult dog?
  5. Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, How Old Is Old? Comparing Dog Age to Human Age
  6. Royal Canin, Puppy, When does my puppy become an adult dog?
  7. Royal Canin, Adult, When does my puppy become an adult dog?
  8. Senior Pets, American Veterinary Medical Association
  9. Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, VCA Hospitals, How Old Is Old? Comparing Dog Age to Human Age
  10. IAMS: How to Transition Your Puppy to Adult Food
  11. Royal Canine: When does my puppy become an adult dog?
  12. Purina: When to Switch to Adult Dog Food?
  13. Hedhammar A, Canine hip dysplasia as influenced by genetic and environmental factors, EJCAP, Oct 2007, 17:2 (pp 141-143)
  14. Kealy RD et al, Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs, JAVMA, Sep 1992, 201:6 (pp 857-863)
  15. Richardson, Skeletal diseases of the growing dog: Nutritional influences and the role of diet, Canine Hip Dysplasia: A Symposium Held at Western Veterinary Conference, 1995
  16. https://www.avma.org/News/Journals/Collections/Documents/javma_220_9_1315.pdf