Labrador retrievers are affectionate, fun-loving dogs with hearty appetites. They also are prone to weight issues, arthritis and allergy problems. So, establishing a good dietary foundation when they are puppies is one of the keys for a long, healthy life. That means choosing a high-quality food.
Meat should be the first ingredient listed on the label. Whole ground grains, such as oats, barley and rice and vegetables, such as peas and potatoes, also are nutritious.
Like their owners, puppies need fatty acids such as Omega-3 and 6 found in herring oil, for example. Foods with DHA, a nutrient in their mother's milk, help with vision and brain development, and prebiotics work with the good bacteria in the digestive tract to strengthen their immune systems.
As a large-breed dog, the rapid growth of lab puppies can cause a strain on joints. Look for products with sources of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to help maintain healthy joints. Watch calories to make sure your puppy is growing appropriately and not just getting fat, which also can add stress to joints and bones.
Things to Avoid
Watch out for foods with meat by-products which can consist of the ground and rendered parts of the carcass of slaughtered animals. Also avoid foods which contain mineral oil and other non-specific listed oils and fats, like animal fat and generic fish oil.
Several quality foods, such as the Purina One series and Iams, make items specifically for large-breed puppies. Science Diet is another excellent choice and, if you’re interested in an organic food, try Innova or Newman’s Own Organics.
Many veterinarian’s offices carry Science Diet, which is now also readily available in most pet stores. Big-chain stores are also good sources for quality foods, and they often have better prices.
Denise Skwarcan is the managing editor of a national sports magazine and a freelance writer living in northern Indiana. She graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's degree, and has been published both in print and online. Her specialties include sports, animals and travel.