The Best Dog Food for Labs: Tested By Labradors, For Labradors

Someone once said, “A dog’s tail doesn’t lie.”

Dog lovers know that’s true — it’s also a reliable indicator of a dog’s mood.

Because of their happy-go-lucky nature, a Labrador Retriever’s tail is almost always wagging. (And possibly knocking everything off your coffee table, but they’re so lovable we let it slide…)

Labs love to hang with their pack at home, but make no mistake — they need EXERCISE. Without swimming, fetch, or some other physical activity, they can turn into an anxious pest.

I know this firsthand. (But again, sooooo loveable.) They’re also happy trying to fit in your lap, so if you just need to binge-watch on the sofa, they’ve got you covered.

Lab owners are notoriously enthusiastic about how great their doggo is and love to tell everyone about how great they are.

We know how crazy you are about your bestie, so we’ve put together a quick guide to help you choose the best dog food for Labs!

Any food that can claim it’s the best food for Labrador Retrievers has to contain ingredients that not only fill them up (which is no easy feat) but also support joint health. Iams Large Breed Dog Food hits all those targets and more for a well-balanced source of nutrition for your big baby.

The Best Dog Food for Labs Are:

ProductDetails
1. Iams Large Breed Dog Food

  • Adult formula
  • Formulated specifically for large breeds (51-90 lbs)
  • Suitable for giant breed dogs (over 90 pounds) 2 years and older
  • Dry formula crunchy texture
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2. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Dog Food

  • Formulated for adult dogs
  • Formulated specifically for large breeds
  • Comes in chicken and rice, and lamb and rice varieties
  • Dry food
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3. Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Large Breed Formula

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry food
  • Comes in a variety containing added probiotics
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4. Rachael Ray Nutrish Large Breed

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry, crunchy consistency
  • Chicken and vegetable flavor
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5. Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry kibble consistency
  • Also comes in a dry shredded blend
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6. Wellness CORE Large Breed

  • Grain-free formula
  • Adult formula
  • Comes in Chicken and Turkey flavor
  • Dry kibble consistency
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7. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed

  • Dry dog food formula
  • Large breed formula
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Chicken and brown rice recipe
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8. Eukanuba Adult Dry Dog Food Chicken, Large Breed

  • Intended for large breed dogs weighing over 55 lbs
  • Suitable for dogs 15 months or older
  • Dry food formula
  • Chicken flavor
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9. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry kibble
  • Comes in chicken, and lamb and rice recipes
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1. Iams Large Breed Dog Food — Best Food for Labs

The Iams brand is widely recommended by veterinarians for good reason: it’s got all the things you want for your dog, and none of the things you don’t.

This variety is specially formulated to accommodate larger breeds, and the consensus among Labs all over seems to be that it’s tasty, too.

Some Lab owners report that this particular food is great for dogs with skin conditions and allergies, including seizures, which Labs can sometimes be prone to.

It contains ingredients specialized for large dogs that support healthy bones and joints, and the 1st ingredient is real chicken, helping build the strong muscles an active dog needs.

Additionally, Iams’ large breed formula includes the amino acid L-Tryptophan. Many trainers swear by Iams large breed formulas because of this addition, because L-Tryptophan promotes serotonin production, and serotonin production supports a calm nature and healthy moods.

This is a great thing because let me tell you, there’s nothing sadder than a depressed Lab.

Specs

  • Adult formula
  • Formulated specifically for large breeds (51-90 lbs)
  • Suitable for giant breed dogs (over 90 pounds) 2 years and older
  • Dry formula crunchy texture

Pros

  • Contains prebiotics and beet pulp, which supports a robust immune system and healthy gut
  • Includes glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, used to treat osteoarthritis
  • Contains Omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat
  • Contains nutrients and antioxidants that help support good heart health
  • Includes L-Carnitine for maintaining a healthy metabolism.

Cons

  • Some owners reported this blend made their dogs gassy.
  • Some reported stomach upset in their labs after giving them this blend.
  • Some dogs didn’t love the flavor.

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2. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Dog Food

Dog owners give Diamond Naturals Large Breed accolades for being very high-quality food for a very reasonable price- who couldn’t use that added benefit right now? Many of their doggies report that it tastes great too.

Diamond Naturals also got high marks for supporting healthy weight maintenance, an essential feature for large breed dogs, as they’re prone to obesity problems. (Labs really love to eat…)

This formula contains no fillers, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

The company is family-owned & run, and their products are made in the US, ensuring less time being shipped in a truck and more time in your baby’s doggie bowl.

Specs

  • Formulated for adult dogs
  • Formulated specifically for large breeds
  • Comes in chicken and rice, and lamb and rice varieties
  • Dry food

Pros

  • Contains added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support overall health.
  • Contains omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids for skin & coat health.
  • Includes a proprietary blend of probiotics to support immunity and gut health.
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.

Cons

  • Some owners reported this formula gave their dogs diarrhea.
  • Some Labs had allergic skin reactions to this formula.
  • Some Labs weren’t in love with the taste of either variety.

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3. Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Large Breed Formula

More than a few Lab enthusiasts reported this food is terrific for helping giant dogs with giant hip and joint problems.

It’s unbelievably common for large dogs, particularly Labs, to experience joint inflammation and pain, which is heartbreaking to those who love them, so food that supports joint health is fantastic.

Also, apparently, there is an abundance of big dogs out there who think it’s (almost) as good as people food! Lots of paws-up for flavor.

Specs

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry food
  • Comes in a variety containing added probiotics

Pros

  • Quality sources of protein, including real chicken, are the number one ingredient. This helps support heart health and build strong muscles.
  • Natural whole grains provide fiber to support digestion.
  • Contains vitamins and minerals (vitamins E & A, zinc, selenium) to maintain a healthy immune system, healthy skin, and shiny coat.
  • Natural sources of glucosamine support joint health.

Cons

  • Some owners reported skin allergy reactions.
  • Some reported this formula caused their dog gastrointestinal distress.
  • Some dogs experienced increased shedding after eating this formula.

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4. Rachael Ray Nutrish Large Breed

This brand got accolades for being very similar to an expensive brand commonly found in veterinary offices, only it was half the price for twice the amount of food.

It seems to be an excellent option for dogs with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues, which is a HUGE bonus if you’re cleaning up after a dog who’s practically the size of a dinosaur. Also, picky dogs report they love the taste- so win/win!

A nice feature for big dogs, the kibble is larger and nice and crunchy. This helps with tooth and gum health.

Important to note- this formula contains added taurine. This amino acid helps support dog health across many systems, including the immune system and cardiac function, which is especially important for big dogs who are prone to heart issues.

Specs

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry, crunchy consistency
  • Chicken and vegetable flavor

Pros

  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • No poultry by-products.
  • No wheat gluten.
  • Supports a healthy gut with prebiotics.
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which help support hip and joint health.

Cons

  • Some Labbies didn’t like the flavor
  • Some owners reported inconsistencies in texture and size.
  • Some owners reported it smelled odd upon opening the bag.

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5. Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed

Labs love to eat. A lot. So many owners love the fact that this food contains a balance of fat and protein designed to support a healthy weight. However, it may not discourage begging at the table. But to be fair, practically nothing can discourage a Lab from begging at the table.

Good to know: Purina prides itself on focusing on every aspect of a dog’s health, including their bonds with their humans.

They’ve put their money where their mouth is by developing programs like The Purple Leash Project, which partners with an organization called RedRover to make pet-friendly domestic violence shelters more plentiful and accessible.

Because love.

Specs

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry kibble consistency
  • Also comes in a dry shredded blend

Pros

  • Glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids support joint health
  • Contains wheat bran, which provides natural prebiotic fiber for healthy digestion
  • Includes Omega-6 fatty acids, supporting healthy skin and a glossy coat
  • Designed for optimal nutrient-absorption

Cons

  • Some dogs didn’t favor it’s larger kibble
  • Limited flavor options
  • Some dogs didn’t like the flavor
  • Caused some dogs digestive upset

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6. Wellness CORE Large Breed

All Wellness brand pet foods are manufactured with pretty rigorous protocols and procedures. This means better-preserved vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, which means better quality foods.

They’re also thorough when selecting suppliers and testing the ingredients that go into their foods for adherence to high standards of quality.

The Wellness CORE® family of foods is focused on high-protein blends, which is especially beneficial for large breed dogs. It also contains no fillers, artificial flavors, preservatives, chemicals, or meat by-products.

***Note: This formula is grain-free, so consult your vet to make sure it’s a good choice for your doggo.

Specs

  • Grain-free formula
  • Adult formula
  • Comes in Chicken and Turkey flavor
  • Dry kibble consistency

Pros

  • Flavor approved by some pretty picky Labs
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health
  • Features a blend of probiotics, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids for a healthy, (and shiny!) Lab-buddy
  • Its balance of fat and calories helps maintain a healthy body weight
  • Made in the US

Cons

  • Limited flavor offerings
  • Some humans reported a sudden increase in cost and a decrease in volume.
  • Some doggies didn’t like the large-sized kibble.
  • Some owners reported it smelled odd upon opening the bag.

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7. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed

Blue Buffalo foods feature LifeSource Bits®, kibble with an exclusive blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes that are “cold-formed” to minimize heat exposure.

The cold-forming manufacturing process limits the food’s exposure to heat, better preserving its nutritional value. Think of it this way: you know how veggies lose their nutrients when we boil them too long? Same concept.

This formula contains no meat by-products, corn, wheat, or soy.

Specs

  • Dry dog food formula
  • Large breed formula
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Chicken and brown rice recipe

Pros

  • Contains quality protein sources and L-Carnitine for strong, lean muscle
  • Phosphorus and calcium support strong teeth and healthy bones
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin support joint health and mobility
  • Contains Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat
  • Includes chelated minerals and antioxidants for a healthy immune system

Cons

  • Some owners reported odd smell and texture upon opening the bag.
  • Some owners said the price went up suddenly and unexpectedly.
  • Some doggies straight up tipped the bowl over and walked away. Their people concluded they didn’t like it…

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8. Eukanuba Adult Dry Dog Food Chicken, Large Breed

Anyone who’s had a Lab knows they’ve got a tendency to have stinky breath, especially as they get older. Probably because they like to eat EVERYTHING they can get their paws on, including (and maybe especially) some of the grossest stuff ever. But that’s just a theory.

Anyway, this particular formula has a feature called 3D DentaDefense, designed to reduce tartar buildup. This means clean teeth and healthy gums for the dogs who love it, and tolerable breath for the people who love them.

Also, this food has a blend containing vitamin E and DHA for a healthy brain. This doesn’t guarantee they’ll learn not to eat random stuff they find on your walks together.

Specs

  • Intended for large breed dogs weighing over 55 lbs
  • Suitable for dogs 15 months or older
  • Dry food formula
  • Chicken flavor

Pros

  • Contains clean animal protein, which promotes lean muscle
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate support joint health
  • Vitamin E and DHA supports healthy brain function
  • Formulated with optimal levels of fats and carbohydrates to help regulate weight and metabolism
  • Features prebiotics and sources of natural fiber to support a healthy digestive system

Cons

  • Limited flavor options
  • Some owners reported concern that there didn’t appear to be a freshness date on the bag.
  • Some Labs didn’t dig the flavor.
  • Some Labs had a tough time with it digestively after Eukanuba changed up the formula.

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9. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed

Nutro dog foods are made with non-GMO ingredients, and the people at Nutro are pretty picky about where they’re sourced. Also, this brand is produced in the US, meaning less time in shipping and more time in your doggie’s bowl.

This recipe is devoid of by-products, fillers, soy proteins, wheat, and corn, which is great for lots of reasons, but particularly if you have a dog who’s sensitive to allergies, as these ingredients have been pretty regularly linked to skin allergies and gastrointestinal intolerance.

That said, I think it’s important to mention that a few owners weren’t thrilled when the formula was changed. It’s common for that to happen with any dog food, of course. In this case, apparently chicken meal was added to the lamb and brown rice recipe without notification.

This can be a problem if you’ve got a doggo with a chicken allergy. Yes, a dog allergic to chicken exists. More than one dog. So the point is, if the human is unaware that their regular formula has changed suddenly, it can make for a pretty miserable fur baby.

Specs

  • Formulated for large breeds
  • Intended for adult dogs
  • Dry kibble
  • Comes in chicken, and lamb and rice recipes

Pros

  • Pasture-fed lamb is the first ingredient
  • Contains naturally sourced chondroitin and glucosamine to support hip and joint function
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids make for that signature Lab glossy coat and healthy skin.
  • Contains essential vitamins and minerals for complete nutrition

Cons

  • Some Labbies didn’t like the flavors offered.
  • Change in formula without notification wasn’t well-received by the humans.
  • Some owners reported their babies were losing weight (not in a good way) when they switched to this food.

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Best Food for Labs: A Buying Guide

General Guidelines for Choosing Dog Food

Labrador Retrievers are notoriously robust eaters, and you’ve got to start early if you want to train them not to beg at the table. That nose knows good food when he smells it.

When choosing the best dog food for Labs, you can start with the same things you’d look for in any good quality dog food:

A Food With No Preservatives, Artificial Colors, Or Artificial Flavors

Just like in human food, these ingredients can cause a host of problems for our furry buddies. Additives like these are notorious for causing problems with allergies, some of which can be potentially dangerous.

Also, digestive problems are a common result of intolerances to artificial ingredients and additives in dog food.

No Junk Fillers

Some dog foods have ingredients that provide no nutritional value, they are only included to satiate a dog’s appetite.

This means they can eat a lot and still be losing weight (not in a good way) because their bodies aren’t getting the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients required to support a healthy dog.

It takes a lot of energy to move the body of a larger breed dog, so they need all the nutrition they can get!

Good Sources Of Clean Protein Are A Must

Real meats, eggs, fish, and poultry are essential for the amino acids that all dogs need to stay healthy, and plant proteins just aren’t enough.

Pay attention to the ingredients listed on the bag- a wholesome source of animal protein should be among the top three ingredients. In the best quality foods, it’ll be at the top of the list.

Breed-Specific Dog Food Requirements for Labs

There are a few things you should be looking for specifically when feeding your Labrador, though:

  • Like with many large breeds, Labradors are prone to hip and joint problems, particularly as they get older. It’s vital for their health and happiness to feed them foods that include ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin (preferably naturally sourced) that provide targeted nutrition for maintaining healthy hip and joint function.
  • Labs have a tendency to become overweight pretty easily (not throwing stones over here…), so it’s beneficial to choose a food that contains optimal, balanced levels of fats and carbohydrates. This can help with maintaining a healthy weight and robust metabolism. Weight management is another reason (as if we needed another) to make quality, lean proteins a priority.
  • Speaking of protein… Labs need a LOT for that hefty metabolism and high-energy spirit. Rule of thumb for most Lab owners is 27-30% protein listed in the ingredients. This depends on the dog, of course, so talk to your vet about what they recommend. They also need plenty of protein to build lots of healthy, lean muscle. A diet with adequate protein, coupled with regular exercise will have your Lab looking fit and handsome (or beautiful for the ladies).

How Much Should I Feed My Lab?

No matter what they say, do NOT let a Lab trick you into thinking they’re starving. They’ll give you those irresistible puppy-dog eyes in the hopes you’ll keep the food flowing, but chances are they don’t really need as much as they’d like you to think.

Here are some (honest) guidelines for feeding an adult Lab:

  • 50 lbs. 2 ⅔ – 3 c
  • 60 lbs.3 – 3 ½ c
  • 70 lbs.3 ½ – 4 c
  • 80 lbs.3 ¾ – 4 ½ c
  • 100 lbs.4 ½ – 5 ¼ c
  • 120 lbs.5 ¼ – 6 c
  • 140 lbs.5 ¾ – 6 ¾ c

Labs are considered an adult when they hit around 9 months old, so their portion sizes should begin transitioning around that time.

Your adult Lab won’t need to eat more than two-three times a day when fed the recommended amount broken up throughout mealtimes.

For example, a 70-pound adult can have 2 cups in the morning and 2 at dinnertime. Stretching out their intake over time like this helps them stay satiated throughout the day. (Again, they’ll try to tell you otherwise. Save yourself! Don’t look into its eyes!!)

When feeding, particularly if transitioning to a new food, watch how quickly your lab eats. If he wolfs it down right away, and that’s not usual for him, maybe give just a ¼ cup or so more (provided he’s not overweight). If that is usually how he rolls, tell him he’ll have to wait till dinnertime.

Don’t leave his bowl out all day for grazing, structured mealtimes help both of you keep track of how much nutrition and calories he’s getting per day.

Treats are OK, but most trainers will tell you to save them for training tools. To the advantage of their hearty appetites, most Labs love to please you by participating enthusiastically in the training process, so watch those calories.

About Seniors…

Labs require different needs throughout their life stages. Labrador puppies have their own set of requirements (we’ve covered that at length here), so when your Labbie gets up there in years, it’s time to re-evaluate what kind of food they’re eating.

What to Look for When Selecting the Best Food for Labs in Their Twilight Years

Here are some things to look for when reading labels:

  • Ingredients such as chondroitin and glucosamine are essential for senior labs, make sure the food you choose contains these. If you can find a food that supplies chondroitin and glucosamine from a natural source, even better.
  • Count those calories and protein levels in senior foods. Since they’re slowing down on those marathon games of fetch (they’ll tell you otherwise…), they’re prone to weight gain and obesity when their food isn’t balanced for weight management.
  • Make sure any food you choose for your little old man/lady contains antioxidants. Like in humans, antioxidants help ease the effects of conditions common in aging such as heart disease and arthritis. They’re also great for immune support.
  • Omega fatty acids are essential for brain health, keep your Lab sharper longer by giving him foods with omegas 6 and 3.
  • Older dogs need food that is rich in fiber to help digestion. I mean, we all do, but I think I can speak for Labs (and humans) everywhere when I say as you get older… it’s not so simple. Be sure to choose foods with plenty of ingredients that provide natural sources of fiber.

And here are some things to avoid:

  • Choose a food without protein by-products. They aren’t an adequate source of nutrition for your Lab, protein is best absorbed if it’s wholly-sourced using quality ingredients. (Hint: Chicken. Free-range. Whole.) Also, protein by-products are hard for older digestive systems and can cause tummy upset to your old friend.
  • Look for foods without gluten, wheat, corn, and soy. These aren’t particularly good for any dog, but for older doggos it can wreak havoc on their digestion. Also, many owners have reported allergic reactions connected to foods with these ingredients.
  • As always, avoid dog foods with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Do we need to explain why? Didn’t think so.
Note: Your vet may recommend adding a supplement as well, as studies have shown they can be beneficial to easing the symptoms of osteoarthritis so common in aging Labs. Consult your senior’s vet about their specific nutritional needs.

Some Final Thoughts

Labs are a special breed, and they bring so much joy to so many owners. It’s easy to see why they’re among the most beloved breeds in the US. If you need a wing-dog to go jogging, hiking, or playing fetch with, this is your breed. They’ll be loyal to the end and are always up for making new friends at the dog park.

Labs are also notorious for being gentle giants, making them exceptional companions for children and older adults. Once you’ve adopted one into your family, you’ll be hooked on Labs for life.

To take care of your Lab with the best nutrition, consider Iams Large Breed Dog Food. It’s got the complete package of proper nutrition for your bestie and also includes specifically targeted extras with your big baby in mind. Feed them right, and they’ll be around to share lots of adventures for many fun-filled years.

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