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Friday, April 11, 2008

How much to feed Labs?

Kiwi: Chocolate Lab Profile
In a normal week, the Lab Brats receive at least a handful of emails specifically asking how much Labrador Retriever owners should feed their dogs daily. I remember that when I was a newbie to the Lab dog breed, there was a lot of confusion in our house because 1) Labs will keep eating until they explode if you let them and 2) too much weight on this large breed dog's hips and you can have some serious canine hip dysplasia. I read everything I could get my hands on online, read almost every single dog food label in the pet stores, checked with our veterinarian (who is owned by 2 black Labs himself) and solicited all the wonderful Lab owner friends I had made online. My head was spinning.

Alas, there was a light at the end of the tunnel when I learned about high quality and low quality foods in regards to feeding dogs. The less quality the food, the more you have to feed and the higher quality of food, then less you have to feed. It made perfect sense because the low quality dog foods are nothing but fillers so you need to feed your dog a lot more to get the nutrients it needs. The higher quality food is fed in fewer quantities because fillers are dramatically decreased so you are feeding your dog a nutrient-filled meal. Let's put this in human terms...

You know how you go out for fast food and you are hungry an hour later (not even to mention how fat, bloated, and yucky you feel)? Well, that is the low quality food. Now think of a well balanced meal that leaves you satisfied. That is the high quality meal. Same in dog foods.

So, how much to feed your Labrador Retriever? Easy! Read the bag and keep an eye on your Lab pup. For puppies, you want to stick with a high quality large breed puppy food and make sure she or he is getting what they need to sustain their large breed growth. Consult with a large breed veterinarian during the puppy stages to ensure the proper weight and nutrition of your baby. You do not want to go to a vet that specializes in small dogs as they do not have the same expertise.

Adult Labrador Retrievers are fed similar to the puppies as you must read the bag to know how much to feed and keep an eye on the dog. For adults specifically, you should use the "Ribs Rule" in determining if you are feeding you dog enough. The Ribs Rule states: Your dog should be lean enough that you can feel the individual ribs but not see them. If you cannot feel the individual ribs then your dog is too heavy and you need to cut back on the amount of feeding and treats. If you can see the individual ribs then your dog is too lean and needs to be fed more. This is a very simply rule passed to us by our breeder as well as our veterinarian and has worked perfectly in our own house to maintain the weight of both Lab Brats.

Need a visual of what a healthy weight Labrador Retriever looks like? Just look at the picture in this post of the Lab Brats' dame (mom). She was fed just right for her breed and size as seen in the lean lines of her body, muscle definition, lack of visible ribs, and well defined waist. These are all the same qualities you should remember while keeping an eye on your adolescent and adult Labs. Feeding of high quality food, large amounts of exercise and health checks are all crucial to having a happy and healthy Lab!

For more information on feeding Labs, check out Dog Food and Labrador Retrievers.



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