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Labradors and Nutrition

Yellow Labrador Puppies For Sale

“Dog food will have the single largest impact on the health of your dog “

Tripp Wood

Nutritional Demands of Labradors and Goldens Labradors and Golden Retrievers have special demands when it comes to nutrition – not just because they are active dogs, but because of the chemical makeup of their bodies. Feed the incorrect food, for example, and they will not be able to synthesize vitamin c, which is the molecular glue for calcium. (It is a strongly held belief that the lack of ability to produce Vitamin C can lead to hip dysplasia. Indeed, a number of studies certainly lead credence to this latest

Feeding a product containing growth hormone, or a high protein/calorie diet, can lead to OCD of the upper humorous. (Osteo Condrosis Dessicantus). This occurs when cartilage growth cannot keep up with bone growth, and the cartilage begins to splinter. Feeding a product devoid of proper nutrition can cause allergy like symptoms, leading the Retriever owner down the path of allergy testing, shots, and expensive formulas, all of which generally fail.

Assuming you pick up your Lab puppy at the eighth week of life, he will have been consuming regular food for at least five weeks – a full 60% of his life. His body will have blue printed itself as to hormone and chemical production. Therefore, it is imperative that both he and his mother were fed the proper food from the beginning. Puppy foods, even large breed puppy foods, can be dangerous to health. It is not a good idea to skimp on food to save money. You will spend much, much more on vet bills than you can ever possibly save by purchasing cheap brands. True, the occasional dog sometimes squeaks through life on a cheap food, but the odds are not in the consumer’s favor.

Figure on spending about $1.10 per pound plus shipping for a proper Labrador food.

Your full grown Lab will consume approximately 1 ½ to 2 pounds daily. Due to cost and profit structure, you will not find a true Labrador food in a pet food store or grocery store.

A Million Lab Nutrition “Experts”

When you first take your new Lab puppy home, everyone and their grandmother will begin giving you advice – from how to train to what to feed. People you have not seen for years will appear out of the woodwork to push you into their beliefs. Neighbors turn expert, with their “experience” usually based on what their friend or trainer said. Never has there been such an extreme circumstance of the blind leading the blind when it comes to nutrition, and most of it is fueled by very successful advertising campaigns.

This leads to a complex dilemma – who do you believe?

Veterinarians have been unfairly placed on a pedestal by dog food companies, and are expected by their customers to know what a truly good formula is. However, nutritional training for veterinarians is short, and covers many different species. The nutritional class is typically taught by a major dog food company salesman.

Carnivore nutrition carries an entirely separate degree. Even if a veterinarian receives this diploma, it is not likely they have actually gained experience in this field, due to the heavy demands of his practice. Dog trainers, many breeders, groomers, pet sitters, and salesmen in the pet food aisle are turned to and viewed as experts by many Labrador owners. It is likely that not one of these people has ever set foot into a dog food manufacturing or mixing facility. This can lead to disaster, but where does one turn to get sound advice?

The Reality of Dog Foods

The dog food production world is very small. All the formula owners and their nutritionists would fit into one small room. This is the only group of people that could truly tell you about dog foods and their effects. Because formulas cannot be patented, there is a necessary veil of secrecy surrounding formulas.
(Editor’s note – the author of this article is a Custom formula owner, and therefore privy to this information).

How to Identify a Good Labrador Food

First, gain an education from either an experienced carnivore nutritionist, or a formula owner that has hired one to produce a super premium food specifically for Labradors and Goldens. (www.JaxMax.com)

Just because a bag proclaims it contains Labrador food does not necessarily make it so. Usually only the shape or color of the kibble has been changed. Below is some basic information regarding types of formulas. When you finish reading this, you will already have more knowledge than most of the population – even most professionals.

Commercial Formulas

Commercial dog food started around the turn of the century, and provided a ready to eat meal. Although it may have lacked a complete balanced diet, it was fast and easy. As competition between companies grew, palatability became a key issue. How does a company entice a dog to eat their food over another? One way is through the addition of sugar, or high fructose corn syrup. It’s cheap, readily available, effective, and usually does not end up on the ingredient panel. It isn’t
good for the dog to have added sugar, but this is where an ethical rub comes into play. Instead of using higher quality ingredients, companies began adding taste enhancers to filler materials. These foods can be found on pet store and grocery store shelves. Some formulas that are owned by human food production companies use waste from candy bars, snack cakes, crackers, pasta,
etc. as fillers and attractants. The sugar also acts as a preservative, much like salt. These formulas tend to sit on the shelf for months at a time, and typically need more chemical preservatives to maintain “freshness”.

Private Label Formulas

Independent dog food manufacturing plants rely on a network of dog food resellers to purchase their products. These private label formulas are owned and produced by the dog food factory. This type of pet food is bagged in the re-sellers own bag and distributed to stores or breeders. The resellers have no ownership or control of the formula, and are at the mercy of the pet food manufacturer. These types of formulas tend to change often, depending on price and availability of ingredients. Nearly all breeders selling foods rely on private label foods, as they do not require immersion in education, nor layout of funds for a Custom Formula, and they carry the biggest profit margins. This sets up a distrust of breeder recommended foods by veterinarians.

Custom Formulas

These are special formulas created by the owner of a dog food company. The owner will employ a factory to produce the food. The factory that manufactures this food has no ownership or say so in materials or production methods, nor can they provide any other company with this product. They simply produce what the owner dictates. The holders of these formulas have direct control and knowledge of their products. They tend to use higher quality ingredients than private label or commercial foods, and make smaller runs to ensure true freshness. Due to high startup costs, very few of these companies exist, and only one breeder is known to own custom formulas. (www.Labpups.com)

Feeding Labs

Raw Vegetables, Meats, and Other Human Foods

If your Lab is on a proper formula of scientifically created dog food, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by feeding human foods. A dog cannot digest carrots, asparagus, green pepper or any other raw vegetable. All they can do is to interfere with proper absorption.

Raw meats carry their own risks. If you do not own a Wolf out of the wild, leave the raw meats to the buzzards.

Dog Treats

It is quite possible to feed a perfect food, and cause harm by feeding a treat that is not meant to go with that food. Treats are usually packed with sugars. A proper food and treat combination will work together to add benefit, as in free radical elimination. There should be no added sugars. The same rules that apply to dog foods apply to treats.

Feeding Vitamin/Mineral Supplements and Toppings

Assuming your Lab is eating a proper food, nothing is more dangerous than supplementing your dog’s diet with calcium, vitamins, phosphorous, or other additives. Even pregnant and nursing Labs do not need these supplements. They may even harm her offspring.

Remember, just because you hear a particular additive is good for Labs does not give scientific basis for the claim. Lots of ingredients are good for Labs, but at what levels, and combined with what other ingredients? When you supplement, you turn your dog into a science experiment.

Vitamin C Supplements for Dogs is an Exception

The only exception to the above rule is vitamin c. This is because dog foods do not contain vitamin c, even if it’s on the label. Vitamin c oxidizes rather quickly, and acts only as a stabilizer as the food cools after manufacturing.

Another reason is because vitamin c is synthesized by the Lab’s body, and therefore declared unnecessary. However, the ability to synthesize vitamin c depends not only on what the Labrador or Golden eats, but its genetic predisposition to doing so. It is possible for the dog’s body to temporarily quit this process during sickness or distress. It’s fine to supplement a small amount of vitamin c on a daily basis, through tablets.

Keep in mind that there is a difference in vitamin c brands. Most is chemically manufactured ascorbic acid, containing one or two molecular structures. Your Lab needs a type of c that contains all four molecular structures. You will not find this at vet’s offices or pet stores. The only proper vitamin c I have found is manufactured by the Nutrilite company in California. It is not a good idea to supplement more than 125 mg daily, or to begin prior to the 16th week of life.

If you never supplemented vitamin c, kept your Labrador on a proper diet and parasite free, chances are he would remain healthy even without this addition. Parasites eat vitamin c, so it is extremely important to keep your Retriever parasite free (especially of Roundworms).

Reading Dog Food Labels

Guaranteed Analysis


The first item most people look at is the protein. Let’s say that 26% is listed on the bag. This tells you almost nothing, as it is listed as crude protein. This is the combination of digestible and indigestible proteins. It is possible that of the 26% listed, 15% may be indigestible, and therefore useless. Indigestible proteins may consist of horse’s hoofs, hair, feathers, beaks, rice hulls, inferior corn or chicken, etc.

It is illegal to place the actual amount of digestible proteins or the quality of ingredients on a dog food bag. This levels the playing field, and makes the venture more profitable for large companies.


The lower this figure, the better. Ash is created by several factors, such as the quality of the meat used, and the cooking methods. Take, for example, the majority of chicken used in dog foods today. These chickens are used as egg layers, until the quantity of eggs begins to decline. These hens are fed less and less on a daily basis, until they sometimes die from lack of nutrition. This not only leads to a breakdown of proteins, but a high ash level as well. Cooking imparts its own level of ash, therefore making cooking methods critical. Low ash chicken is the best, but used by very few dog food companies.


Some moisture is necessary to keep the kibble edible. 10% is an accepted norm. More than that and you are buying expensive water.

Dog Food Ingredients

Let’s start with the main source of meat. Take, for example, fresh chicken, which sounds healthier than chicken meal at first listen. Keep in mind that the ingredients are listed in order of weight at the time of mixing. Fresh chicken is 70% water, which gets cooked out during the manufacturing process. However, as the water adds weight, it is considered the first ingredient. Properly placed, it would really come in fifth or sixth on the list.

  • Chicken – Chicken makes the best dog foods, as it is the most tasty and nutritious.
  • Lamb Lamb is not desired by canines, due to the overpowering scent. It is usually necessary to mask lamb with sugars or flavors. Lamb is used as an ingredient to attract humans, not dogs.
  • Corn – If corn is the first ingredient on your bag – Consider returning it.
  • Rice hulls, peanut shells, etc – These are fillers, and not desirable due to their abrasive nature and lack of digestibility.
  • Chicken Meal is chicken with the water removed. When it is listed as the first ingredient, it stays in first place all the way through the process. Therefore, it is better to have chicken meal in a food. Fresh chicken is good in high quality treats.
  • Beet pulp (sugar removed) – This is an excellent product to help keep the intestinal tract clean.

In Summary

Keep your Labrador or Golden on a Custom Formula meant for them.

  • Avoid any food that has a first ingredient of corn – go for chicken meal.
  • Don’t be swayed by uneducated “experts”.
  • Feed only what your Lab needs, and stay away from human foods or supplements.
  • Freshness is key to usefulness of product.
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