Labradors require good nutrition to live long, healthy lives. Some Lab owners feed their dogs homemade diets to avoid common fillers found in commercial dog food, including meat byproducts, corn, wheat, artificial colors and additives. Feeding a Lab from your kitchen requires careful attention to preparing balanced meals for this breed’s high energy level. Consult your veterinarian before switching to a homemade diet for your older Lab or starting such a plan with a new puppy.
- Include the amount and kind of protein a Labrador should consume for good muscle mass. Your Lab can eat meat, fish and cottage cheese for protein, as well as boneless chicken and eggs. All About Labradors recommends your dog eat 25 to 30 percent protein at each feeding.
- good fats to each meal. Your Labrador needs approximately 5 percent fat in its diet, and the best fats are omega-3, fish and wheat germ oils. Flaxseed and walnut oil also provide good fats. Younger Labs may need a little more fat in their diets, as they burn off more energy than older dogs.
- Feed your Lab whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal, and fresh or frozen vegetables. You can use carrots, cabbage, celery, asparagus and broccoli, but if your Lab experiences gas problems you may want to rotate the vegetables to see which one causes the problem, and then eliminate that ingredient.
- Combine pre-cooked ingredients for faster meals. A sample recipe for one meal combines 1 cup cooked poultry with no bones, ½ cup steamed vegetables, ½ cup prepared brown rice and several tablespoons of no-sodium broth. If you want to cook one meal from scratch, gather 2/3 cup cubed uncooked meat, ¾ cup raw sweet potato or carrot, ¾ cup instant brown rice and 1 cup water. Boil the meat and vegetables in water until tender, add the instant rice and continue cooking until the rice is done, adding water as needed.
- Include a spoonful of plain yogurt with one meal a day to provide your Labrador with calcium and good bacteria needed for a healthy intestinal tract. Also sprinkle one meal per day with a tablespoon of ground flaxseed or break open a fish oil capsule and drip oil into the food.
- Supplement with a vitamin and mineral complex for at least one meal per day. Pet shops sell a variety of brands, and your veterinarian can recommend the best one for your Labrador. Calcium is particularly important for healthy Lab teeth and bones. In addition to providing calcium via a supplement, you can also add buttermilk or egg shells to your dog’s meals for an extra boost of this mineral.