Canine Bible is reader-supported. We receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Learn more.
Are you considering giving your Labrador Retriever homemade food?
If so, get out the apron! This guide will teach you everything about feeding and cooking homemade food for labradors.
Labradors have very different nutritional needs from other dog breeds, so it’s not as simple as throwing out your commercial pet food and replacing it with steak and veggies. Cooking for lab puppies too? They also require a balanced diet specially made for puppies.
Before you head to the kitchen, read our guide on how to make homemade food for labradors, nutritional guidelines, recipes for labs, and other key breed-specific nutritional advice. Let’s get started!
Benefits of Labrador Homemade Dog Food
Our dogs have been eating the same commercial food for years. Traditional dog food is highly processed, even the “organic” or “all-natural.” By the time processed dog food hits your dog’s bowl, the nutritional value of the ingredients may be lost or significantly reduced.
Is homemade cooking for your Labrador the start of the journey to better health?
According to Jennifer A. Larsen, DVM, MS, Ph.D., and Joe Bartges, DVM, Ph.D., board-certified veterinary nutritionists and diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, there are a handful of benefits you can expect when you start to add homemade food to your dog’s diet including:
Adequate homemade nutrition will keep your dog active and happy while preventing many conditions associated with a poor diet, such as obesity, poor skin and coat condition, pancreatitis, diabetes, and reduced immunity.
Food & Labrador Retriever Health: Why Feed Homemade?
Labrador Retrievers are prone to food allergies or intolerances.
One study identified Labs as breeds prone to food hypersensitivity. Allergies in Labs often appear as skin allergies through the body’s inflammatory reaction to the offending food. Canine scabies (generalized papular pruritic disease) has been associated with food allergy and may be more common in Labrador Retrievers. 
Unfortunately, highly processed kibble is usually the culprit behind dog food allergies due to animal proteins, additives, fillers, toxins, and chemical preservatives in traditional dry dog food. Many dogs with food allergies suffer from skin inflammatory responses and gastrointestinal issues. Sadly, a study published in the Canine Genetics and Epidemiology Journal (where veterinary care data from 33,320 Labrador Retrievers) revealed that gastrointestinal disorders are the most common disorders to affect Labradors (22.7%).
The AKC states Labradors can suffer from bloat, a life-threatening stomach condition common in large, deep-chested dogs. Gastric dilatation-volvulus, aka bloating, can be fatal as the stomach twists on itself. Maryland Pet Emergency notes that feeding a dry diet with animal fat listed in the first four ingredients, eating rapidly, and eating from an elevated bowl are some factors that elevate the risk of bloating in dogs.
One of the most common health problems for Labrador dogs is obesity. A healthy Labrador should have a trim, hourglass shape, says PetMD. While genetics plays a role in weight gain, dog parents can do many things to help their Labs stay in shape. Exercise and feeding a balanced diet, controlling portion sizes, and minimizing treat intake are vital in this breed.
Unfortunately, the most common cause of death in Labs were musculoskeletal disorders (injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, arthritis and spinal discs) and cancer. 
The most common joint and bone problems affecting Labradors are patellar luxations, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), which is canine elbow and shoulder dysplasia. Proving a balanced diet formulated to meet the nutritional needs of large-breed puppies is necessary. As a result, muscles and joints will have healthy growth and development. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial. An overweight or obese Lab will place extra strain on their joints, making it harder to keep their joints healthy. Obesity can lead to hip bone and joint problems or worsen if it is already present.
Regarding cancer, there’s mounting evidence that processed kibble may influence your Labrador’s risk of cancer. Part of the problem lies in the processing method used to make dog food. Kibble is cooked in blistering hot temperatures, which produces carcinogens and free radicals in the body. Dry dog food is also packed with carbohydrates, which break down into cancer-feeding glucose. 
Other minor health issues to keep in mind include ear infections (otitis external) and eye conditions (progressive retinal atrophy). While not directly related to nutrition, a great diet with proper vitamins, minerals and nutrients can boost eye and ear health.
How Can A Homemade Diet Help Labradors With All Of This?
Homemade food for dogs is great for multiple reasons.
Labrador Retriever Homemade Dog Food Risks
Here are some of the most common risks to be aware you need to avoid when cooking homemade food for your Labrador.
Research by the University of California Davis, School of Veterinary and two studies published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine and The Journal of Nutritional Science found that most homemade dog food recipes lack key essential nutrients, and other recipes used dangerously high levels of some nutrients.
Here are the findings:
These findings denote the importance for pet owners to have professional guidance on their journey to home-prepared diets for Fido. No dog owner will want to expose their dogs to nutritional deficiencies due to a bad diet.
Preparing homemade meals for your dog should be taken seriously. A poorly made diet can have profound implications and affect your pup’s health. We recommend consulting a veterinary nutritionist who can address your Labrador’s dietary requirements, help you make nutritionally balanced recipes, or recommend a homemade food service for convenience.
Labrador Retriever Nutritional Guidelines To Follow
How can you ensure your dog’s homemade food will meet your Labrador retriever’s dietary requirements?
A proper homemade diet must consider your Lab’s weight, health condition, size, and activity level.
It’s not advised to improvise when cooking for your pup. These are the six essential nutrients any dog meal should always include.
|Protein||Chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish, yogurt and cooked eggs||Builds and repairs muscles and other body tissues. Needed to make new skin cells, grow hair, hormones, enzymes and more.
|Carbohydrates||Oats, brown rice, potatoes, and whole wheat||Source of energy for dogs and supplies glucose needed by the brain, nervous system and other critical organs for normal function.
|Fat||From meats and oils such as olive or sunflower oil, fish oil, canola oils among others||Responsible for providing quality energy. Necessary for the normal development and function of body cells, nerves, muscles, and body tissues
|Minerals||Calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, etc.||Common functions include the formation of bone and cartilage, nerve and muscle function, fluid balance regulation, the transportation of oxygen in the bloodstream and hormone production.
|Water||Water||Hydration is critical in dogs. A dog that loses too much water (10% to 15% of the water in his body) can get very sick and even die. Ensure they have water available throughout the day.
|Vitamins||A, B, C, D, E, and K||Keeps skin and coat healthy, strengthens bones and teeth, and gives them the overall energy that they need to function.
Recommended Supplements For Labradors
Here are some breed-specific supplements based on Labrador’s top nutrition-related health concerns.
Always consult your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
You may also want to add a multivitamin like Zesty Paws Multivitamin Chews to ensure your Lab pup gets the recommended balance of vitamins and minerals.
If you need more guidance in making Labrador Retriever food at home, an excellent resource is Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative by Donald R. Strombeck, DVM, Ph.D., a long-time expert in veterinary medicine. Many pet nutritionists consider this book the Bible of healthy homemade dog nutrition.
Health Dietary Changes In Labradors
It is possible to manage food-related health conditions in Labs by modifying their diet.
Below are some dietary adjustments you can try if your canine friend is experiencing any of the conditions listed below.
|Condition||Dietary Needs & Adjustments
|Coat Color Changes||Increase amino acids which can be found in protein (>75 grams per 1000 calories)|
|Concurrent GI Signs||Avoid foods with tryptamine and histamine such as dairy or fermented vegetables and meats (yes, this includes bacon); try a simple ingredient food trial
|Chronic Itching and Dermatitis||Fortify the diet with Vitamin E, B Vitamins, Zinc, omega-6 and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil; add a dog probiotic; try a simple ingredient food trial|
|Dull Coat and Scaling||Adjust EPA and DHA levels in the diet (added fish oil being the most common way); try a food that has added zinc
|Dandruff and Crustiness||Add Zinc and Vitamin A levels
If you notice your Lab has skin allergies or joint pain, dog fish oil is an excellent addition to their diet. According to AKC, fish oil promotes healthier coats by reducing itchiness and flakiness in the skin because it contains omega-3 fatty acids. Other significant impacts include promoting enhanced immunity (especially against cancer) while strengthening heart health in dogs.
Labrador Calorie Requirements
Dog caloric needs are based on their weight. An adult Labrador dog usually weighs between 55 and 80 pounds, so most Labs would need to eat between 1248 and 1656 calories daily.
Be sure to follow the 10% rule when feeding treats to your dog. Food equals 90% of the total calories and treats the remaining 10%.
You can use our dog calorie calculator to find the exact caloric needs of your dog based on his weight.
Pregnant Labradors can consume up to 2 to 4 times the amount of food they normally have as the mother’s energy requirements increase after delivery and during lactation. Be sure to speak to your vet.
Homemade Food For Labrador Puppies
A labrador retriever puppy’s diet is not the same as that of an adult Labrador.
As Labradors age, they require fewer daily calories. A study showed that senior dogs require 20% fewer calories than adult dogs. On the other hand, the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) states puppies need about twice as many calories per pound of body weight as an adult dog of the same breed.
A Labrador Retriever puppy’s homemade diet should contain a proper balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, water and vitamins, as explained in our nutritional guidelines above.
Call your veterinarian about your puppy’s diet. They will be able to give you expert advice and suggestions.
Homemade Dog Food Delivery Service
You don’t have to cook to provide your pup with a healthy, nutrient-rich homemade dog meal.
Getting homemade dog food delivered to your door is not a new thing. If you wish your Labrador Retriever could eat whole, fresh homemade food more often but don’t have the time to cook for them (or don’t know how to cook and balance ingredients properly), Pet Plate is here for you.
Pet Plate is one of our favorite options. Their meals are vet-designed, cooked in a USDA facility, nutritionally balanced, and highly palatable to dogs. Everything is made from natural, human-grade ingredients (meats, veggies, grains, etc.)
Simply share your Labrador Retriever’s unique personal characteristics and let the experts cook the perfect homemade meal plan for your pup.
Forget using the wrong ingredients, proper nutrition guidelines, portion sizing, shopping, cooking, or cleaning. Pet Plate ready-to-eat meals are delivered straight to your door on an ongoing basis. It’s a huge time-saver, and we think it’s worth the cost.
Get 30% off your first Labrador Retriever box of PetPlate + a 50% discount on treats! Just use this link to get started!
Labrador Homemade Food Tips
Once you have chosen a recipe for your Labrador, it’s time to make it. We recommend following these tips.
How To Cook Homemade Food For Your Labrador (Video)
If you’ve never made food for your Labrador, this video will show how to start.
Labrador Retriever Homemade Food Recipes
We have compiled our favorite homemade dog food recipes for labrador retrievers to share with you. We also threw in a yummy homemade treat for your Labrador because why not!
We’ve also added a special treat recipe for your Labrador that is tasty and packed with remarkable health benefits. This recipe has our favorite secret ingredient, dog CBD oil. CBD oil can help with seizures, anxiety, arthritis, inflammation, pain, wellness and other health problems.
Note: Please consult with your pet’s veterinarian and use personal judgment when applying this information to your dog’s diet. The recipes below do not include serving size because portion sizes will vary depending on your dog’s breed, weight, activity level, age, and health. A common recommendation is to feed your dog a comparable amount of ounces/cups to what you would usually feed in kibble BUT check with your vet to be certain.
CBD-Infused Dog Treats
Treat your Labrador with these nutritious, therapeutic, and delicious homemade CBD dog treats. They are made with pumpkin, a great source of essential vitamins and minerals (like vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C, and iron). Pumpkin also aids with digestion and hydration. Coconut is added for skin and coat, digestion and helps reduce allergic reactions.
Just be sure to check with your vet before to ensure CBD is safe for your pup and that you are giving the correct dosage.
You can also purchase already made CBD dog treats so your pup can experience all the benefits of CBD without the cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a dog cookie baking tray with coconut oil.
- Core and grate the apples, then peel and grate the carrots.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the gluten-free flour, oats, and coconut sugar. In another medium-sized bowl, beat the egg. Then, add coconut oil, water, and grated apples and carrots.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients bowl; mix thoroughly. Finally, add CBD oil and mix once more.
- Using a Tbsp measuring spoon, portion out the dog biscuits and press them into the dog treat baking pan. Bake for 32-37 minutes or until the biscuits are firm and golden-brown on the outside.
- Store in an air-tight container.
Recipe from: Truth Theory
Turkey, Carrots & Green Veggie Mix
Keep your Labrador Retriever healthy and fit with this easy-peasy homemade recipe. It provides a good balance of lean animal protein, healthy green veggies, and lean carbs.
- In a large saucepan of 3 cups water, cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add ground turkey and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the turkey as it cooks.
- Stir in spinach, carrots, zucchini, peas and brown rice until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is heated for about 3-5 minutes.
- Let cool completely.
Recipe from: Damndelicious
Slow Cooker Dog Food
This crockpot recipe is perfect for your Lab dog. It’s healthier, nutritious, easy to make and cheaper than the store-bought version.
- Place ground beef in the slow cooker and top with rice, beans, squash, carrots, and peas.
- Pour in 4 cups of water, then stir everything together.
- Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3.
- Turn off the heat and cool completely before serving.
Recipe from: 12tomatoes
Beef Gourmet Dog Food
All dogs love meat! Watch your Labradors Retriever chow down on this tasty homemade meal. This recipe is a perfect combination of protein, veggies, and nutrients.
- Place your coconut oil in your pan.
- Cut up Chicken and pan fry.
- Place rice into a separate pan and boil.
- Mix Rice and Veggies of your choosing into your mixture.
- Stir until mixed.
- Add your powdered nutritional supplements.
Recipe from: House That Barks
Peanut Butter Pumpkin Treat
Are you in the baking mood? We have you covered. Not only is this treat full of fibers, but pumpkin has excellent properties that can help with your Labrador’s digestive issues. Dogs love these flavors and they are healthy for your pup.
Total: Makes approx. 24 treats
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, and cinnamon.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, and peanut butter until combined. Stir wet ingredients into dry.
- Pour onto a floured surface and roll the dough out to 1/2″ thick. Cut out using a cookie cutter.
- The dough will be a little sticky, add a dusting of flour to your hands and the rolling pin to help. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until beige brown.
- Place on cooling racks and let cool thoroughly. They will harden as they cool.
Nutritional Info (per 1 biscuit serving):
Recipe from: My Baking Addiction
For even more Labrador Retriever food recipes and cooking options, check out Home Cooking for Your Dog: 75 Holistic Recipes for a Healthier Dog.
Best Homemade Dog Food Cooking Practices
If you want to properly learn how to make homemade dog food for your Labrador Retriever, follow these general guidelines
Monitor Weight And Health
To make sure the food you’re introducing has the desired impact, you need to monitor your Lab’s health and weight for changes over time.
Remember, not preparing a balanced meal individualized to your dog’s needs can come at a cost. Nutrition deficiency (or excess) can lead to diseases, such as malnutrition or obesity, and are ultimately fatal.
Work alongside your vet to ensure the diet maintains nutritional adequacy.
What Foods Should Your Labrador Never Eat?
Be sure to avoid all these ingredients when feeding your Labs.
Check out this handy list for a comprehensive list of all foods to avoid. Please print it out and put it on your refrigerator as a reminder.
Labrador Retriever Raw Diet (BARF)
Raw dog food is meant to mimic dogs’ diet in the wild millions of years ago. Raw dog foods, organs, muscles, whole or ground bones, fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are usually included. Several raw dog foods are available, including homemade raw dog food and store-bought (frozen, freeze-dried, and dehydrated).
Feeding a raw dog diet to your Labs requires considerable effort as the risk of contamination and nutritional imbalance is higher in raw ingredients.
Raw dog diets are gaining popularity because of their health benefits for teeth, coats, digestion, allergies, and more. Check out our raw dog food diet article if you are interested in learning more about the benefits and risks, and get the best commercial raw food diet for your Lab.
Should You Make Homemade Food For Labradors? Alternatives
When cooking for your Lab, ensure all ingredients are safe and their meals meet the nutritional requirements.
And remember that switching yourLabradors’’ food to homemade from kibble is a slow process, so patience is vital. Factors like your Labrador’s eating history, weight, and overall health should be considered before giving homemade food to your pet.
If your Lab has food allergies or a sensitive tummy, consider looking into vegan dog food. Evidence shows dogs can thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Read up on the benefits of dog veganism and some vegan dog food brands to keep your Lab happy and healthy.