If you’ve found yourself reading this article, the likelihood is that you either already own a Labrador and might be concerned about its weight, or you’re thinking of getting a Labrador and want to make sure you know what you’re doing. Either way, you’ve come to the right place for answers so keep reading!
Overfeeding your Labrador can literally be a death sentence; Not to scare anyone but obesity is rife amidst the breed so it’s important to know how much to feed your lab, and how much food is too much.
This article will tackle not only the correct volume of food you should give your lab, but also the reasons why this is so important and techniques for helping your pooch to lose a few pounds if they are on the chubbier side of the spectrum.
On that note, it probably makes the most sense to start with the reasons why it’s so important not to overfeed your Labrador. Let’s get into it!
A Labrador’s Greedy Tendencies
Whilst Labradors have innumerable desirable traits (just ask anyone who owns or has ever owned a lab, they’ll tell you how amazing Labradors are), one not-so-fortunate trait is their notorious greed when it comes to food. It matters very little what the food is or how much there is of it, if you put it in front of a lab, there’s an excellent chance it’ll be gone within a few minutes!
There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on why Labradors are as intensely food-motivated as they are, but the lack of reasoning doesn’t make it any less true.
Because Labradors eat like there’s no tomorrow, they have a predisposition to putting on weight very quickly and easily which can lead to obesity in severe cases as well as other health problems. This is something you need to help your lab avoid, and you can do this by ensuring they only consume the food they need.
Nailing Down Good Food Habits
Like humans, all dogs are different and even within the Labrador breed, there will be some variation. What suits one lab might not be exactly right for the next one so it’s vital that you get to know your own dog well.
Knowing your dog will help you to pin down exactly what they need, as well as the best way to ensure they get it. When it comes to food, knowing your Labrador’s eating habits and schedule can make a world of difference.
To make the task of keeping your Labrador at a healthy weight easier, there are a couple of different strategies you can employ:
- Commit to feeding your lab at set times – this will give your dog a sense of routine as well as enforce the idea that they won’t be getting additional food outside of set feeding times. This is perhaps the most important way to establish good eating habits.
- Only feed your Labrador in one location – having a dedicated “dinner location” will help your lab know what to expect, as well as remove the expectation of coming across food elsewhere.
- Try a slow feeder bowl – the design of slow feeder bowls makes it more difficult for your dog to reach all their food at once, making them work a bit harder to finish their meal and slowing down their eating.
- Be consistent and start young – set boundaries when your lab is still young so that they’re trained to understand what’s acceptable from the beginning. Keeping consistent with what you do will eliminate confusion for your Labrador too, supporting their success.
These simple techniques are more effective than you might imagine so if your current feeding routine is a bit too casual, why not give them a try?
How Much Food Does My Labrador Need?
As stated above, not all Labradors will need the exact same amount of food. But once you’ve built up a relationship with your dog and trialled different feeding techniques, you should have a better understanding of what your lab personally needs.
As a general rule, you can use the following suggestions as a guide:
- Labrador between 20 and 25kg – between 2.5 and 3 cups per day
- Labrador around 30kg – between 3 and 4 cups per day
- Labrador between 35 and 40kg – between 4 and 4.5 cups per day
- Labrador around 45kg – between 4.5 and 4.75 cups per day
- Labradors of 50kg+ – between 4.75 and 5.25 cups per day
If these numbers seem overwhelming, don’t panic! All good dog food brands will have feeding charts on their packaging and websites for you to refer to.
Another factor to consider which ties into how labs differ from one to the other, is level of activity. Whilst all Labradors crave, need, and thrive on exercise, it goes without saying that some will be more active than others. How active your lab is will determine how much energy they burn and subsequently how much food they’ll need to replenish themselves.
An adolescent Labrador that goes jogging with their owner several times per day will require more food than a 10-year old lab that spends more time snoozing on the sofa.
If you feel like your dog seems hungry all the time, or you start to notice them looking a little stockier than usual, a call to your vet should be all that’s necessary to put your mind at ease.
Why is My Labrador Always Hungry?
If you notice that your lab seems hungrier than usual and you’re certain that their gobbling isn’t just down to greediness, there are several reasons why this could be:
- Intestinal worms – dogs are prone to getting worms from time to time, particularly if they haven’t had a de-worming treatment in a while, and intestinal worms can feed on nutrients before your dog has the time to properly digest and assimilate them.
- Anxiety or stress – if you’ve recently moved house, or otherwise changed routine, your lab might be feeling anxious and unsettled. Eating excessively could be a stress response, similar to comfort eating in humans.
- Diabetes – whilst common across all dog breeds, Labradors have a higher-than-average incidence of diabetes. This condition causes the lab to be unable to regulate their own metabolism, leading to increased hunger.
Another possibility could be an evolutionary quirk dating back to the first domestication of wolves. Sounds crazy, I know! But many scientists believe that dogs have the ability to fake hunger in order to garner sympathy from humans and ultimately obtain more food. A less delicate way of putting this is what we more commonly know as “begging”, a very common behaviour in Labradors.
How to Know Your Labrador is Getting a Little Chunky
It’s vital that excessive weight gain in Labradors is nipped in the bud before it has the chance to develop into something more serious. If you’re concerned about your dog’s weight, then once again, the best thing to do is to make an appointment with your vet.
Before doing that though, it might be worth making sure your dog is actually becoming overweight. To tell if the extra pounds are over the threshold or not, these are the signs you should look for:
- An overweight Labrador’s belly will run in a straight line from their front legs to their back legs, or more severely, might slope downwards towards their back legs. A healthy lab’s belly will slope upwards from front legs to back legs.
- An overweight Labrador won’t have an easily discernible “waist” whereas a healthy lab’s body will dip inwards just in front of the hips.
- If you run your fingers over your Labrador’s ribs, you should be able to just feel their outline. You won’t be able to feel them if your Labrador is overweight.
You might also notice that your dog gets tired more quickly and takes longer to recover from exercise. They might also show less enthusiasm for games and exercise, although this probably won’t be overly obvious as all Labradors love a game!
Shedding the Pounds
If your Labrador’s weight is becoming an issue, your vet will likely recommend some techniques to help them lose weight, or suggest a diet dog food. Some common ways to help your lab shed those extra pounds include:
- Cut out snacks and treats – if you like to give your lab a lot of treats and titbits between meals, you could be killing them with kindness. Cutting these additional fillers out of your dog’s diet can help to boost their metabolism and shift the weight.
- Exercise more – this one goes without saying but if your lab is becoming sluggish or lazy, try increasing their exercise to get their fitness up. This will also improve their demeanour and general health, as well as provide more bonding opportunities.
- Smaller portion sizes – try reducing your lab’s portion sizes at mealtimes. Cutting back a little on how much food you give them won’t cause them to go hungry, but it might be just the thing necessary to keep the weight gain at bay.
Healthy Weight = Longer Life
It really is as simple as that. Keeping your Labrador at a healthy weight will ensure they have the best quality of life as well as the longest life they can. Obesity can lead to so many additional issues and it’s really not fair for any dog to have to go through that.
As responsible pet owners, it is up to us to ensure we give our dogs high quality food and the correct amount of it. And the accountability doesn’t just stop with food. Exercise, sleep, and positive reinforcement all go hand in hand when considering your Labrador’s health, and you need to make sure you’re doing everything in your power to support your dog.
If your Labrador gains a bit of extra weight, it’s not automatically the end of the world; you just need to be able to identify and address it as soon as possible. Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll feel better equipped to do just that!
For advice on puppy feeding, click here.