Labs are one of the most popular breeds in the U.S., and for good reason: they’re lovable, family-friendly, and loyal.
While it’s all too easy to let them run free and feed them whatever scraps you have lying around, it’s important to remember that like all dogs, they require a balanced diet to stay healthy.
Most foods that are appropriate for humans, like fruits, vegetables, and grains, are also fine for Labs. The difference is in how much of each you feed them.
There are no specific food guidelines set for Labs, but they do require a large number of calories to stay active, so keeping track of how much they are eating is important.
Why Do My Labradors Eat So Much?
A recent study from Cambridge University found that a gene mutation common in the breed may be partially responsible for their bottomless pit stomach.
In the study, researchers studied 310 Labrador retrievers and found that many were missing part or all of the POMC genes, which regulates appetite in some species (including humans.) Without it, Labrador retrievers can’t register that they’re full.
The result? Overweight pups, not to mention some scary trips to the vet when you realize they’ve snacked on a stuffed animal. While labs will likely always love to eat, there are a few ways to help regulate their appetite.
Michael Petty, DVM, author of Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs, shares his top tips to satisfy their insatiable hunger.
Why Do My Labs Eat Everything?
Why do Labs eat everything? It’s well known that most Labs love their food, but most people don’t realize that Labradors are willing to eat just about anything and everything they get their paws on.
Excessive eating can be caused by hunger, nutritional deficiencies, illness, boredom, and more.
It can become a problem when your Lab eats something harmful, or when it’s a sign of a deeper health issue.
So, let’s take a look at the main reasons why Labs eat everything and what solutions are available to you.
My Dog Eats Anything and Everything!
Domestic dogs, including the Labrador, are classed as omnivores. So, they can eat and get nutrients from a large variety of foods, including meat and plant-based foods.
Dogs are also often opportunistic eaters, meaning they’ll eat what they can, whenever they can!
Labs are known to eat lots and quickly. But, this doesn’t just mean their own food.
Many Labradors will eat anything they’re given. And, some might even eat things they shouldn’t, like sneaking food from your counters and the trash.
They may also eat things they shouldn’t, like household items, toys, socks, stones, poop, and dead things they find on walks.
So, eating everything can become a problem. And to find a solution, we need to understand the cause of the problem.
Why Do Labs Eat Everything?
There are a number of reasons that can explain why Labs like to eat so much. It’s best to consider all of them when you’re trying to figure out which one applies to your dog.
Some are more serious than others.
- They are hungry.
- Their current food doesn’t offer a complete balance of nutrients.
- They’re sick.
- It’s a genetic thing.
- They’re bored.
- They’re stressed or anxious.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons first, and then think about the best ways to solve the problem of a Lab that eats everything.
Labrador - They Are Hungry!
One of the most obvious reasons that your Lab might seem to constantly want more food is because they’re hungry!
If your Lab isn’t getting enough to eat at his regular meals, he may try to find food elsewhere.
He might eat things he shouldn’t, that are bad for him, or he might simply surf the counters in your kitchen to find tasty snacks there.
If you can feel but not see your Lab’s ribs, they’re usually a healthy weight. But, it’s a good idea to check with your vet if you’re worried that your dog is underweight.
They may advise that you increase the amount of food you’re giving your dog at mealtimes.
How to Stop My Labrador Eating Everything?
It’s important that you find the reason why your Lab is trying to eat everything in your house, before trying to deal with the problem.
This is because eating excessively can be a sign of a deeper, underlying health issue.
It’s not a good idea to just leave the issue alone. Obesity is an increasing problem amongst pets over the world. And, it can lead to further health issues down the line.
Try to identify when your dog started trying to eat everything. Did it happen suddenly, or has it always been this way?
Once you know this, speak to your vet. They’ll likely want to check your dog for any common health issues like hypothyroidism.
Make sure your dog is eating a healthy amount at mealtimes, and getting a completely balanced food. They must be getting all nutrients required.
Most of the causes above can be dealt with easily. If your dog is hungry or not receiving the proper nutrients, you can change the type or amount of food they eat at mealtimes.
If they’re bored, you can take steps to fill their days with entertainment. And, if they’re stressed, you can speak to your vet to find healthy solutions.
My Lab Eats Things It Shouldn’t
Sometimes, the problem of Labs eating everything extends to non-food items. This can be problematic and dangerous for our dogs.
Some will eat their own, or other animals’, poop. Others will eat sticks, stones, and plants that they find in your yard.
Some labs may dig through your trash can for smelly treats, or eat old food they find on walks. And some may even try to snack on dead things they find when you’re outside.
This is problematic for obvious reasons. There’s no telling what your dog is ingesting when they eat something from the street. Old food can be moldy, and dead things can carry any number of diseases.
This is a sure-fire path to a very sick Lab.
There are a few ways that you can go about dealing with a Lab that eats things he shouldn’t.
6 Tips To Prevent Labrador Overeating
1. Talk To Your Vet
Does your pup dive-bomb for food on the street? Does she beg for her dinner seconds after she’s already eaten?
If so, there may be an underlying medical issue. “Labs, in particular, are more prone to hypothyroidism, which can both make them gain weight and make them hungry,” explains Petty.
Medication can help; but talking to your vet about your pup’s raging appetite during a well visit is worth the conversation, regardless of breed.
2. Fill Up With Fiber
A fiber-rich diet, with minimal additives or preservatives, can help your lab feel fuller, longer. If your pup’s weight falls within the normal range, Petty advises pet parents to add canned pumpkin—a few tablespoons mixed in with his regular meal—to his diet. “Pups like it because they have more to eat, and the fiber helps fill them up,” explains Petty.
3. Pull Out The Puzzle Ball
If your Lab gobbles up food (likely) consider using a puzzle or game-type feeding ball, which can play into their need for mental stimulation.
Part of the reason they love seeking out food is their retriever background bred to find food, for labs, part of the fun of eating is all in the hunt, says Petty. A feeding game gives them the same rush, but slows them down so they don’t get indigestion.
4. Make a No-Snack Policy
Easier said than done, but Petty says that one of the best ways to clamp down on a lab’s insatiable appetite is to make it clear when the kitchen is closed. If your pup is fed at a regular time each day, in the same dish, and isn’t given snacks, treats, or table food outside these times, they’ll gradually adapt and stop begging and searching for snacks.
5. Create a “Diet Zone”
Do you know how tough it is to concentrate at work when a colleague puts a plate of fresh donuts inches in front of you? The same applies to dogs.
Being mindful of your dog’s environment, keeping them out of the kitchen as much as possible while you’re cooking, and avoiding putting food at their eye level. When they see it’s not there, it’ll (eventually) stop being on the top of their mind, says Petty.
6. Get Active
Again, for many labs and other hunting and retrieving pups, part of the appeal of an illicit snack is the thrill of the chase. Making sure your pup has plenty of time to engage in dynamic play, whether it’s fetch or playing with other dogs, will help keep his mind off food.
Plus, your pup may be coming to you with those begging eyes not because he’s hungry, but because he’s looking for attention. Once he realizes he’s getting a ball instead of a treat, it’s still a win-win in his eyes.
Overweight Lab - Dealing With It
Having a Lab that eats everything can easily lead to an overweight Lab.
If you struggle to feel your Labrador’s ribs, they may be overweight. It’s important to speak to your vet if you’re concerned that your Lab is overweight or obese.
They can help you find a healthy diet plan for your dog, and guide you on the right amount of exercise to slowly help your dog return to a normal weight.
You can find out more about how to help a fat Labrador here, if you’re dealing with this problem.
What Food Can Labradors Eat?
Have you ever wondered what food can labradors eat? Well, if you are feeding a high-quality dry dog food, then your dog does not need anything else. On the other hand, sometimes you might want to give a special treat or not have your dry dog food with you. It those times it is good to know what is safe and what is not.
If you have made the commitment to raising a dog, you have likely wondered what people food is okay for your four-legged little buddy. The fact that you ended up on this page is even more evidence that you are interested in what extra snacks won’t result in a canine tummy ache.
Apples are a great treat for your retriever. But you do have to be careful. You can’t just hand your dog a full apple.
While apples have lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the seeds contain cyanide. In large amounts, cyanide is poisonous.
There are old wives ’ tales about the benefits of bananas. Some people speculate that mashed bananas help cure a doggy tummy ache. This is never been proven, so take it for what it is worth.
On the other hand, there are some things that we can say for sure. Bananas have a considerable amount of fiber. Fiber to a point can help your retriever’s digestive system. Too much fiber, however, can be a problem for your dog. Excessive amounts of fiber will actually cause constipation in dogs.
Labradors can eat these delicious fruits either fresh or frozen. They are full of vitamins and antioxidants. They have a lot of fiber, so make sure that you don’t overdo it. Too much fiber can cause a problem with your dog’s digestive tract.
These are an excellent choice for a doggy treat. Unlike the apples or watermelons, there is no special preparation required with these treats. Just give a handful to your hunting buddy.
In addition to serious amounts of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, blueberries are also low in calories. This makes them an excellent treat for your Labrador or Golden Retriever.
This is a tricky one. Check out this article to see how to judge if a bone is safe for your Labrador.
Dogs can eat carrots cooked or raw. It is a good idea to cut them up into small pieces to avoid choking issues. Like the blueberries, they are very low in calories.
Like most nuts, cashews are high in fat and in calories. If you must give them to your dog, make sure that you limit them. Labradors have a tendency to get chunky, and cashews can compound that problem if you are not careful.
This vegetable is low in calories but still has several vitamins and minerals that help a dog. You should definitely cut the stalks into bite-size pieces to avoid a choking hazard. Cutting them up will also help your retriever digest it.
Cheese is high in fat and calories but is usually okay in small amounts from time to time. Not all cheeses are created equal, however, and you should know which ones to avoid and which ones make for good training incentives if need be.
This weird, hairy little fruit is actually known to give dogs a boost to their immune system to help them fight off viruses.
People have also used it to help with the doggy-halitosis (bad breath) and some skin irritations like flea allergies and hot spots.
Coconut milk and oil are also good for your dog. Be aware, however, that these have a lot of calories. This is always a concern when you are dealing with Labradors.
Corn is one of the most common “fillers” in cheaper dog foods. This means that it is okay for your dog to eat. On the other hand, corn has only a few nutrient benefits for your dog.
There are some vitamins and minerals in corn, however, you should never let your dog eat the cob. The cob can be a choking hazard. Even worse, cob pieces can cause intestinal obstructions.
There are so many other foods that you can feed your dog, I suggest that you avoid corn altogether. I included it on this list so that you would know that your dog will not get sick if he gets some corn off your plate. Just make sure he stays away from the cob.
Raw eggs are not so good for your pup. If eggs are not cooked, they can give your dog salmonella poisoning and make him really sick.
Cooked eggs, on the other hand, are really good for your dog. They have lots of protein as well. This should help to maintain your dog’s muscle mass.
Fish is good for your dog, but there is some extra prep that you need to go through to remove all of the little bones. Unless you are using sardines. Sardines are great because their soft bones actually dissolve in your dog’s stomach and give an increased amount of calcium.
Also, you should fully cook all fish before feeding it to your Lab. Uncooked fish can give your dog a parasite that can be fatal.
So, if you are going to give your retriever fish, ALWAYS cook it first and let it cool.
Some people believe that a little bit of honey can actually help if your dog struggles with allergies. The theory holds that this natural sweetener gives your dog’s immune system a boost because of the pollen it contains.
In addition to an allergy cure (maybe or maybe not), it does contain a ton of nutrients including vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants.
Honey can also be used as a topical treatment for burns and minor, superficial cuts.
Like some of the other fruits mentioned, lemons require a little preparation. The outer peelings of lemons contain a substance called psoralen. Too much psoralen can cause symptoms such as muscle tremors, difficulty walking, liver failure, and death.
The actual fruit of the lemons, however, is fine for dogs to consume.
Plain mushrooms that have not been prepared with other seasonings such as garlic or onions. These extra seasons can really cause problems for your dog’s health. Some wild mushrooms can hurt your dog. So make sure that you are only feeding your Labrador store-bought mushrooms.
Lady likes oranges, but it took me a while to get her to try them. At first, she just ignored them. Oranges are perfectly safe for your dog. In fact, they are filled with liquid and make them a great treat for keeping your dog hydrated.
Like lemons (and limes), the peelings are toxic and dangerous if your dog eats them.
Many dogs love peaches. There is nothing wrong with the flesh of the fruit, but you should not let your retriever eat the pit or the seed. It is can be a serious choking risk for your dog.
Peanut butter is a great treat for your dog. You need to limit how much you give him. Peanut butter has a lot of calories, but the fat in this little treat is the heart-healthy kind. It also has Vitamins B and E.
Raw, unsalted peanut butter is your best choice because it does not contain xylitol. Xylitol is a substitute for sugar and excessive amounts can be toxic to dogs.
Unlike other nuts, peanuts are a good snack for Labradors. Like peanut butter (for obvious reasons), peanuts have loads of heart-healthy fats. It is best to avoid salted peanuts to help keep your dog’s sodium intake to a minimum.
Also, extra levels of fat can cause pancreas problems down the road.
Popcorn is fine for dogs to eat.
Air-popped corn is probably the best for your dog. Anything you do in the microwave will have other added ingredients like butter and oil. These have excess fats and calories that you should help your dog avoid.
You need to make sure that all of the kernels get popped so that your dog does not end up choking on its snack.
Pork is fine for your dog as long as it is completely cooked and is not seasoned. Several of the most common seasonings, like garlic and onion powder, are very toxic to dogs.
You should avoid processed pork like bacon and ham. The sodium levels in these processed meats are dangerously high for dogs.
If your dog eats cooked potatoes, he will be fine. Because of potatoes have a lot of carbs, they will lead to your dog gaining weight. So, this is another food that is on the list because your dog won’t die if he eats it, not because I think that it is something you should feed your dog.
This is one of the ingredients of some high-quality dog foods. This nutrient dense food is a great substitute for corn, wheat, and other starches.
This is another common ingredient in dry dog food. Dogs can eat rice plain or cooked; brown or white. They digest rice very easily and rice is rumored to calm upset stomachs.
You can give it to them plain, or add some cooked chicken or turkey for a protein boost at the end of a hunt test.
Shrimp is one of those foods that your dog can eat, if you are willing to put in a little extra prep. Before you give your dog shrimp, you need to remove the tail, legs, shell, and it has to be completely cooked because raw shrimp can make your dog sick.
Once you have cooked the shrimp and removed the shell, tail, and legs, it is a great, protein-rich treat that your dog will probably love.
These are great treats because they are low calorie but high in nutrients. If you have large strawberries, then it is best if you cut them up to avoid a choking incident.
I would avoid giving your dog a lot of canned tuna because it has sodium and mercury in it. Both of which, at high levels, can be toxic to dogs. Every now and then is probably not a problem, but avoid doing it on a regular basis.
Cooked tuna is a great treat for your dog that provides omega-3 fatty acids which are good for your Labrador’s heart. Make sure, if you are preparing tuna for your dog, that you do not add any spices. Many of the spices we cook with will make your dog sick.
Turkey is another food Labradors can eat—with conditions.
For example, make sure it is not covered in garlic or other seasonings. You should also remove as much fat and skin from the meat as you can.
Don’t give your retriever turkey bones. Poultry bones are more likely to splinter and block or tear the intestines.