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Feeding of Labrador Retriever – commercial dog foods and homemade diets

1. Don’t feed your Labrador Retriever chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, or any highly spiced, greasy, or salty foods. The first five can be toxic, and spicy or junk foods can lead to an upset stomach.
2. Don’t believe all the dog food advertising you see and hear. Keep in mind that advertising has one goal: to get you to buy that product.
3. If you change foods for any reason, don’t do it all at once. Mix the foods so the dog has 25 percent new food and 75 percent old food for a week. Then feed half and half for a week. Finally, offer 75 percent new food and 25 percent old food for a week. This will decrease the chances of an upset stomach.
4. Nutritional changes are slow, so don’t keep switching every few weeks. Feed the new food for at least six to eight weeks before evaluating the results and making any other changes.
5. Don’t feed your Labrador Retriever from the table. This will lead to begging and even stealing.
6. Be careful about giving your Lab any bones, except raw beef knuckle¬bones. Labs have powerful jaws and could crack, splinter, and swallow smaller bones, which can cause choking and damage the gastrointestinal system.
7. When traveling, don’t assume your dog will be fine drinking the local tap water. On a trip, bring food and water from home to limit any digestive upsets.

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Labrador Retriever - Homemade DietsDog owners who feed homemade diets usually do so because they are concerned about the quality of commercially available foods. Some owners do not want their dogs eating the additives or preservatives that are in many commercial dog foods. Others cook their dogs’ food so they can control exactly what their dogs eat. Many, many people began making homemade diets for their dogs during and after the pet food recalls of 2008.
There are many resources now available to dog owners who wish to feed a homemade diet. Just make sure the diet is complete and contains all the nutri¬ents your dog needs, and keep a line of communication open with your veteri¬narian so they can monitor your dog’s continued good health.

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Labrador Retriever - Commercial Dog FoodsDog food sales in the US are a huge business with tremendous com¬petition among manufacturers. Dog owners should understand that, as a big business, these companies’ goals include making a profit. Although advertising may show a dog and owner in a warm and fuzzy, heart-tugging moment, the nutrition your dog might get from the food being advertised has nothing to do with that heart-tugging moment. It’s all about getting you to buy the food.
Dog owners must be wise consumers, and we cannot let the pet food recall of 2008 fade into memory. Read the dog food labels, check out the manufacturers’ Web sites, check the recall lists, and talk to dog food experts, including your vet¬erinarian if they have a background in nutrition.
A good-quality food is necessary for your Labrador Retrievers health. Dog foods vary in quality, from the very good to the terrible. To make sure you are using a high-quality food, read the labels on the packages. Make sure the food offers the levels of protein, carbohydrates, and fats recom¬mended earlier in this chapter.
Read the list of ingredients, too. If one of the first ingredients listed is by-prod¬ucts, be leery of the food. By-products are the parts of slaughtered animals that are not muscle meat—lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, bone, fatty tissue, stomach, and intestines. Dog food manufacturers can meet protein requirements by including by-products, but they are inferior forms of protein that do not metab¬olize as completely in the dog’s body.
Labrador Retrievers do well on a dog food that uses a muscle meat as the first ingredient. Muscle meats are listed on the label simply as beef, chicken, fish, and so on. Steer away from foods with a lot of soy or soy products, as these are thought to contribute to stomach gas, which can lead to bloat
Many Labrador Retrievers have sensitivity to the grains used in many com¬mercial dog foods. Cereal grains, such as rice, wheat, corn, and barley, are used in commercial dog foods because they are inexpensive. However, many dogs, including many Labrador Retriever puppies, will develop a behavior problem when eating these foods. Cereal grains have a high glycemic index—they raise the dog’s blood sugar. Sensitive dogs will then become fidgety, wiggly, and have a hard time concentrating and learn¬ing. These Labs would do better eating a food with carbohydrates from potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, or bananas, because these foods help maintain a stable blood sugar level with no spikes or valleys, and   these   foods   are   more   easily
digested.

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Labrador Retriever - Nutritional Building BlocksNutrition is a constantly ongoing process that starts at conception and ends only with death. Everything that is consumed becomes part of the dog’s daily nutri¬tion, whether it’s good for her or not. What the dog eats, the food’s actual digestibility, and how the dog’s body uses that food can all affect the actual nutrition gained by eating.
Although a dog can eat many things, including a lot of materials that may not be good for her, there are some substances she must eat regularly to keep her healthy. These can be a part of the commercial dog food you feed her, part of a homemade diet, or in the supplements added to her food.

Protein

Proteins are a varied group of biological compounds that affect many different functions in your Labrador Retriever’s body, including the immune system, cell structure, and growth. As omnivores (dogs eat meat as well as some plant mate¬rials), dogs can digest protein from several sources. The most common are meats, grains, dairy products, and legumes. Recommendations vary as to how much of the dog’s diet should be protein, but in general, most nutritionists agree that a diet that contains between 20 to 40 percent quality protein is good for a dog.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, like proteins, have many functions in the dog’s body, including serving as structural components of cells. However, the most important function is as an energy source. Carbohydrates can be obtained from many sources, includ¬ing tubers (such as potatoes and sweet potatoes), plants (such as greens like broccoli and collard greens), and cere¬als. However, dogs do not have the necessary digestive enzymes to ade¬quately digest all cereal grains. Therefore, the better sources of car¬bohydrates are tubers and noncitrus fruits, such as apples and bananas. Most experts recommend that a dog’s diet contain from 20 to 40 percent carbohydrates of the right kind.

Reading Dog Food Labels
Dog food labels are not always easy to read, but if you know what to look for they can tell you a lot about what your dog is eating.
– The label should have a statement saying the dog food meets or exceeds the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines. If the dog food doesn’t meet AAFCO guidelines, it can’t be considered complete and balanced, and can cause nutritional deficiencies.
– The guaranteed analysis lists the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and water. AAFCO requires a minimum of 18 percent crude protein for adult dogs and 22 percent crude protein for puppies on a dry matter basis (that means with the water removed; canned foods have less protein because they have more water). Dog food must also have a minimum of 5 percent crude fat for adults and 8 percent crude fat for puppies.
– The ingredients list the most common item in the food first, and so on until you get to the least common item, which is listed last.
– Look for a dog food that lists an animal protein source first, such as chicken or poultry meat, and that has other protein sources listed among the top five ingredients. That’s because a food that lists chicken, wheat, wheat gluten, corn, and wheat fiber as the first five ingredients has more chicken than wheat, but may not have more chicken than all the grain products put together.
– Other ingredients may include a digestible carbohydrate source (such as sweet potatoes or squash), fat, vitamins and minerals, preserva¬tives, fiber, and sometimes other additives purported to be healthy.
– Some grocery store or generic brands may add artificial colors, sugar, and fillers—all of which should be avoided.

Fat

Fats have many uses in the body. They are the most important way the body stores energy. Fats also make up some of the structural elements of cells and are vital to the absorption of several vitamins. Certain fats are also beneficial in keeping the skin and coat healthy. Fats in dog foods are found primarily in meat and dairy products. Recommended levels are from 10 to 20 percent.

Vitamins

Vitamins are vital elements necessary for growth and the maintenance of life. There are two classes of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K.

Water-Soluble Vitamins
These are absorbed by the body during digestion using the water found in the dog’s food. Although it’s usually a good idea to allow the dog to drink water whenever she’s thirsty, additional water is not needed for digestion of these vita¬mins, because the water in the dog’s body is sufficient as long as the dog is not dehydrated. Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted from the body in the urine; so it’s difficult to oversupplement these vitamins—although too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea. abrador Retriever - Nutritional Building Blocks information
The B vitamins serve a number of functions, including the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids. The B vitamins are very involved in many bio¬chemical processes, and deficiencies can show up as weight loss, slow growth, dry and flaky skin, or anemia, depending upon the specific deficiency. The B vitamins can be obtained from meat and dairy products, beans, and eggs.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and, at the same time, a controversial vitamin. Some respected sources state that it is not a required dietary supple¬ment for dogs, yet others regard C as a miracle vitamin. Some feel it can help prevent hip dysplasia and other potential problems, but these claims have not been proven. Dogs can produce a certain amount of vita¬min C in their bodies, but this amount is often not sufficient, espe¬cially if the dog is under stress from work, injury, or illness.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins
These vitamins require some fats in the dog’s diet for adequate absorption. Fats are in the meat in your dog’s diet and are added to commercial dog foods. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat. Excess vitamins of this type can cause problems, including toxicity. These vitamins should be added to the diet with care.
Vitamin A deficiencies show up as slow or retarded growth, reproductive failure, and skin and vision problems. Green and yellow vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin A, as are carrots, fish oils, and animal livers. The vegetables should be lightly cooked so the dog can digest them.
Vitamin D is needed for the cor¬rect absorption of calcium and phos¬phorus, and is necessary for the growth and development of bones and teeth and for muscle strength. Many dogs will produce a certain
amount of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight; however, often that is not enough
and supplementation is needed. Balanced dog foods will generally have vitamin D
in sufficient quantities.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that also works with several enzymes in the body. It has been shown to be effective in maintaining heart health and the immune system. It is also vital to other bodily systems, including the blood, nerves, muscles, and skin.
Vitamin K is needed for the proper clotting of blood. It is also important for healthy bones. Vitamin K is produced in the intestinal tract and normally sup¬plementation is not needed. However, if the dog is having digestion problems or is on antibiotics, supplementation may be required. Vitamin K can be found in dark green vegetables, including kale and spinach. These should be lightly cooked before feeding them to your dog.

Minerals

Minerals, like vitamins, are necessary for life and physical well-being. Minerals can affect the body in many ways. A deficiency of calcium can lead to rickets, a deficiency of manganese can cause reproductive failure, and a zinc deficiency can lead to growth retardation and skin problems.
Many minerals are tied in with vitamins; in other words, a vitamin deficiency will also result in a mineral deficiency. For example, an adequate amount of vita¬min B ensures there is also an adequate amount of cobalt because cobalt, a mineral, is a constituent of B12.
Minerals are normally added to commercial dog foods. If you’re feeding a homemade diet, that can be supplemented with a vitamin and mineral tablet to make sure the dog has sufficient minerals.

Water

It may seem like common sense to say that your Labrador Retriever will need water, but the importance of water cannot be emphasized enough. Water makes up about 70 percent of a dog’s weight. Water facilitates the generation of energy, the transportation of nutrients, and the disposal of wastes. Water is in the blood¬stream, in the eyes, in the cerebrospinal fluid, and in the gastrointestinal tract. Water is vital to all of the body’s functions in some way.

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Feeding Your Labrador RetrieverSome dog owners like to fill a bowl of dog food and leave it out all day, letting the dog munch at will. Although it may be convenient, it is not a good idea for several reasons. First of all, the bowl of food may attract pests – even indoors. In addition, the food could become rancid.
When you are housetraining your puppy, free feeding makes it difficult to set up a routine. Your puppy will need to relieve herself after eating, and if she munches all day long, you won’t be able to tell when she should go outside.
Last, but certainly not least, your dog needs to know that you are the giver of the food, and how better for her to learn it than when you hand her a bowl twice a day? If the food is always available, you are not the one giving it; it’s always there—at least as far as your dog is concerned.

How Much?

Each and every Labrador Retriever needs a different amount of food. The dog’s individual body metabolism, activity rate, and lifestyle all affect her nutritional needs Most dog food manufacturers print a chart on the bag showing how much to feed your dog. It’s important to note that these are suggested guidelines. Labs are very efficient when digesting their food and tend to gain weight very easily. The amount of food listed on a bag of commercial food is often way too much for a Lab; the dog who eats that much will gain weight. Because Labs do tend to gain weight and obesity is a potential problem, watch your dog closely and measure her food. Don’t just fill a bowl and put it down; instead, measure the food by cups or scoops, and if the dog gains weight, cut back the amount you’re feeding.
A healthy, well-nourished dog will have bright eyes, an alert expres¬sion, a shiny coat, supple skin, and energy to work and play. Although the Lab has a stocky body, even they should have a waistline that is visible from the side and from above. She should have meat and muscle on the bones, but you should still be able to feel the dog’s ribs through the muscle. If the Lab has no waistline, you can’t feel her ribs, and the dog is moving slowly and runs out of energy, it’s time to see your veterinarian and find out if your dog is too heavy.

Mealtimes

Most experts recommend that puppies eat two to three times a day and adult dogs eat once or twice a day. Most dogs do very well with two meals, ten or twelve hours apart; so feed your dog after you eat breakfast and then again after you have dinner.
While you are eating, don’t feed your Labrador Retriever from the table or toss her scraps. This will cause her to beg from anyone at the table – a very bad habit. Don’t toss her leftovers as you are cooking, either. That can lead to begging and even stealing in the kitchen. Don’t forget that your Labrador Retriever will be tall enough to reach the kitchen counter when she’s grown up!

Snacks

An occasional dog biscuit or some training treats will not spoil your Lab’s appetite, but don’t get in the habit of offering treats just for the pleasure of it. Many American dogs are overweight, and obesity is a leading killer of dogs. When you do offer treats, offer either treats made specifically for dogs or something that is low in calories and nutritious, like a carrot. Don’t offer candy, cookies, leftover tacos, or anything like that. Your Labrador Retriever doesn’t need sugar, chocolate is deadly for dogs, and spicy foods can cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Play it safe and give your Lab good-quality, nutritious snacks – very sparingly.

Pet Food vs. People Food
Many of the foods we eat are excellent sources of nutrients— after all, we do just fine on them. But dogs, just like us, need the right combination of meat and other ingredients for a com¬plete and balanced diet, and simply giving the dog a bowl of meat doesn’t provide that. In the wild, dogs eat the fur, skin, bones, and guts of their prey, and sometimes even the contents of the stomach.
This doesn’t mean your dog can’t eat what you eat. If your dog is eating a commercial dog food, you can still give her a lit¬tle meat, dairy, bread, some fruits, or vegetables as a treat. Fresh foods have natural enzymes that processed foods don’t have. Just remember, we’re talking about the same food you eat, not the gristly, greasy leftovers you would normally toss in the trash. Stay away from sugar, too, and remember that choco¬late is toxic to dogs.
If you want to share your food with your dog, be sure the total amount you give her each day doesn’t make up more than 15 percent of her diet, and that the rest of what you feed her is a top-quality complete and balanced dog food. (More people food could upset the balance of nutrients in the commercial food.)
Can your dog eat an entirely homemade diet? Certainly, if you are willing to work at it. Any homemade diet will have to be care¬fully balanced, with all the right nutrients in just the right amounts. It requires a lot of research to make a proper homemade diet, but it can be done. It’s best to work with a veterinary nutritionist.

If your dog is in training and you are using training treats, use good ones – nutritious treats – and cut back on all other treats. Training treats can be tiny pieces of cooked meats such as chicken or beef; just dice the pieces very small and put them in a sandwich bag. You can even freeze them before use. These make much better training treats than high-calorie commercial treats.

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