As large dogs, 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 colours 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 per cent protein at each feeding.
Add good fats to each meal. Your Labrador needs approximately 5 per cent 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 240 ml (1 cup) cooked poultry with no bones, 120 ml (½ cup) steamed vegetables, 120 ml (½ cup) prepared brown rice and several tablespoons of no-sodium broth. If you want to cook one meal from scratch, gather 160 ml (2/3 cup) cubed uncooked meat, 180 ml (¾ cup) raw sweet potato or carrot, ¾ cup instant brown rice and 240 ml (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 yoghurt 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.
Consider the drawbacks of a homemade diet. Meals must be balanced properly to provide optimal nutrition for your Labrador. Fresh foods must be stored carefully. Non-kibble diets also can be too soft for a Lab's teeth and gum health. With these points in mind, consult your vet about a combination diet of some high-quality kibble and fresh foods.
Avoid seasonings such as salt, and never add onion to your Labrador's food, as it can be toxic for dogs. Garlic, which contains natural antibacterial properties, can be added in moderation, but consult your veterinarian first before feeding any garlic to a Lab. Other foods to avoid include raisins and grapes.