Lab puppies need extra food to support growth, along with their increasing urges to swim, hunt, run and retrieve. Add the cold weather and you've got a very hungry puppy with increased calorie needs. Lab parents can help their furkids rise to the challenge with extra food in the winter.
Needs Rise as Temperature Drops
Even labs, who originated in chilly Newfoundland, need extra calories when the temperature drops, especially if they're spending any time outdoors. For puppies, the need increases dramatically, as cold weather and growth both require extra calories. Needs pick up around 40 degrees. At that temp, he'll need about 10 percent more calories than usual. Requirements increase about 10 percent for each 10 degrees, so when it's 20 degrees out, for example, he'll need 30 percent more calories than normal.
A full grown lab of 65 pounds needs around 1500 calories daily. Until then, his calorie requirements are higher. When he's half his full weight, he'll need about 1.5 times his adulthood calories, or 2,250 calories. Add the cold weather requirements, and he'll need more like 2,700 calories. When he's 75 percent full grown, he'll need about 1.25 times the norm, or about 1,900 calories. The cold-related bonus foods increase that to about 2,300 calories per day.
At least half of the diet should be meat-for pups, at least 60 percent. Choose known, quality animal sources, and continue throughout life. Vegetables follow, along with smaller amounts of fruits. Add oils to fight inflammation, since hip and elbow dysplasia are common risks for labs later in life. Back in Newfoundland, labs dined on fish, caribou, fish and whale fats. Today's version can include poultry, fish, and healthy oils. If feeding commercial, check labels and research brands for quality.
Monitoring Your Pup Throughout the Year
As you watch your black, chocolate or yellow furkid frolic against a white snow backdrop, continue to monitor his weight and tweak his portions as needed. Obesity is common in labs, so If he's getting a little chubby, you might back off a bit. During this growing season, and cold season, regular weight checks and trips to the vet will help ensure that your little lab will grow up into a strong, healthy adult.
- Pet MD: Labrador Dog Breed Info
- Moore, Arden: Real Food for Dogs
Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.