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Home > Dogs > 10 Best Affordable Dog Foods for Labs in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

10 Best Affordable Dog Foods for Labs in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

labrador retriever eating dog food

Anyone who’s ever owned a Labrador Retriever knows that they like to eat…a lot. Labs are actually prone to obesity because they like to clean out their food bowl at every meal, so it’s important to feed this dog a high-protein diet that will make them fill up faster instead of loading them down with empty carbs. Foods specifically made for large breeds often fulfill this requirement, and so do some standard foods formulated for any breed. But, you still want the food you feed your Lab to be affordable, especially since they eat so much.

We’ve reviewed the ten best affordable foods for Labradors to prevent your dog from chewing up your budget. We know you’ll need that extra money anyway to replace your favorite pair of slippers, or treat your lab to a nice new bone, because at the end of the day they’re still your best friend.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Winners (2024)

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult
  • Inexpensive
  • Deboned chicken is the first ingredient
  • Contains prebiotic and probiotic fibers
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Adult Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Adult
  • Best value option
  • Highly positive reviews on Chewy
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach
  • Salmon is the first ingredient
  • Includes oatmeal as a heart-healthy whole grain
  • Contains prebiotic and probiotic fibers
  • Best for Puppies
    Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy
  • Deboned chicken is the first ingredient
  • Contains probiotics and prebiotic fibers
  • Oatmeal and brown rice are heart-healthy whole grains
  • Best Overall
    Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Adult Dry Food Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Adult Dry Food
  • Deboned turkey is the first ingredient, followed by several animal proteins
  • Oats and barley are beneficial grains
  • Features probiotics, prebiotics, and taurine
  • The 10 Best Affordable Dog Foods for Labs

    1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult – Best Overall

    Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

    Main ingredients: Deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal
    Protein content: 24% min.
    Fat content: 14% min.
    Calories: 3,618 kcal/kg.

    It’s hard to beat the nutritional quality of our best overall affordable dog food for Labs, Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula, especially considering its low price. Deboned chicken is the first ingredient, followed by chicken meal.  While it’s a controversial ingredient, chicken meal is often used by pet food manufacturers to keep the cost down because it’s a cheap source of protein that includes ground meat and bones.

    Oatmeal and brown rice are beneficial whole grains that will pass much more fiber to your pup than the ground rice that’s commonly found in other inexpensive formulas. We really like how this food carefully includes prebiotic and probiotic fibers, and a taurine supplement. The LifeSource bits exclusive to Blue Buffalo contain minimally cooked ingredients that haven’t been stripped of their nutrients in a high heat process.

    The only thing not to love about this food is that it contains pea protein1—an ingredient commonly found in grain-free diets that has been potentially linked to canine cardiomyopathy—and some pet parents may be concerned about the chicken meal.

    Pros
    • Inexpensive
    • Deboned chicken is the first ingredient
    • Contains prebiotic and probiotic fibers
    • Oatmeal and brown rice are heart-healthy whole grains
    • Includes a taurine supplement
    • LifeSource bits provide extra nutrition
    Cons
    • Contains pea protein
    • Contains chicken meal

    2. Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Dry Dog Food – Best Value

    Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Roasted Chicken, Rice, & Vegetable Flavor Dry Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Meat & Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat, Soybean Meal
    Protein content: 21% min.
    Fat content: 10% min.
    Calories: 3,348 kcal/kg.

    Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition provides sufficient nourishment for an extremely low price. This formula garners mostly positive reviews on Chewy, and it appears that it’s a hit with the pups. It’s the best affordable dog food for Labs for the money on our list, and we recommend it if you’re trying to keep your lab’s grocery tab to a minimum.

    We’re not a huge fan of artificial preservatives (BHA) and food coloring, however. While this formula uses several other commercial shortcuts, such as using cheap meat meals and chicken by-products, we’re not sure why Pedigree includes artificial dyes such as Yellow 5 that have been linked to cancer2.

    Pros
    • Best value option
    • Highly positive reviews on Chewy
    Cons
    • Contains meat meals and by-products
    • BHA is an artificial preservative
    • Pedigree uses a cocktail of food dyes, which are known carcinogens

    3. Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Food – Premium Choice

    Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Food

    Main ingredients: Salmon, Barley, Rice, Oatmeal, Canola Meal
    Protein content: 26% min.
    Fat content: 16% min.
    Calories: 4,049 kcal/kg.

    We picked Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach as our premium choice because it contains a surplus of beneficial fats to keep your lab’s joints healthy and their coat shiny. This formula is loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids through the salmon and fish ingredients. Although salmon is the main protein source, this recipe does contain beef fat, so it’s not an option for a dog who’s allergic to beef or who needs a single protein source.

    The prebiotic and probiotic fibers aid digestion, but we wish this food also included taurine for your lab’s heart health. This recipe doesn’t have any produce, and we would’ve liked to see some fruits and vegetables such as blueberries that could give your pup some antioxidants. However, it’s a limited ingredient diet that sticks mostly to its proteins, grains, fats, and supplements.

    While most of the ingredients seem to be fairly high-quality, we did notice canola meal in the first five ingredients. Canola meal isn’t strictly bad for your pup, but it isn’t as nutritionally efficient as another protein source such as meat. It’s commonly used in cheaper foods to meet the protein dietary requirements without relying on more expensive sources such as extra meat.

    Pros
    • Salmon is the first ingredient
    • Includes oatmeal as a heart-healthy whole grain
    • Contains prebiotic and probiotic fibers
    Cons
    • Lacks a taurine supplement
    • Limited ingredient recipe doesn’t include any fruits or veggies
    • Canola meal is a cheap protein filler

    4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy Food – Best for Puppies

    Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Puppy Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley, Pea Protein
    Protein content: 26% min.
    Fat content: 15% min.
    Calories: 3,642 kcal/kg.

    Similar to our overall best choice, Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy Formula packs even more protein into a meal for your younger lab. We appreciate how deboned chicken is the first ingredient because it’s a whole protein instead of a cheap plant-based protein or meat by-product. This recipe sets up your young Labrador for life by providing a bounty of whole grains, probiotics, prebiotics, Omega 3s, and taurine! It’s the closest thing we can find to a nutritionally complete package in puppy food, and we like the low price.

    We don’t like the inclusion of pea protein1 because of the possible link to cardiomyopathy. Also, the chicken meal as the second ingredient reveals one of the reasons for its low price. However, we think Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy still leads the pack of high-quality foods on a budget.

    Pros
    • Deboned chicken is the first ingredient
    • Contains probiotics and prebiotic fibers
    • Oatmeal and brown rice are heart-healthy whole grains
    • Good source of Omega 3s
    • Includes a taurine supplement
    • Inexpensive
    Cons
    • Chicken meal is a cheap protein
    • Contains peas

    5. Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Adult Dry Food

    Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Turkey, Trout, & Spelt Adult Dry Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Oats, Barley, Turkey Meal
    Protein content: 27% min.
    Fat content: 16% min.
    Calories: 3,652 kcal/kg.

    This is a protein-dense diet that’s perfect for active Labradors. The prebiotics and probiotics nourish your dog’s gut. Taurine supports heart-health, and the blueberries give your dog some antioxidants. There’s also a helpful supply of Omega 3’s.

    Deboned turkey is the first ingredient, but that’s not the only animal protein in this meaty meal. Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Turkey, Trout, and Spelt features several different meats. While everyone may not be supportive of chicken meal, which is made from rendering leftovers such as ground bones and meat, at least this formula relies on animal meat for nutrition instead of cheaper plant-based fillers such as canola meal.

    Pros
    • Deboned turkey is the first ingredient, followed by several animal proteins
    • Oats and barley are beneficial grains
    • Features probiotics, prebiotics, and taurine
    • Blueberries are a good source of antioxidants
    • Contains Omega 3 fatty acids
    Cons
    • Contains meat meals

    6. Purina Pro Plan 7+ Complete Essentials High Protein Dog Food – Best for Seniors

    Purina Proplan 7+ Complete Essentials Shredded Blend Beef & Rice Formula High Protein Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Beef, Rice, Poultry By-product Meal, Soybean Meal, Corn Gluten Meal
    Protein content: 29% min.
    Fat content: 14% min.
    Calories: 3,892 kcal/kg.

    Purina Pro Plan 7+ Complete Essentials High Protein is a good fit for senior Labradors who need to keep an especially close eye on their weight as they age. Meals that are high in protein and low in fat help your dog efficiently burn their energy without gaining excessive weight. We like how beef is the first ingredient, and fish meal and fish oil give some added nutrients and flavor further down the list.

    Poultry by-product is listed as the second ingredient, but we’re not really certain how it differs from chicken-by-product, which is ground up rendering leftovers that can include meat and bone, but also may contain feet, intestines, and other humanly undesirable parts that aren’t found in meat meals. Soybean meal and corn gluten meal are cheap, plant-based proteins that pet manufacturers use to pad the amount of protein. While they may not be harmful to your dog, we would definitely prefer to see more whole meat ingredients instead.

    This food contains prebiotic fibers but is missing probiotics and taurine. It’s okay to not include probiotics since the prebiotic fibers help your dog’s body make its own supply. However, we sorely regret the missing taurine supplements because taurine deficiency has been linked to cardiomyopathy3, the same disease that’s been connected with grain-free diets. There’s a theory that the grain-free diets aren’t inherently bad in themselves, but the connection to disease may be caused by their lack of taurine which leads us to strongly encourage pet owners to include a supplement in all diets.

    Pros
    • Contains prebiotics
    • High protein
    • First ingredient is beef
    Cons
    • Uses cheap plant-based protein fillers such as soybean meal and corn gluten meal
    • Contains poultry by-product meal
    • Lacks taurine

    7. Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

    Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Barley
    Protein content: 22% min.
    Fat content: 13% min.
    Calories: 3,566 kcal/kg.

    This Ultra recipe is Nutro’s finest formula for large breed dogs. We like Nutro because they’re one of the only low-cost brands that we know of that only uses non-GMO ingredients.

    Nutro Ultra Large Breed Adult provides your pup with antioxidants through rich superfoods such as spinach, kale, and blueberries, a prime selection of produce that helps this food stand out from the pack. Real chicken is the first ingredient, followed by chicken meal, which is a common cheap protein. Whole grain brown rice, sorghum, and barley give your Labrador some more fiber in their diet.

    Although Nutro Ultra contains a bounty of healthy foods, it definitely lacks some extra nutritional supplements such as probiotics and taurine. If you choose this food, we highly recommend giving your pup some supplements on the side.

    Pros
    • Superfood blend is relatively rare in cheaper foods
    • Real chicken is the first ingredient
    • Contains helpful whole grains
    • Non-GMO
    Cons
    • Lacking probiotics, prebiotics, and taurine
    • Chicken meal is the second ingredient

    8. Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-free Dog Food

    Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Smoke-flavored Salmon Grain-free Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Salmon, Ocean Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Peas
    Protein content: 25% min.
    Fat content: 15% min.
    Calories: 3,600 kcal/kg.

    Although we don’t recommend a grain-free diet unless medically necessary, Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-free food is a good choice if your Labrador needs to forgo the grains because it’s high in animal protein. Salmon and ocean fish meal provide the bulk of the protein, and also gives your lab a supply of Omega 3 fatty acids to support their joints.

    Unlike some formulas that have fish in the title but list another protein further down the ingredient list, this formula only uses salmon and ocean fish, making it a good option for dogs with food allergies to common proteins. This food is relatively cheap—especially compared to foods marketed as a hypoallergenic diet—so it might be a prudent alternative to a specialty diet.

    This food also includes probiotics, prebiotics, and an ample supply of taurine. We didn’t like how peas were in the first five ingredients. Peas and grain-free diets are both linked to cardiomyopathy3. However, there’s a theory that suggests this link may be actually caused by a taurine deficiency, and we see Taste of the Wild has negated that risk through the supplement.

    Pros
    • Fish is the only animal protein
    • Contains prebiotics and probiotics
    • Includes high levels of protein and taurine
    • Best choice for grain-free diet
    Cons
    • Peas are one of the first five ingredients

    9. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Large Breed Dry Food

    Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Lamb & Brown Rice Large Breed Bites Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Brewer’s Rice, Rice Bran
    Protein content: 22% min.
    Fat content: 12% min.
    Calories: 3,600 kcal/kg.

    This food is the best choice for Labradors who need a limited ingredient, chicken-free food but would still benefit from whole grains. Lamb serves as the single animal protein source, and brown rice provides your pup with some whole grains. Unfortunately, there aren’t any fruits or vegetables, but we expected a short ingredients list given that it’s a limited diet. However, we do regret the lack of prebiotics and probiotics because we believe they could help dogs with sensitive tummies.

    On a positive note, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe includes an excellent supply of taurine, and essential vitamins and minerals.

    Pros
    • Lamb is the single animal protein source
    • Includes brown rice
    • Contains a good amount of taurine
    Cons
    • No fruits or vegetables
    • No probiotic or prebiotic supplements

    10. American Journey Active Life Formula Large Breed Dry Food

    American Journey Active Life Formula Large Breed Salmon, Brown Rice & Vegetables Recipe Dry Dog Food

    Main ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Peas, Rice Bran
    Protein content: 24% min.
    Fat content: 12% min.
    Calories: 3,320 kcal/kg.

    American Journey Active Life Formula Large Breed Dry Food is intended for bigger breeds such as the Labrador who likes to spend their free time romping through fields and ambling around the house. The deboned salmon and Menhaden fish meal are the main sources of protein that also provide your lab with Omega 3 fatty acids, nutrients that maintain their skin, coat, joints, and brain health. Although this recipe relies on salmon for the meat, it still contains chicken fat, so this formula isn’t a good choice for a dog who needs a single protein recipe.

    Brown rice is an excellent heart-healthy whole grain. We like how American Journey adds a taurine supplement, which is another heart-conscious choice. Although this food lacks a probiotic supplement, prebiotic fibers sneak in through chicory root, which is a natural source of prebiotic fibers.

    Peas are one of the five ingredients. Lentils, legumes, and peas are common substitutes for grain in grain-free diets. These formulas were investigated by the FDA in 2018 after an uptick in canine cardiomyopathy3 diagnoses. The FDA found a correlation between these diets and CDM, but more studies need to be done because it’s still unclear whether the link occurred from the lack of grain, or through the heavy use of grain substitutes such as peas. For this reason, we’re not too happy to see peas hanging out in the top five list, but we’re okay with it for now.

    Pros
    • Good source of protein
    • Salmon and fish oil provide Omega 3 fatty acids
    • Chicory roots contain prebiotic fibers
    • Includes a taurine supplement
    Cons
    • No probiotics
    • Peas are one of the five main ingredients

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    Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Affordable Dog Food for Labs

    While Labrador retrievers share most common nutritional needs with other breeds, there are a few factors you may want to especially consider as you shop for a new recipe for your lab:

    Inclusion of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

    Found in fish, eggs, and flaxseed, Omega 3 fatty acids can help maintain your lab’s joints, skin, coat, and brain health. Although any dog may receive these benefits, it’s vital to consider your lab’s joint health because they’re prone to a variety of genetic conditions, including hip dysplasia.

    Protein

    All dogs need a lot of protein, a moderate amount of fat, and a lower amount of carbs. Labradors are high-energy dogs that tend to become obese unless they’re on a high-protein diet and receive ample exercise, especially as they age.

    Price

    No one wants to spend their whole paycheck on dog food, but lab owners know that retrievers like to chow down. A large breed dog is simply going to require more calories than a yappy lap dog, so you might want to buy in bulk and consider food at a moderate price point.

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    Summary

    Although the trope is true that labs will eat everything, we reviewed the foods that would provide the most benefit to their health while staying on a tight budget. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult was our overall best choice for adults because it contained the most high-quality nutrients for a low price. Their comparable Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula for puppies is our favorite choice for growing Labradors for the same reasons.

    Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition fit the criteria for our best value option because it was the best choice for the money, although we don’t approve of a few ingredients such as artificial food coloring. For optimal nutrition at an only slightly higher price, we chose Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula because it features healthy Omega 3s, probiotics, and prebiotic fibers.

    Finally, we listed Nulo Frontrunner Ancient Grains Turkey, Trout, & Spelt because it’s a high-protein food that’s fit for an active Labrador. We hope these reviews help you choose the best recipe for your lab that doesn’t take a big bite out of your budget. As always, talk to your vet if you have any specific questions about your pet’s diet, or if they have medical needs that might require a special diet.

    See also:


    Featured Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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