We all know that labradors love to eat. If you’re a labrador owner, you probably also know that they often eat things they shouldn’t, things that make them sick.
But it isn’t just ‘nasty’ food which can make your labrador ill.
Many labradors have food intolerances, just like humans, they may find it more difficult to digest certain foods.
This isn’t unusual but it is important to try and find the source, then you can eliminate that food from their diet.
In this article, I’m going to talk through what food intolerance is, how you can identify it, and show a range of foods that may be suitable for labradors with certain food intolerances.
I’d also like to say upfront, food intolerances are not the same as food allergies. If your labrador is suffering from itchy skin or hair loss they may actually have a food allergy.
I’ll talk about the difference early in this article, but if you want to know more about dog foods for labradors with allergies I have written an in-depth article on that here.
Exactly which dog food is correct for your labrador depends on their specific food intolerance. I would recommend looking at Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free dog food first. It excludes most ingredients commonly found in dog foods and comes in various different flavors, so you should be able to find a version that is suitably different from your labrador’s current dog food.
In a hurry?
You can take a look at Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free on Amazon here
You should also read the rest of this article to see my other recommendation as well as a guide to finding the right food for a labrador with allergies.
Start by consulting with your vet
Before starting any major changes to your labrador’s diet I would always recommend that you consult with your vet first.
Diagnosing your labrador as having a food intolerance can be tricky.
Later in this article, I’m going to run through a few things you can try at home to identify what the cause might be, but there are so many illnesses and diseases that could cause similar symptoms in a labrador as food intolerance that you might end up miss diagnosing them without professional help.
The last thing you want to do is start changing your labrador’s diet, only to find out later that the digestive issues they’re having are actually related to a much more serious health condition.
You should always consult with your vet first, if they think food intolerance is the most likely cause of your labrador’s issues then you can feel comfortable in finding them a more suitable diet.
The difference between food allergies and food intolerance in labradors
Another reason for visiting your vet first is that the symptoms of food allergies and food intolerances can sometimes be similar, but they are caused by completely different bodily reactions.
Food intolerances are digestive upsets. They are often a completely legitimate reaction to something your body doesn’t want to digest, such as rancid food. Labradors may also have the same reaction to seemingly normal foods that their digestive system just struggles to cope with. Much the same as when people can have digestive issues with fish or beans.
Food allergies are an immune response to certain food. Usually, a response to certain proteins, allergies are an overreaction of the immune response to a food that is perfectly legitimate to eat. A food allergy can often develop foods your labrador has been eating every day for months or years, all of a sudden the immune system will start to reject that food (or the protein within it), even though it’s not really doing any harm.
Whilst food intolerances and allergies can have the same symptoms, you can usually spot the difference from the most common symptoms, which are different.
Food intolerance – Most common symptoms
- Abdominal pain (you can spot this if your labrador withdraws when you touch their tummy)
Food allergy – Most common symptoms
- Excessive itching
- Hair loss (especially around eyes)
- Flaky dry skin
- Red skin
You can see that the symptoms of food intolerance are focused around digestive issues whilst the symptoms of a food allergy are mainly skin related.
In serious cases of both intolerance and allergy, the labrador might suffer from more symptoms than I’ve listed above and it can become difficult to establish exactly what is wrong with your labrador. That’s why it’s always good to consult with your vet first.
In this article, I’m only going to focus on the best dog foods for labradors with sensitive stomachs. If you want to see which dog foods I recommend for labradors with allergies I’ve written an in-depth article on it here.
How to treat sensitive stomachs for labradors
You should consult with your vet first if you believe your labrador as a food intolerance that is upsetting their stomach.
They will be able to better identify whether or not your labrador does have an intolerance, or whether the issues are being caused by other underlying, and potentially more serious, health issues.
Once your vet has confirmed that the likely cause is a food intolerance you can begin to try identifying the offending food. Your vet might be able to help with this but you will probably have to do at least some investigation yourself.
Our labradors can be intolerant of a whole host of different foods.
Your job is to try and establish which food is causing the issue and eliminate it from their diet.
It won’t necessarily be the daily dog food they eat which is the cause of the problem, so it’s best to eliminate other possibilities first.
How to find food for a labrador with food intolerance
Eliminate all treats from their diet. Any scraps you might give them or any dog treat they receive must be taken out of their diet. If you have a family then everyone needs to know about, and abide by this step.
It also includes any ‘food’ that your labrador might be finding themselves, whilst out on a walk or from an open trash can. You need to be certain that they aren’t getting any food other than their dog food.
Wait a few days, if the digestive issues persist then you know the cause is their dog food. If they don’t then you can reintroduce the eliminated treats one at a time, leaving a few days between each. That way, once they show symptoms you can pinpoint exactly which treat is the cause.
Assuming the symptoms persist, you can be quite sure that the intolerance is from something within their dog food.
Look at the ingredients of your dog food, find the main ingredients (they will be listed first), then try to find a dog food for dogs with sensitive stomachs with as different an ingredients list as you can.
I’m going to list a variety of easily digestible dog foods which are great for sensitive stomachs below. If your labrador currently eats a beef-based food, you might, for example, want to try a fish alternative.
Note down any ingredient which appears in both foods and transition to the new food. To help your dog ease into the new food you can add small amounts every day for 10 days until their meal is entirely the new food.
Hopefully, your labrador is no longer showing signs of intolerance. If they are, don’t panic.
Refer to the list of the ingredients found in both foods. Now you just need to find another alternative that doesn’t contain any of those ingredients.
That should work. Your labrador should be able to eat this third food comfortably without any symptoms.
If not then it’s time for step three:
If your labrador is still showing signs of intolerance after the third food you should consult with your vet again, it may be that the symptoms are not actually a sign of intolerance and may be related to other health issues.
Make sure you also show your vet the three dog foods you have tired and their ingredients as they might notice a pattern that you have missed.
Dry dog foods for labrador with a sensitive stomach (kibble)
These dry dog foods are made to be easily digestible. Their main ingredients also use less conventional protein sources, such as duck and lamb instead of chicken and beef that you normally find in dog food.
That means they should be able to offer your labrador a diet that is easy for them to digest and doesn’t include the food which they are intolerant to.
If you’re searching for food for a puppy then skip this one and scroll down to the labrador puppy recommendations.
Instinct Limited Ingredient – Salmon, Duck, Lamb & Turkey versions
Instinct is another brand that I listed on my dog food for dogs with allergies article (you can see that here), but it’s also a great option for those with sensitive stomachs.
One of the main reasons I like this food is because it comes in a range of different flavors. Whatever your Labrador’s current food’s main ingredient is , Instinct probably has one without it.
Their limited ingredient range comes in duck, lamb, salmon and turkey. None of them contain dairy, eggs, potato, corn, wheat or soy either.
On top of that, this kibble is easily digestible, so there’s a great chance that you can find a dog food vastly different from what your labrador is currently eating from their range.
The ingredients are high quality and still contain all the vitamins, minerals and protein your labrador will need.
The reviews are fantastic and this food should be a real help to many labradors with sensitive stomachs.
You can take a look at Instinct Limited Ingredient dog food on Amazon here.
Diamond CARE Specialized Diets
Diamond produces a range of dog foods that target certain health issues. I feature their sensitive skin food in my article on dog food for dogs with allergies here. They also have a product specifically designed for dogs with digestive issues.
It includes an easily digestible protein with a limited ingredients list. This should make it easy to digest for your labrador as well as potentially avoiding the food that your lab is intolerant to.
This product does contain a small quantity of chicken fat, so if your current dog food is chicken flavor and your labrador is struggling with it it might not be the best choice. If your labrador is currently on beef or fish-based food then Diamond’s dog food could work well.
The majority of the protein comes from egg and potato protein which is easy to digest for your labrador.
It has a good ingredients list for labradors with sensitive stomachs, along with a host of very positive reviews directly continuing their dog’s digestive health with this food.
You can take a look at Diamond CARE Specialized Diets dog food on Amazon here.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach Lamb & Oat Meal
Purina has developed this highly digestible formula of kibble especially for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
The main ingredient is lamb, which offers a sensible alternative for labradors currently on a mainly chicken or beef diet.
The ingredients do also contain fish meal and fish oil, so if your labrador is currently eating dog food containing fish this might not be the best option to try.
Other, commonly troublesome ingredients that have been removed from this product include corn, wheat and soy.
This is easily digestible dog food made for dogs with sensitive stomachs using lamb as the main ingredient. It’s a good choice to try if your lab is currently having issues with a beef or chicken-based diet.
You can take a look at Purina Pro Plan dog food on Amazon here.
Wet dog foods for labrador with a sensitive stomach
If you want to offer your labrador something a bit more special then there are various wet dog foods that have been developed for sensitive stomachs.
I’ve listed ones with a range of different main ingredients below.
Hill’s Science Diet Wet Dog Food – Chicken, salmon and turkey variations
Hill’s has produced a great range of specialized dog food especially for those with sensitive stomachs. What I particularly like about this range is that they have various different options using different main ingredients.
That means that whatever your labrador is currently eating this Hill’s range should have a suitably different product for them. If their current diet consists of a beef-based food then you could try Hill’s salmon & vegetable canned food for example.
One thing to note though, all the options contain chicken broth as an ingredient. So if your labrador is currently on a chicken-based food this might not be the best one to try.
It has loads of great reviews from owners of dogs with sensitive stomachs saying it has completely resolved their pets issues.
You can take a look at Hill’s Science Diet Wet Dog Food on Amazon here.
Wellness Simple Natural Wet Dog Food – Lamb
Wellness is back on my list again, I included them in my dog foods for labs with allergies list (you can see that here).
I like this dog food, it’s easily digestible which is a great start for those with sensitive stomachs, but I also like how the main ingredient is lamb, meat not commonly used as the main ingredient in many mainstream dog food you’ll find.
The top five ingredients are lamb, lamb broth, lamb liver, oatmeal and lamb meal, so your labrador will certainly be getting a high amount of lamb protein which is fantastic.
It contains no chicken, beef, fish, gluten, wheat or fillers. As long as your labrador’s current dog food doesn’t contain lamb then there’s quite a good chance that this will be ok for them.
You can take a look at Wellness Simple Natural Wet Dog Food on Amazon here.
NUTRO Limited Ingredient Wet Dog Food – Fish, lamb and turkey variations
Nutro has a great range of limited ingredient dog foods. These are good for dogs with allergies but they are also ideal for those who just suffer from sensitive stomachs.
They have a range of three flavors; fish, lamb and turkey. That’s ideal as it means you should be able to find a flavor suitably different from your labrador’s current food.
Even better is that none of them contain any trace of chicken or beef which is quite common in dog foods. Not that chicken and beef will definitely be the cause of your lab’s sensitive stomach, but it makes the job of finding a new, significantly different alternative from your current food that bit easier.
This limited ingredient wet food also contains no corn, wheat, soy, artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors.
It has great reviews from owners with dogs that suffer from intolerance and allergies, especially those that can’t eat chicken or beef so I think it’s worth checking out their range to see which one might work for your labrador.
You can take a look at NUTRO Limited Ingredient Wet Dog Food on Amazon here.
Dog foods for labrador puppy with a sensitive stomach
Again, my aim here is to not only show you a selection of dog food that should help puppies with sensitive stomachs but to also show you a range of foods that have different main ingredients so that you can find the one most different from what your labrador puppy is currently eating.
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Puppy Food – Duck
Natural balance has a great range of specialized foods for both puppies and adult dogs.
This potato and duck kibble for puppies is a great choice as it has limited ingredients and doesn’t contain many of the ingredients commonly found in more mainstream puppy food.
It doesn’t contain any chicken, beef, corn, wheat or soy. One thing to note is that it does contain a small amount of salmon oil, so if you think your puppy might be slightly intolerant to fish then this might not be the best food to try.
Overall, this puppy food contains loads of protein and a good amount of calcium in a limited ingredient product, it’s a good choice for many puppies suffering from sensitive stomachs
You can take a look at Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Puppy Food on Amazon here.
Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Puppy Food – Turkey
This puppy food by Blue Buffalo has been made for easy digestion. It contains Turkey as its main ingredient along with no; chicken, beef, dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives.
It directly cuts out a whole host of ingredients which are common suspects for upset stomachs so it has great potential to help you with your puppy’s food intolerance.
The mixture is rich in essential vitamins, antioxidants and vital minerals, providing your puppy with everything they need in a balanced diet to grow up healthy and strong.
The reviews are very strong and there are lots of reports that this food has helped puppies with digestive issues.
You can take a look at Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Puppy Food on Amazon here.
Nutro Puppy Food – Chicken and Lamb variations
Nutro provides their puppy food in chicken and lamb variations, although it’s important to note that the lamb flavor still contains chicken meal as an ingredient and therefore wouldn’t be suitable if you thought your labrador might be intolerant to chicken.
This puppy food doesn’t contain corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, color or preservatives.
Whilst it’s not ideal if your puppy’s current food is chicken based, it does offer those able to eat chicken a puppy food with high quality and natural ingredients which should be less likely to cause stomach upsets.
The reviews for this puppy food are very positive and it provides a great balanced diet for your pup and should be much easier on the stomach.
You can take a look at Nutro Puppy Food on Amazon here.
Treats for labrador with a sensitive stomach
First, let’s discuss a common treat you may not realize is usually bad for your labrador’s digestion.
There are two types of bones. Raw bones and cooked bones.
Raw bones are as you might imagine, a bone pretty much straight out of an animal, not really altered in any way. The type of bone you can get from a butcher.
Cooked bones are cooked, which makes them turn extremely hard. These are the type of bones you’ll commonly find in pet stores and supermarkets. The bones are so hard that it makes them difficult for your dog to digest them.
I would recommend giving your labrador cooked bones, regardless of whether they have a sensitive stomach, they are even hard to digest for labradors with no stomach issues.
The disadvantage of raw bones is that they are a breeding ground for bacteria. I would recommend you give your labrador raw bones that they can finish within a day so the bacteria doesn’t have a chance to grow.
So if you’re buying treats online, or from a store, you should generally stay away from bones altogether. Hey usually won’t sell raw bones because they have no shelf life.
If you want to give your labrador a bone, your best course is to give them bones from your own meals i.e. before you cook the meat, or get one from your butcher.
If you want a more reliable source of bones then I would recommend something simple and easily digestible such as Nutro Natural Crunchy Dog Treats.
Nutro Natural Crunchy Dog Treats
These simple treats contain no chicken-by product meal, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Their ingredients list is short and simple, only containing around 10 ingredients.
They come in a range of flavors so you’re sure to find one your labrador loves.
They are also nice and small and easily digestible, so they won’t cause any of the digestive issues that can occur from harder treats like cooked bones.
You can take a look at Nutro Natural Crunchy Dog Treats on Amazon here.
Final note – All labradors are different
Finding the correct food for your labrador can be difficult if they have a sensitive stomach or food intolerances.
Even dog food specifically designed to help those issues could still contain ingredients that don’t agree with your lab’s digestive system.
Don’t lose heart, keep a record of the ingredients your new and old dog food has. It will help you pinpoint what is causing the issue if the symptoms do still persist.
If you look at the reviews for my recommendations above you will always find some dog owners reporting that their dog didn’t react well to the food. In truth, you won’t find any dog food that every single dog can eat without upset, so just because the first switch doesn’t work doesn’t mean you won’t find a dog food that does.
Always consult with your vet before changing your labrador’s diet, at the very least you want them to give their verdict on whether the symptoms are being caused by a sensitive stomach or are actually due to a greater health condition.
If you find that you’ve swapped dog foods twice, all with different ingredients, and your labrador has still been displaying the symptoms through then you should consult with your vet.
Tell them which foods you have tired and show them a list of the ingredients, they should be able to advise you on the next steps.
Sometimes it just takes a lot of investigation to figure out what’s wrong with our labradors, if only they could talk!