Skeletal Development and Feeding
Sound skeletal development
Sound skeletal development in Labradors is primarily produced by their genetic make-up. You cannot control the genetic factors, however you are in complete control of the environmental conditions and nutritional factors. You can give your pup a safe environment. The growth phase to 14 months is critical for sound skeletal structure, particularly in the hips and elbows. Ensure your puppy can not easily slip or fall. You should be aware that the growth plates are not set until 14 months of age. This is why you should not allow a bitch to fall pregnant until her 2nd heat.
Large breeds like Labradors are susceptible to skeletal impediments. Food portions, nutritional balance and feeding methods influence bone and growth plate development. Portion control of food plays a critical role in joint stresses. Overfeeding will not increase the growth rate of puppies and does not correlate with optimal adult size. However, it does increase the risk of skeletal abnormalities. Be aware of the dangers of excessive intake of food, particularly unregulated household table foods. You are not doing your dog any favours by feeding them off the table. Large breeds like Labradors are limited in their ability to cope with an excess of minerals such as calcium. They can not regulate their 'full sensation'. They are likely to eat everything in front of them.
Nutritional management will be critical in the prevention of bone and joint diseases. In most cases, skeletal disease can prevented by appropriate quantities of feed in a regulated balanced diet with optimal nutrient levels. We use and recommend Eucanuba. It is twice the price as other, lower quality dog foods, but you will use a little more than half the amount of other feeds. Eucanuba has less meal as a filler and more nutrient properties. And you will have less poop to clean up!
Nutrition is the single most important influence upon musculoskeletal development and maintenance. Energy, protein and calcium are the critical components, however, if they are given in excess, they will be detrimental to normal bone and joint growth. Feed your puppy commercial dog food as good brands are formulated as balanced and complete diets. Dietary deficiencies will be of little concern if your pup is fed with a complete and balanced commercial diet, such as Eucanuba Puppy which is specifically formulated for young, growing Labradors. There is a higher potential for harm if you feed you pup randomly and with table scraps. This will lead to excessive consumption with unnecessary and unhelpful supplements. Furthermore, it will lead to habit eating rather than reward eating. Labradors respond best when they work for their food.
Rapid weight gain in Labradors
Diet and exercise during the first 24 weeks of life are critical influences on the onset of CHD in later life. The frequency and severity of CHD are influenced by early life weight gains in growing pups. Weight gains exceeding breed standards produce a high incidence of, and more severe CHD. Labradors with weight gains below the standard at 5 months statically have a normal closure of their growth plates at 14 months. Limiting the food intake in a growing Labrador puppy produces fewer signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia. CHD is the most frequently encountered orthopaedic disease in Labradors. This can be a hereditary disorder but it is more likely influenced by nutrition and a lack of proper regulated exercise in structurally sound puppies. The period from 2 to 14 months of age is important in the prevention of CHD. However, the first 6 months is the most critical time. Early signs of CHD include joint laxity and coxofemoral changes.