Some Dogs Are Genetically Predisposed To Getting Fat
There’s a reason why Labrador retrievers have been the most popular dog in America for the past quarter of a century. They are kind-hearted, super affectionate, devoted to their humans, playful but not too demanding, and they get along great with everyone, including other dogs, cats, and pets in general.
As a matter of fact, you could say that their only flaw is that they are completely uncontrollable when it comes to their eating habits. In other words, Labrador retrievers will eat anything and everything you put in front of them, no questions asked.
Seriously. If you’ve ever owned a Lab, you know that their appetite is insatiable. That’s why they are also prone to getting fat, which can then cause other, serious health problems connected to obesity and significantly shorten their lifespan.
Lab owners, dog experts and veterinarians around the world know that this breed has a tendency to become overweight. The problem is that almost 60 percent of all Labs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Association for Pet Obesity from 2012. Make no mistake, though, it’s not just the American Labs that are fat – surveys conducted in other parts of the world showed similar results.
Despite the fact that most people will blame these numbers on the owners, it actually seems that Labs can’t help eating too much. Namely, a new study came to the conclusion that they might be genetically predisposed to overeat and get fat. To put it simply, it’s in their genes.
Eleanor Raffan, who works as a veterinary surgeon and geneticist at the University of Cambridge and who’s also done a lot of research in the field of human obesity, pointed out that genetics could be responsible for Labradors putting on extra weight easily.
To confirm this idea, she and her co-workers examined three genes that are related to obesity in both obese and slim Labradors. The team discovered a variation in one, which could be seen in 10 out of 15 obese dogs compared to 2 out of 18 slim ones. This variation (referred to as POMC), which is actually a missing part of one of the genes, prevents Labs from feeling full even after eating.
The scientists didn’t stop there. They examined an additional 310 Labs, finding that the POMC deletion was quite common among those Labs that were overweight or obese. When they added more dogs in the US and the UK, the researchers found the POMC deletion in 23 percent of all the dogs.
To make matters more interesting, it seems that this gene variation only affects Labradors, as 38 breeds were tested and only Labs and flat-coated retrievers, which are related to Labs, had the gene deletion.
Raffan said in an interview that these results clearly show that some Labs are ‘completely obsessed by food,’ and that they can’t go against their nature.
While researching these dogs, the scientists also discovered something quite interesting. Out of all the 81 Labrador assistance dogs tested, three-quarters or 60 dogs had the deletion in question. While that could be an anomaly, it’s more likely that food-centered Labradors are chosen as assistance dogs due to the fact that they learn quicker as a result of food training.
In addition to explaining why your Labrador is fat, this research could also shed some more light on human obesity. You might have already heard that humans and dogs are quite similar in terms of health problems, meaning that the mutation in the POMC gene is associated with obesity in both humans and dogs. So, while studying Labradors and the genes that make them susceptible to obesity, researchers can also learn more about the function of the gene in humans. This could have an enormous impact on treating obesity, naturally.
As for your Labrador, you’ll have to take some preventative measures to ensure they don’t get too chubby, including hiding food from them, preventing them from eating human food and leftovers, placing food in feeding toys that require dogs to work to eat them, and most importantly, limiting the amount of food they eat daily.