Why do Labradors tend to be obese? This is what science says

One of the most popular dog breeds, Labradors have always been known for their insatiable appetite and propensity for obesity.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 11:38
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Why do Labradors tend to be obese? This is what science says

One of the most popular dog breeds, Labradors have always been known for their insatiable appetite and propensity for obesity. However, a recent scientific study has provided new insight into this phenomenon by revealing that these dogs have a genetic predisposition to obesity due to a mutation in the POMC (proopiomelanocortin) gene.

Research led by Dr Eleanor Raffan and her team at the University of Cambridge has revealed fascinating discoveries about the intertwined genetic mechanisms that shape feeding behavior and obesity risk in Labradors.

The latest advances reveal that Labradors carrying a mutation in the POMC gene experience a substantial increase in their appetite, accompanied by a notable reduction in their metabolic capacity to burn calories at rest, in contrast to their conspecifics who lack this genetic variant.

This mutation affects the production of a hormone called alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH). It plays a very important role in regulating appetite and metabolism in dogs, and Labradors with this condition tend to have lower levels of α-MSH. As a result, they experience an increase in appetite and a decrease in the body's ability to burn calories.

To better understand the impact of this mutation, researchers carried out a series of behavioral and physiological tests on a group of more than 80 dogs of this breed. One of the tests involved presenting a sausage inside a transparent box with a perforated lid.

The results showed that Labradors with the POMC mutation showed a significantly greater obsession with the sausage and spent more time reaching for it compared to those without the mutation.

Additionally, the researchers also conducted tests to measure oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production in a group of resting Labradors. The results revealed that dogs with the POMC mutation burned up to 25% fewer calories at rest compared to those without the mutation, suggesting a decrease in basal metabolic rate.

These findings have important implications for health and weight management in Labradors and other dog breeds susceptible to obesity. Those responsible for Labradors should be aware of the genetic predisposition of their furry companions and take proactive steps to monitor their diet and level of physical activity.