Genetic Influence on Obesity in Labradors: Explaining Weight Gain in Chunky Canines | DogExpress
Tuesday , July 23 2024
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Genetic Influence on Obesity in Labradors: Explaining Weight Gain in Chunky Canines

Genetic Influence on Obesity in Labradors: Explaining Weight Gain in Chunky Canines

Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation in certain Labradors and flat-coated retrievers, leading to constant hunger and decreased calorie burning. This dual effect highlights the importance of dog owners monitoring their pets’ weight closely.

The mutation affects approximately one in four Labrador retrievers and two-thirds of flat-coated retrievers. Lead researcher Dr. Eleanor Raffan from the University of Cambridge emphasizes how this finding underscores the influence of genetics on appetite and metabolism in dogs, paralleling similar mechanisms in humans.

The study builds upon previous research on a mutation in the POMC gene, which affects the brain’s pathways related to hunger regulation. Dogs with this mutation exhibit increased hunger between meals and expend around 25% fewer calories at rest.

Dr. Raffan notes that dogs with this genetic mutation face a “double whammy”: They crave more food but require fewer calories due to decreased energy expenditure.

In the study, over 80 Labrador dogs participated in various tests, such as the ‘sausage in a box’ test, which revealed heightened hunger among dogs with the POMC mutation. Similarly, flat-coated retrievers with the mutation were found to burn significantly fewer calories.

The findings shed light on the challenges faced by dog owners in managing their pets’ weight, exemplified by anecdotes like Kathryn Taylor’s experience with her Labrador Leo, who constantly seeks food despite being fed.

The prevalence of overweight dogs, particularly Labradors, underscores the significance of these findings. The researchers suggest that the Labrador’s affinity for food may have inadvertently favored individuals with the POMC mutation, contributing to their widespread obesity.

The research, published in Science Advances, was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Dogs Trust and highlights the complex interplay between genetics, appetite, and metabolism in dogs.

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