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Here’s Why So Many Labrador Retrievers Are Obese

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A Labrador Retriever sitting in a field with a frisbee.

A recent study reveals that Labrador retrievers are dealing with a weighty issue: obesity.

According to the findings, America’s favorite dog is more susceptible to being overweight, or obese than other breeds.

Related: Once Again, the Labrador Retriever Is the Most Popular Breed in the U.S.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge examined 310 pet and assistance dog Labradors. They found the breed is more likely to have a mutated gene that controls hunger levels: POMC. Because of the altered gene, or in some cases it is completely deleted, the Labradors aren’t able to understand when they are full or how much fat they have in their body, so they continue to eat. Another breed that has the mutated gene is the flat-coated retriever, a cousin to the Labrador.

The study also revealed the mutation is more likely in assistance dogs than those that are pets.

“Labradors make particularly successful working and pet dogs because they are loyal, intelligent and eager to please, but importantly, they are also relatively easy to train,” senior co-author Dr Giles Yeo said in a statement. “Food is often used as a reward during training, and carrying this variant may make dogs more motivated to work for a titbit.”

Related: 5 Ways to Tire Out Your Dog Before Leaving the House

He continues, “But it’s a double-edged sword – carrying the variant may make them more trainable, but it also makes them susceptible to obesity. This is something owners will need to be aware of so they can actively manage their dog’s weight.”

It is believed the mutation first came about from the Labrador’s ancestor, the St. John’s water dog. The dog was used by fishermen to retrieve nets in the cold water of Newfoundland, according to The New York Times. This breed would eat whatever, whenever. Which is fine for this sort of job, but not for the Labradors living as pets.

But all the blame doesn’t just go onto Labradors. Obesity has been on the rise for all breeds, with a decrease in exercise and rich foods to blame.

Related: PetPace Hits the Mark with ‘Smart Collar’ for Dogs

Image via Flickr/photogramma1

By Andrea Huspeni

Andrea Huspeni is the founder and CEO of This Dog's Life. Her mission it to help dogs live a happier, healthier and longer life. When she isn't working, she spends time with her two dogs, Lola and Milo. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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