Labrador retrievers have a reputation for being crazy about food, and behavioral studies seem to confirm that they tend to be more food motivated than other breeds. Scientists found a genetic factor that may account for this. Many Labrador retrievers never seem to be full, which leads to begging, digging into trash and stealing food from counters and cabinets. Labs also tend to be overweight, which can lead to arthritis, diabetes and other long-term health problems.
Researchers looked for an answer to lab obesity the dog’s genetics. They initially studied the DNA of 33 labs, 18 thin and 15 overweight. They discovered that many labs carried an unusual variant of the POMC gene, which helps regulate feelings of hunger. Affected Labradors do not produce the neuropeptides that normally suppress the appetite when the dog is full. To explore this data, scientists conducted a larger study of 700 Labradors, and discovered that about one in four labs has the obesity-related gene variant. In addition to providing insight into Labrador obesity, this discovery may have implications for human obesity. The POMC gene works similarly in dogs and people.
As for the affected dogs, their genetic predisposition to obesity doesn’t mean they have to be overweight. Owners of these dogs may have to develop a will of steel to resist those big, sad eyes, but a careful diet and plenty of exercise can keep the dogs slim and fit. There may be some added benefits, too, since highly food-motivated dogs tend to be easier to train. This may explain another interesting trend that researchers noted, which is that the variant is more common in Labs that work as assistance dogs. Their strong and consistent desire for food may give them the motivation necessary to make it through tough training programs.
Keeping Labradors fit and healthy can be a challenge, but their lovable personalities more than make up for it. These polished earrings make a great gift for the Labrador retriever fan in your life.
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