We’ve all encountered it, that moment when you are at the dinner table and your dog comes under the table and places his head on your lap. A moment of weakness occurs in us and we secretly grab that piece of steak in our hand and slip it under the table. Over the years you may have noticed your lab gaining some weight but we no longer have to blame our limited self control! In fact with genetic research it has been determined that Labrador retrievers are more likely to beg for treats compared to any other breed. Eleanor Raffan, a veterinary surgeon and geneticist, was inspired to find out why labs were so much more overweight compared to other breeds.
Her first study was done on 33 Labradors. Out of the 33 labs, 18 were considered fit while the remaining 15 where obese. By focusing on genes that are normally related to obesity Raffen discovered that the obese labs were more likely to have a variation of the POMC gene. Raffen stated that the gene was “scrambled”. The gene acts as an off switch for hunger cues. The obese dogs had a problem with this gene so that it didn't switch to off, allowing them to crave more food. As her experiment continued she examined more than 700 Labradors. It was found that about 1 in 4 labs carried the POMC gene variation. Compared to other dog breeds only the flat coat retrievers had this type of gene variation similar to Labrador retrievers.
Sadly there is no genetic fix for your Labradors obesity. However exercise is a great way to help control your dogs weight gain and maybe your dog will motivate you to lose weight too! Then that temptation of those puppy dog eyes won’t make you feel as guilty. This relationship between genetics and obesity is a wide discussed topic. There are even studies trying to link obesity in humans with a genetic correlation. On a final note although genetics and biology does have an impact on weight gain its not impossible to battle it!