Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Can’t say no to those puppy eyes?! Don’t worry it's not your fault

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!


  1. Your post was definitely entertaining and informative! I was wondering though, if the metabolism of Labradors have any effect on their weight gain as well. Possibly, Labradors have slower metabolisms than other dog breeds and that can contribute to their obesity. In addition, do you know if Raffen considered any other factors, or was this the only one?

  2. I agree with Jennifer that there may be other factors contributing to the obesity of the Labradors. If only one in four of the 700 Labs studied had the POMC gene variation but 15 of 33 of the Labs originally studied were obese, then about one in two of the 700 Labs should have had the gene variation. Otherwise, it is likely that there is another reason that Labradors are obese, such as maybe another gene variation that slows down their metabolism.

  3. Great post! I currently have two labs at home and they are both very healthy. As you explained in your article, labs are known to beg for treats more than any other breed of dog and from experience, that is definitely true; however, we take them on walks every day. It's interesting to see how in obese labs, the POMC gene doesn't really turn off which makes the dog hungry a lot. Just as the others commented on this post, I wonder if there's another gene/genes found in labs that deals with metabolism and is responsible for the obesity due to the data that was found based on the dogs that were tested.