There’s nothing cuter than a fat Labrador retriever, but just like humans, dogs have an ideal weight range. Yet if your vet keeps telling you that your pup is a little heavier than he or she should be, take heart: You might not be to blame. In fact, it could just be a result of genetics.
According to a May 2016 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, overweight Labradors often have a gene mutation that causes them to become “obsessed by food,” as study author Eleanor Raffan wrote. Researchers studied 310 Labradors, some of which were service dogs, asking owners to complete a questionnaire to gauge the dog’s food motivation.
They found that almost a quarter of the dogs (23 percent) had at least one copy of the gene mutation. Those dogs were about 4 pounds heavier on average than dogs without the mutation. These results are telling considering the owners, rather than the dogs, are the ones in charge of feeding and exercise.
As an owner, you’re in a tricky situation because you don’t want to feel like you’re starving your dog, but you also don’t want Fido to become overweight. We all know how hard it is to refrain from giving your dog an extra scoop with dinner — especially when they place their head in your lap and give you those irresistible puppy dog eyes — but dog obesity has side effects such as a reduction of quality of life and an exacerbation of conditions like arthritis.
“Food is often used as a reward during training, and carrying this variant may make dogs more motivated to work for a titbit,” fellow researcher Gilles Yeo said, “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.”
Researchers will continue to study the effects of the gene mutation’s implications for both Labradors and humans. For now, if you’re concerned about your dog’s weight or you have questions, raise them with your vet at the next check-up.
h/t The Telegraph