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A recent study uncovers new insights into obesity among labradors, finding that they are highly focused on consuming sausages.

A recent study uncovers new insights into obesity among labradors, finding that they are highly focused on consuming sausages.

Labradors are known to be the greediest among canines, and recent studies have revealed the reasons behind their tendency to become overweight.

A team of scientists has discovered that a change in the POMC gene, also known as proopiomelanocortin, can make dogs more likely to become obese. This genetic alteration is present in approximately 25% of labrador retrievers and 66% of flat-coated retrievers, with a slightly stronger impact on the former breed.

Two theories have arisen to explain the correlation: not only do dogs with the mutation experience increased hunger between meals, but they also have a lower resting calorie burn rate.

Dr. Eleanor Raffan, from the University of Cambridge and leader of the study, explained that this indicates these dogs have a dual disadvantage.

However, obesity in dogs can be prevented.

Eleanor Raffan with a dogView image in fullscreen

According to Raffan, many dog owners put in a lot of effort to carefully manage their dogs and keep them at a healthy weight. Some owners are successful in this endeavor.

According to the publication in Science Advances, Raffan and her team conducted a study involving 36 adult labradors who had either one copy, two copies, or no copies of the POMC mutation.

The canines, who were all following a regular meal plan, were served breakfast and three hours afterwards presented with a see-through container topped with a perforated lid. Inside, a researcher placed a sausage. The dogs were then able to approach the container.

The study concluded that dogs with the POMC mutation spent significantly less time resting or exploring the room, and instead spent more time trying to access the food, in comparison to dogs without the mutation.

“The dogs exhibiting the mutation displayed a heightened fixation towards the sausage,” stated Raffan. This indicates they may have been experiencing increased hunger.

Yet, a follow-up experiment with 24 labradors carrying one or no copies of the mutation revealed that this was not due to them feeling less satiated immediately after eating. Despite their genetic makeup, the dogs willingly consumed a considerable amount of wet dog food – approximately 2kg on average – when given a can every 20 minutes.

The researchers also looked at the energy expended by 19 fully-grown flat-coated retrievers while resting. This was done by measuring their oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output in a kennel that was altered for this purpose.

Researchers found that dogs with two copies of the mutation burn approximately 25% fewer calories than those without any copies. This suggests that these dogs would require less food to maintain a healthy body weight.

According to Raffan, while the circumstances may be more intricate for humans, the investigation effectively demonstrates how genes can impact behavior related to food.

She explained that the message pertains to the truth that obesity is not a voluntary decision. It is a manifestation of an underlying urge to eat, influenced by a mix of genetics and surroundings.

Source: theguardian.com