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Labradors may be 'genetically hungry'

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If you’ve ever looked into the eyes of a hungry Labrador you won’t be surprised at this latest find.

As Britain’s favourite dog, the Labrador is known for being easy to train with its main aim in life being to please it’s owner. With this in mind, many Lab owners are left baffled at how to get their beloved pets to do one simple thing - stop eating.

But worry not, scientists have found that a Labrador’s hungry tendencies may not be down to their owners afterall as it has been found that, for many labs, it’s all genetic.

Research by the University of Cambridge has found a genetic variation which they believe can drive some Labradors and other flat coat retrievers to be born obsessed with food.

Those behind the study have said they hope the results can ‘shift the paradigm away from owner-blaming’.

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, analysed the genes of and weighed 310 Labradors while assessing their ‘food motivation’ using an owner questionnaire.

It was found that nearly a quarter of subjects carried at least one copy of the POMC variant; one of three potential obesity-related genes being looked for. For each copy of the gene carried, the dog was found to be on average 1.9kg heavier.

‘This is a common genetic variant in Labradors and has a significant effect on those dogs that carry it, so it is likely that this helps explain why Labradors are more prone to being overweight in comparison to other breeds,’ said Dr Eleanor Raffan, who led the research.

‘However, it’s not a straightforward picture as the variant is even more common among flat coat retrievers, a breed not previously flagged as being prone to obesity.’

Researchers have also cautioned Lab owners against attempts to breed the POMC variant out of the Labrador gene pool, as doing this may result in the loss of the loveable treats that make the dogs so popular.

Dr Giles Yeo, who also worked on the study, said ‘Labradors make particularly successful working and pet dogs because they are loyal, intelligent and eager to please, but, importantly, they are also relatively easy to train.

‘Food is often used as a reward during training, and carrying this variant may make dogs more motivated to work for a titbit.’

So next time you’re avoiding eye contact with your Labrador while you tuck into your dinner, just remember it’s not your fault - or theirs - it’s just the way they are.




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