Labradors are the UK’s most popular dog thanks to their friendly and loyal nature. The fact that they are easy to train also helps and the Andrex puppy is practically a national treasure. However, Labs also have the unfortunate trait of piling on the pounds slightly more than any other dog. While many owners may look to extreme diets and vigorous exercise schedules after spending a tad too long dubbing it ‘puppy fat’ (He’s 8 now Susan), scientists have recently revealed the answer we’ve all been waiting for.
New research from the University of Cambridge has shown that Labs can’t help but be hungry; it’s in their genes! It is a gene variation that differentiates them from other species of dogs which means, by nature, they are quite simply obsessed by food. With this in mind, the next time a Lab incessantly begs or drools at the sound of a tin being opened, be hesitant to blame the owner for spoiling their ‘cuddly’ pup with sweet treats and excessive amounts of food, as this may not be the case!
The researchers behind this game-changing revelation say they hope to “shift the paradigm away from owner-blaming”. However, they also warn against breeding the variation responsible, known as POMC, out of Labrador’s, as you are likely to lose many of the traits that make them so desirable.
The study itself involved analysing the genes of over 310 Labradors, and that alone made me become more interested in science. You wouldn’t need your Monday motivation if there was 310 lovable, huggable Labradors awaiting your arrival! The pups were also weighed and assessed on their food motivations via a questionnaire with owners. The researchers found that nearly a quarter of the Labs carried at least one copy of the POMC variant, just one of the three potential obesity-related genes being looked for.
For each copy of the gene carried, the dog in question was, on average, 1.9kg heavier than its peers who were sans POMC. The researchers commented that this was particularly notable, as it is us as owners who control external factors such as exercise and food intake.
Dr Eleanor Raffan led the research. She said:
“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. However, it’s not a straightforward picture as the variant is even more common in flat coat retrievers, a breed not previously flagged as being prone to obesity.”
About a quarter of households in the UK own a dog, and around one in three are believed to be overweight. While the discovery of POMC may excuse some Labradors for now, there is no excuse for overfeeding or under-exercising your four-legged friends. Being overweight reduces your pups quality of life and can exacerbate joint disorders, including arthritis. When they can no longer lovingly jump up to give you a surprise kiss without knocking you for six, it’s probably time for a doggy diet!
This got me thinking…could humans have a POMC? I don’t know about anyone else, but I can certainly relate to being hungry all the time and I would probably go as far to say I’m food obsessed; but aren’t we all!? Life as we know it is structured by time, but also by the different times of day that we eat, such as breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve barely even scraped the last of the seconds (sometimes thirds) off my plate before I start to think about the next source of food!
Some call it greed, I call it POMC and suggest they should look it up. If nothing else, this article has hopefully put some podgy pup owners mind at rest over the larger than life Labs, and also provided all the foodies out there with an answer to ‘what is your spirit animal?’