BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — If you have an overweight Labrador at home, it may have something to do with your dog’s DNA. New research in the Journal Cell Metabolism shows a genetic variant can scramble a dog’s hunger “off switch”, making them constantly search for food, and give you those big, sad eyes that say “feed me.”
Labradors tested positive for this genetic variant more frequently than any other breed. Scientists found they were more inclined than other dogs to beg for treats, and generally engage in behavior to get more food.
Eleanor Raffan is the study’s lead author. She is a veterinary surgeon and geneticist at the University of Cambridge in England, and says she decided to research obesity in Labradors because so many clients were showing up with overweight dogs of this breed, and complain that their pets seemed obsessed with food.
Raffan and her team first looked at 33 Labradors, focusing on genes associated with obesity. 18 of the dogs were fit, and 15 were obese, and the scientists found the obese dogs were more likely to carry a variation of the gene called POMC that was “scrambled” in one spot. The gene variate omitted an “off” switch from hunger cues, making it not work property anymore, so the dogs always wanted food.
The team then expanded the study, looking at more than 700 more Labs, and found the same variation in about 1 in 4 of the dogs.
You can read more about the study in the journal Cell Metabolism, but scientists say it’s good for pet owners to have this information, so they can be more diligent in giving their Labs a healthy diet, and not giving in to that “feed me face” so easily.