The Chubby Labrador.

Known as much for their love of food, as their wonderful ability to fit many roles from family pet to guide dog, Labradors are one of the most popular breeds worldwide. They are also notoriously great lovers of food. Holidays4Dogs looks at the chubby Labrador and asks why they are often food obsessed.

Jet, was a black Labrador I took on as ‘second hand’ dog from a lovely lady, who’s husband had recently died and she could no longer care for the dogs. Jet was six years old when she came to me and rather portly, to say the least. Like many Labradors, she always had an insatiable appetite. She once stole a whole cooked Christmas turkey which thought we had placed out of reach. However, while we nipped round to the pub for a pre-dinner yuletide beverage, she ate the lot! We were very lucky she didn’t become sick from eating so many cooked bones.

Jasper, my yellow Labrador boy we had from a puppy. He was equally as keen on food of any kind, spending much of his spare time leaning on the cupboard where his food was kept. He was always an optimistic soul, especially where food was concerned.

His favourite thing was sandwiches and he especially enjoyed picnics and family buffets. He would meticulously scour the floor for crumbs and do his very best to persuade people to part with quiche crusts. Thankfully, he was never a fat boy. I know how important it is to keep any dog lean and particularly Labradors who seem prone to putting on a lot of weight.

Its in the genes.

It turns out, having a reputation for a voracious appetite is not just a comical trait in Labradors. Their tendency to be greedier than other breeds has been studied by the University of Cambridge who discovered a particular gene associated with appetite and obesity in one of the world’s most loved breed of dog

The study involved 310 pet assistance dogs. Each dog was weighed and their body condition evaluated. The research team also conducted a questionnaire about each dog’s food motivation traits, i.e. reports from owners regarding the behaviour of their dogs around food.

The scientists were searching for obesity related genes and discovered that one gene in particular – Pro-ipiomelancortin, (POMC) . The gene is, significantly, concerned with appetite and obesity in Labradors, and also in flat coated retrievers. In both breeds, dogs carrying a copy of the POMC gene were on average 1.9kg heavier than ‘normal’ dogs.

The gene in question is already known to be an important factor in how the brain interprets feelings of hunger, as well as the feeling of being full once a meal has been consumed.

Food is a much bigger motivation for dogs carrying the POMC variant and, therefore, makes them easier to train. However, it is crucial they are fed and exercised accordingly to avoid them becoming obese. Obesity related diseases, such as joint problems and diabetes are common in Labradors.

Interestingly, the POMC gene is also the cause of childhood obesity and weight gain in adults. As a result, there may be some important lessons to learn from the research on Labradors since it could lead to a better understanding of the biology of obesity.