Quirks and Quarks

Labrador retrievers' obesity is genetic

A genetic mutation, common in the breed, leaves a mental "hunger switch" in the on position

A large proportion of the species have a "hungry hound" gene mutation

A svelte Lab (Peter Wadsworth, cc-by-2.0)
Labrador retrievers are known by veterinarians and pet owners to be more motivated by food than other breeds.This helps explain why they are easier to train, but it also accounts for the fact that they are more likely to become obese.

But a new study by Dr. Giles Yeo, from the Department of Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge in England, has found genetic evidence to explain this trait. Labrador retrievers - along with flat coat retrievers - were the only two in a large study of many breeds that commonly have a mutation in a gene called POMC.

This gene acts as a hunger switch in the brain, and the mutation results in it being left on. This study could provide a better understanding of the POMC mutation in humans, which can also result in obesity.

Related Links

Paper in Cell Metabolism
- University of Cambridge release
- BBC News story
- Washington Post story
The Guardian story