Image by jfch via Flickr CC2.0

Image by jfch via Flickr CC2.0

The first gene to ever be associated with canine obesity could explain why Labrador retrievers are more interested in food than other breeds. An alteration on the pro-opiomelanocortin, or POMC gene is found specifically in Labs and the related breed of flat-coated retrievers.The researchers found, on average, dogs with the POMC deletion were 2 kg heavier. Their owners also reported that the dogs begged for food more frequently and were generally more food-motivated. The team found the gene variation occurs in roughly 23 per cent of Labs overall; however, it occurred in 76 per cent of assistance and service dogs. The researchers suspect the service animals would be more easily trained as they are more food-motivated than other Labrador retrievers.

Authors of the study note that not all the dogs with the POMC deletion were obese and some dogs were obese without the variation, highlighting the importance of nutrition and exercise. The researchers believe this finding has potential therapeutic implications for human obesity, as variations of the gene have been associated with differences in body weight in humans.

Image credit:  Raffan et al.

Image credit: Raffan et al.


Eleanor Raffan, Rowena J. Dennis, Conor J. O’Donovan, Julia M. Becker, Robert A. Scott, Stephen P. Smith, David J. Withers, Claire J. Wood, Elena Conci, Dylan N. Clements, Kim M. Summers, Alexander J. German, Cathryn S. Mellersh, Maja L. Arendt, Valentine P. Iyemere, Elaine Withers, Josefin Söder, Sara Wernersson, Göran Andersson, Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Giles S.H. Yeo, Stephen O’Rahilly

Contributing authors:

Eleanor Raffan, Stephen O’Rahilly

Original paper published on May 3, 2016 in Cell Metabolism.