New research finds around a quarter of Labrador retriever dogs face a double-whammy of feeling hungry all the time and burning fewer calories due to a genetic mutation. This obesity-driving combination means that dog owners must be particularly strict with feeding and exercising their Labradors to keep them slim. The mutation is in a gene (POMC), which plays a critical role in hunger and energy use. Around 25% of Labradors and 66% of flatcoated retriever dogs have this mutation, which researchers previously showed causes increased interest in food and risk of obesity. The study reveals how the mutation profoundly changes the way Labradors and flatcoated retrievers behave around food. It found that although they don’t need to eat more to feel full, they are hungrier in between meals. The mutation was found to alter a pathway in the dogs’ brains associated with body weight regulation. The mutation triggers a starvation signal that tells their body to increase food intake and conserve energy, despite this being unnecessary. In addition, dogs with the POMC mutation were found to use around 25% less energy at rest than dogs without it, meaning they don’t need to consume as many calories to maintain a healthy body weight.

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