Midlothian scientists get to the fat of the canine matter

A labrador
A labrador

Britain’s most popular dog breed can suffer from weight gain in middle age just like people, a UK canine health survey suggests.

Labrador retrievers gain an average of 0.9kg each year between the ages of one and four, putting them at risk of being overweight by the time they reach middle age, the study by Midlothian-based scientists shows.

Previous research suggests that, in the UK, labrador retrievers are the breed most likely to be overweight. The dogs are fully grown after 18 months and are regarded as being near middle age by the age of four.

The findings are part of the Dogslife project which looks at links between the labradors’ lifestyles.

Dog owners provided details of their animals’ lifestyle as part of the project, which is led by the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. The team assessed the activity levels and size of more than 4000 Kennel Club registered labrador retrievers up to the age of four.

The study found that dogs that spent more time fetching, chasing and retrieving tended to weigh less.

Chocolate coloured Labradors were found to weigh, on average, 1.4kg more than yellow and black labradors.

Initial findings will help researchers carry out further studies into factors linking dogs’ body size, lifestyle and overall health.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine, was funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, The Roslin Foundation and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.