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 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 time they reach four. Researchers say putting on nearly 1kg every year after reaching maturity puts many at risk of obesity.
The findings are part of the Dogslife project, which seeks to gain a greater insight into links between the Labradors’ lifestyles and their health and wellbeing.
Dog owners provided details of their animals’ lifestyle as part of the project, which is led by the University of Edinburgh. The team assessed the activity levels and size of more than 4000 Kennel Club registered Labrador Retrievers as they grew to the age of four.
The study found that, on average, dogs were exercised for more than two hours each day. Dogs that spent more time fetching, chasing and retrieving tended to weigh less, the team say.
Chocolate colored Labradors were found to weigh, on average, 1.4kg more than yellow and black Labradors. While exercise is important, other factors such as genetics appear to play a role in why some dogs gain more weight than others in early life, the team says.
Initial findings from the Dogslife project will help researchers carry out further studies into the links between 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.
Dr. Dylan Clements, of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute, who led the study, said: “Dogslife is a ground-breaking study of canine health, which is made possible thanks to the incredible dedication of dog owners.”
Dogslife: A cohort study of Labrador Retrievers in the UK, C.A. Pugh,, B.M.de C. Bronsvoort, I.G. Handel, K.M. Summers, D.N. Clements, Preventive Veterinary Medicine, doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2015.06.020, published online 7 July 2015.
Source: University of Edinburgh
Using data collected about Labrador Retrievers, research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Veterinary Research is beginning to quantify the health, illnesses, and veterinary care of dogs.
The UK is a nation of pet lovers – but what do we know about the health of our pets? To date the long-term (longitudinal) study of canine diseases has been patchy, relying on information from referral centers and details about pet illnesses which are not reported to a vet have never been studied before.
The Dogslife internet-based project* was organized in conjunction with the Kennel Club. From the 1st July 2010, the owners of all Labrador Retrievers born after 1st January 2010 and registered with the Kennel Club were invited to be part of the project. In the first year of the study 1407 dogs were enrolled in the study.
Early results to come out of this study show that four out of ten of all dogs were ill at some point. Analyzing their data the researchers estimated that about 80% of dogs had been ill by the time they were one year old – but that only half were considered by their owners to be ill enough to need to visit the vet.
Discussing the Dogslife project, Dr Dylan Clements from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute, which are both part of The University of Edinburgh, and lead author of the study said, “Labrador Retrievers are the most popular pedigree dog in the UK, and breeders and owners are passionate about the health of their pets. We are extremely grateful for the time and commitment provided by owners and breeders contributing to the study. We hope to follow the health of these dogs throughout their lives so that we can identify aspects of care which might reduce the risk of dogs developing the disease in the future.”
The study is on-going, so any Kennel Club registered Labradors born in the UK after 1st January 2010 can join the project.
Dogslife: A web-based longitudinal study of Labrador Retriever health in the UK Dylan N Clements, Ian G Handel, Erica Rose, Damon Querry, Carys A Pugh, William ER Ollier, Kenton L Morgan, Lorna J Kennedy, Jeffery Sampson, Kim M Summers and B Mark de Bronsvoort BMC Veterinary Research (in press)
Source: EurekAlert!, the online, global news service operated by AAAS, the science society