Increased health issues in chocolate Labrador Retrievers

In a study conducted by Professor Paul McGreevy, from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science  they found that chocolate Labrador Retrievers have a shorter lifespan, have a greater tendency to be overweight, more likely to have ear inflammation (otitis externa) (twice as high in chocolate Labs), and were four times more likely to have suffered from pyo-traumatic dermatitis (also known as hot-spot) than yellow or black Labrador Retrievers.

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The researchers studied more than 33,000 United Kingdom-based Labrador retrievers. They determined that in order to produce chocolate Labs, breeders used chocolate Labs for both the sire and dam. Because the chocolate color is a recessive gene it may increase the health issues associated with it.

It has long been known that the merle, piebald and harlequin color in dogs poses a greater risk of deafness. This is evident in the many breeds of dogs that have this coloration and have a higher number of deaf individuals. Therefore it is not surprising that the chocolate color in Labrador Retrievers can have a greater risk of health issues.

There is a solution to the deafness and Labrador health issues. Do not create this coloration in breeds that are not normally this color. For the breeds with deafness, only breed dogs that are not deaf and spay or neuter the puppies in a litter that are deaf. In all dogs, only breed for better health and temperament instead of for color. A dog’s health and temperament are what makes a great dog. Color on the other hand is purely for aesthetic reasons with no viable function.

 

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Limber Tail in Dogs

Limber tail primarily affects large working breeds of dogs, and especially Labrador Retrievers. It is a painful condition where the tail goes limp. It was initially thought to be a result of swimming, also known as “swimmers tail.” However, the researchers found that dogs who did not swim also suffered from this condition.

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Another thought was that the condition resulted from exposure to the cold. Since many of the dogs studied lived in colder regions, it lends support to this theory. However, what researchers did find was that many of the dogs who suffered from limber tail were related, making genetics a strong suspect.

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The researchers hope to expand the study to learn what genetic connection there is to this painful condition in dogs. By doing so it will help breeders avoid breeding dogs that carry the gene.

Fortunately, the condition only lasts from a few days to a few weeks. But that means that many cases are not reported.

The study was conducted by Dr. Carys Pugh, at the University’s Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh. This was the first large-scale study of limber tail, using over 6000 Labrador Retrievers across the UK.

The study was published in the Veterinary Record and was funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. The Roslin Institute receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

(thank you to Ron Hix and Jeff Dentler for letting me use photos of their dogs)