A Labrador dog’s colour could be linked to a lower life expectancy

22 Oct 2018

Image: © Farinoza/Stock.adobe.com

Research into Labrador dogs and their varying colour has found that chocolate-coloured dogs could have a shorter life expectancy.

When it comes to choosing a particular colour of Labrador dog, it might be worth bearing in mind that going with a chocolate-coloured one could see you getting another new dog sooner than you think.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers led by the University of Sydney after gathering data on more than 33,000 UK-based Labrador Retrievers of all colours. Publishing their findings in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, the researchers said that a chocolate Labrador has a significantly lower chance at a long life than its black or golden counterparts.

The results showed that the non-chocolate-coloured dogs have a median longevity of 12.1 years whereas a chocolate-coloured dog’s is 10pc lower. In fact, chocolate Labradors also have a higher incidence of ear inflammation – twice as much – and are more than four times more likely to suffer pyotraumatic dermatitis or ‘hotspots’.

UK Labradors are obese

The finding that there was a relationship between coat colour and disease was a major surprise to lead author of the study, Prof Paul McGreevy, and seems to warrant further investigation globally. He suggested that it could reflect an unintended consequence of breeding certain colours.

“Because chocolate colour is recessive in dogs, the gene for this colour must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate,” he said. “Breeders targeting this colour may therefore be more likely to breed only Labradors carrying the chocolate coat gene. It may be that the resulting reduced gene pool includes a higher proportion of genes conducive to ear and skin conditions.”

Looking more into Labradors’ general health, 8.8pc of the dogs were found to be obese, mostly among male, neutered dogs. The data was gathered as part of the VetCompass programme, which collects and analyses electronic patient data on dogs in the UK, with Labradors found to be some of the most obese in the database.

It has been a busy time for dog research, with recent findings showing that dogs’ intelligence is often overestimated by their owners, while another team determined more about how dogs associate words with objects.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic