Have you ever wondered why your Labrador seems a little bit on the uhhm…. heavier side than your neighbors’ dogs? No, it has nothing to do with his cushy looking coat or the fact that you are just a wonderful owner. There is a scientific reason why Labradors, in particular, are predisposed to being fat. Here is the real reason why your Labrador is fat and what you can do about it.
Why Do You Have a Fat Black Lab?
Whenever you visit a dog park near you, there is a good chance that you will find more than one Labrador receiver. This dog breed is a favorite with many dog lovers for a few excellent reasons:
- They are family-friendly
- They grow to just the right size (not too big nor too small)
- They are impossibly adorable
While it’s true that Labs are favorites for many households, this breed has a specific problem that seems to plague a majority of them. They are fat. There is a good chance that you have seen a fat black Lab somewhere or that you have one.
It’s true that Labradors tend to love their food. In many cases, the wolf down what’s on their plate quickly prompting you (the wonderful owner that you are) to think that they might still be hungry, so you add them more food. It’s easy to see why.
A fully grown Lab could weigh up 70 pounds. That size alone lets you assume that your dog needs more food. And then there are those adorable eyes and face when he looks up to you for treats. How can you say no to them?
It turns out; it might not be all your fault (thank goodness). Scientists have found that Labs, in particular, have a very specific genetic variation that predisposes them to gain weight quickly.
The Science Behind Why Your Labrador Is Fat
A team of scientists from Cambridge took the time to study and compare the DNA between 15 obese Labs to 18 lean ones. What they were looking for was a specific gene variation called POMC that caused weight gain in mice. They found that this gene seemed to be more commonly mutated in the fat Labs than it was in the lean one.
What this gene mutation does is that it disrupts the ability of the dog to sense that it had a lot of stored fat. The gene also rewired the dog’s brain reward system and made it easy for it to overeat without realizing that it was doing so.
The team realized the reason why Labs have this gene mutation. Because Labradors are originally working dogs, they always needed to eat more to perform their duties well (dog owners tended to prefer food-motivated dogs because they were easier to train). Because of this, owners went on to breed more Labs, and the gene mutation continued to proliferate the species.
Today’s Labs are not working dogs, and thanks to this gene mutation; you have a fat black Lab.
What Can You Do About Your Fat Black Lab?
The very first thing you need to do is check if your Labrador is fat. The healthy weight for a fully grown Labrador falls between 55 and 80 pounds. Generally, if the Lab falls around 70 pounds, he/she is not fat just yet. Here is a simple guideline that should help:
- A male Lab will weigh about 10 pounds more than his female counterparts
- If your Lab is close to or past the 100-pound mark, then they are obese, and you need to do something about it
Here are some tips on how to keep your Labs weight in check:
1. Consider Changing What You Feed Your Lab
One way to try and manage your dog’s weight is to change what you are feeding him. High fiber foods tend to be good for dogs with weight issues. Not only are these foods more filling, but they also provide your dog with all the nutrients that they need to remain healthy.
High fiber diets tend to stimulate your dog’s metabolism too. The only issue here is that many of these high fiber foods are not as flavorful as you Lab may be used to and as such, he might reject it at first.
2. Give Him Smaller Portions
Because your dog may not readily accept the change of diet, you might be tempted to go back to feeding him whatever it was that he liked so much before. No one can blame you. No one wants to see their dog suffer.
However, if you are going to keep feeding your Lab the same food, then you might want to consider reducing his portions by like 20 percent. Don’t give in when he looks up to you with those cute eyes and give him more treats.
3. Stop Giving Him Treats
Now, completely eliminating treats from your dog’s life might sound cruel on so many levels. One, they absolutely love them and are used to them by now and two, it’s how you get them to do what you want.
However, the truth is that these treats are problematic because they increase the dog’s caloric intake. If you are not so inclined to completely stop giving your dog treats, then how about switching to low calorie treats for dieting dogs?
These are still just as delicious, you will still be friends with your dog, he will still do what you want him to, and best of all, he won’t gain as much weight from eating them. In addition to this, you should consider giving him fewer treats every day.
Finally, and this might sound obvious, but it’s often ignored by many homeowners: increase the amount of exercise and activity that your dog gets. This means that you will have to walk him more, play with him more, and generally keep him up and active a lot more.
If you simply don’t have the time for that or are not home a lot, you can hire a dog walker or trainer who will ensure that your fat black Lab’s activity levels are increased for his own good. The Lab will love it because genetically, they are working dogs.