Labrador and Golden retrievers have a reputation for being greedy and this is reflected by their being a high risk breed for developing obesity – both breeds have had being overweight flagged for special attention in the Kennel Club’s Breed Watch scheme. But why? A new study is trying to answer that question and they need your help!
The GOdogs project is being run by Eleanor Raffan, a vet and geneticist working at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Metabolic Science. Eleanor says: “canine obesity is emerging as a significant threat to dogs’ health and welfare, with obesity being associated with the development of all manner of diseases from breathing problems to arthritis and diabetes to cancer.”
It is obvious that obesity develops when animals eat more calories than they burn up each day. However, it is not known why some individuals eat and beg for food to the point of obesity whilst others remain lean. The fact that some breeds, such as Labradors and golden retrievers, are predisposed to obesity makes us believe their genes are to blame.
Research in humans suggests that genes governing appetite are important but there is much to learn and little work has been carried out in dogs. If we can find a genetic reason why some dogs are greedy, it will offer benefits to them, other dog breeds and human medical science too.
GOdogs needs your help! Participating is very simple – and all Village Vet Cambridge practices are participating to help. GOdogs require a saliva sample from each dog, that the dog is ‘condition scored’ and weighed by a vet or nurse, and owners will be asked to fill out a questionnaire. That process is free of charge and will be carried out by Eleanor or at your local vet practice, which Eleanor will arrange. Only some dogs are suitable for inclusion in the study: if your dog is over 5 years old and either lean or markedly overweight, they are likely to be suitable.
Do you own that rare creature: a dog that just isn’t that bothered about food? If so, Eleanor is particularly keen to hear from you. In order for the research to be successful, it will be important that the lean dogs we include are ‘genetically lean’. i.e. that they tend to regulate their own weight rather than having owners who are very strict about their diet or exercise. Those dogs are likely to be few and far between – if you know one of them, please get in touch!
GOdogs are also looking for overweight and obese dogs to take part. Just make an appointment at any of our Cambridge practices to take part.
You can find out more about the project or how to get involved by visiting the website (www.GOdogs.org.uk), following GOdogs on Twitter (@GOdogsProject) or emailing Eleanor directly (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you in advance!
All information gathered about you and your dog will be made anonymous for the study and no dog will be identifiable from the published results. You will be able to follow the progress of the study online or via a regular newsletter.