Pet insurance policies are underwritten by Markel American Insurance Company.
Follow Us
Overweight dog laying on a mat on the porch

Gene mutation associated with obesity in dogs

Q: Our 3-year old Labrador retriever, Clyde, is obese. We feed and exercise him according to his veterinarian’s instructions, but he keeps gaining weight. 

Clyde’s thyroid glands are functioning as they should, and all other lab work is normal. We’ve never had this problem with any of our other dogs, so we’re wondering if Clyde could have inherited his obesity. What do you think?

A: Among the dog breeds, Labrador retrievers have the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity; and they are the most highly food-motivated of all breeds.

A recent study indicates these characteristics may be inherited. Researchers found that in Labs, a mutation of the POMC (pro-opiomelanocortin) gene is associated with increases in obesity and food drive. In dogs and humans, the POMC gene affects eating behavior.

The gene mutation also was found in flat-coated retrievers, a breed closely related to Labs. Both were derived from the St. John’s water dog, a breed that is now extinct. The gene mutation was absent in 38 other dog breeds tested.

The prevalence of obesity in dogs living in developed countries is 34 to 59 percent. Scientists hope that further research on canine obesity will help improve weight management in both dogs and humans. In humans, more than 100 genes have been found to influence body weight.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

Q: I have diabetes, so I...

Q: When our dog, Addie,...

Cat communication | @car0L_in via Twenty20

Q: My daughter, Jayne,...

Cat scratching chin | @sussialfredsson via Twenty20

Q: My 4-year-old cat...

More From Figo Blog
@alyson.tomassetti via Twenty20

It seems there’s a holiday for every occasion...

Party animals: pets celebrating the good life | @mattspataro via Twenty20

They’re called party animals for a...

Cat playing | @klovestorun via Twenty20

When we think of cat toys with a purpose, what...

Feline fitness: Tips for exercising your cat

We tend to think of cats as lithe and agile...

Q: May I apply DEET insect...

Arthritis In Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, And Treatment Options | Figo Pet Insurance

We all strive to be responsible dog owners who...

Dachshund sitting in a pile of fall leaves

The leaves have turned their bright autumn...

Human petting small cat outside

Q: My daughters keep getting...

HELP