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Scientists explore genetic predisposition to obesity
Dr Raffan hopes that future research will improve the satiety of diets, allowing dogs to feel ‘full’ without the potential for excessive weight gain.
Genetic mutation in Labradors increases appetite

Scientists are exploring a gene mutation found in Labradors that is responsible for increasing their appetites. It is hoped further research will help to improve the satiety of their diets.

Ongoing work in this area was discussed at the British Science Association Festival in Brighton, BBC News reports.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge analysed DNA from the saliva of Labradors across the UK and found that particularly ‘greedy’ animals had a gene mutation that increases appetite. A quarter of pet Labradors were found to have at least one copy of this mutation in the gene.

Dr Eleanor Raffan, who led the research team, cautioned against attempts to ‘breed out’ this mutation. Speaking to BBC News, she warns that although the mutation may predispose dogs to obesity, it could also explain why they are so easy to train.

“If we try to get rid of the mutation, we might find we change the personality of the breed, and that would be a real shame,” she said.

Dr Raffan hopes that future research will improve the satiety of diets, allowing dogs to feel ‘full’ without the potential for excessive weight gain.

Elsewhere, scientists at the University of Liverpool are using state-of-the-art imaging technology to study diseases that affect the knee joints in Labradors.

Canine cruciate ligament damage is the most common orthopaedic problem seen in veterinary practices and such injuries are more common in overweight dogs.

Researchers are using high speed x-ray cameras to film Labrador patients walking in the laboratory, watching their knee bone movements in real-time. They are aiming to improve understanding of how walking contributes to the breed’s risk of ligament injury and rupture.

“This data will help veterinary surgeons and engineers design better treatments for ligament damage in Labradors, like customised knee implants,” Dr Karl Bates from the University of Liverpool is quoted by the BBC as saying.

Scientists also hope to challenge public perceptions of ‘desirable’ traits in dogs.

Dr Raffan adds: “There is a real risk when we breed dogs to be cuddlier and cuter. I think people have seen so many overweight Labradors, they start to assume it’s normal.”

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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

News Story 1
 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

News Shorts
Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.