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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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Outreach work in Mongolia aims to learn about Pallasís cat

News Story 1
 The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is supporting work in Mongolia to help improve understanding of the Pallasís cat (Otocolobus manul). The society is working with local communities to raise awareness and learn more about how people interact with the cats. The aim is to gather knowledge on the species and the threats it faces, to inform global conservation efforts.  

News Shorts
New canine health awareness week launches

The Kennel Club has launched Canine Health Week (13-19 November) to raise awareness of the most common health issues in dogs. Canine Health Week is set to become an annual initiative to highlight resources, research and information to make a difference to dog health.

According to clinical veterinary data from VetCompass, the five most common health issues are ear canal disease, dental disease, anal sac impaction, overgrown nails and arthritis. It is hoped the awareness week will help to familiarise dog owners with common conditions, to better meet the healthcare needs of their dogs.