Labs are among the most popular dogs in the country, and they're also prone to packing on too many pounds. A new study suggests a scientific reason that helps explain both: a genetic mutation. Researchers at Cambridge found that about 25% of Labs have a gene variant that makes them constantly crave food, reports the Guardian. The upside for the breed is that it makes the dogs food-focused and thus easy to train, boosting their popularity. The downside is that it makes them more likely than other breeds to put on too much weight, with all the health problems that entails, reports the BBC.
“There is some hard-wired biology behind that persistent food-seeking behavior,” says Eleanor Raffan, a co-author of the study published in Cell Metabolism. The telltale glitch occurs in a gene known as POMC that helps control hunger, explains Science. The dogs are missing a stretch of it, keeping their appetites in overdrive, a mutation found in no other breed save for the related flat-coated retriever. So what is a Lab owner to do? Be aware of the tendency, the better to resist those "big brown eyes" when food is around, advises Raffan, per Gizmodo. (You might not want to hug your dog, either.)