For me, at least, it can sometimes be tricky to know if my dog isn’t feeling his best. Whenever I’m sick, I tend to sniffle and complain and require frequent hot tea breaks. But for Hank, knowing something’s off can be as subtle as noticing that he’s not as excited for a walk as he usually is. Dog health is so nuanced that, according to a new study, even something as seemingly unimportant as coat color can influence which dogs live the longest.
For the study, which has been published in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, researchers looked at over 33,000 Labrador retrievers in the United Kingdom, and according to a press release from The University of Sydney, the study found that the median lifespan of chocolate Labs appeared to be 10 percent shorter than that of the Labs of other colors. The chocolate Labs were also twice as likely to suffer from ear inflammation problems, the research found.
If this seems totally unfair to you, I’m with you. So why did some dogs seem to draw the short straw in the study? “The relationships between coat colour and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding certain pigmentations,” lead study author Professor Paul McGreevy, from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science, said in a statement. “Because chocolate colour is recessive in dogs, the gene for this colour must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate.”
So, McGreevy explained, if breeders are specifically trying to breed chocolate Labs, and the Labs are carrying that recessive gene, “the resulting reduced gene pool [might include] a higher proportion of genes conducive to ear and skin conditions.”
But keeping an eye on your little furry pal, whatever their coat color, can help keep them safe and healthy. Dr. Kurt Venator, chief veterinary officer at Purina, tells Elite Daily in an email that there are a number of things to watch out for when trying to keep your dog strong and healthy. “Nutrition is paramount when it comes to keeping your dog healthy for a lifetime,” he says. “To ensure a complete and balanced diet, it’s important for pet owners to understand the nutritional benefits of the different ingredients commonly found in their pet’s food.” If you’re unsure of what you should be looking for, Purina has a dog food selector that allows you to sort by metrics like age, breed size, and even specific health concerns.
In terms of your pup’s general health, one thing to look out for is whether they’re more lethargic than usual, as this could be a sign that your fur baby isn’t getting all of the right nutrients, or even that your pet has a genetic or chronic health issue, Dr. Venator explains. It’s especially important to work with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is eating a diet that focuses on their individual needs, he says.
“It’s also important to exercise your dog regularly and make sure they are getting the amount and types of exercise that are appropriate for their breed, size, and age,” says Dr. Venator. And just like you make sure to take care of your teeth every day, the vet explains that brushing your dog’s teeth on a daily basis is important, too, for maintaining both oral and overall heath.
If you have any suspicion that your dog might be sick, don’t hesitate to make a trip to the vet’s office, Dr. Venator says. “If your dog is not acting like herself, that is your first red flag,” he tells Elite Daily. Keep a special eye on your pup’s mobility if she’s older, he adds, as osteoarthritis is one of the most common health problems for older dogs. If she’s not getting up and moving around as much as she usually does, it’s worth having things checked out.
Even though this new study may seem a bit grim, it’s also a reminder to pay close attention to your dog and their well-being. After all, if you have a pup of your own, then I’m sure you’d agree with me when I say that all I want from my buddy Hank is a lifetime of love and cuddles.