Some not-so-sweet news for chocolate Labrador retrievers.
According to Live Science, a new study that appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology found that chocolate Labs are less healthy than yellow and black Labs, and have a shorter lifespan than differently colored Lab dogs.
For the study, researchers examined data from 2,000 Labradors living in the U.K. in 2013. This group of canines was pulled from a larger dataset of 33,000 Labs, which was collected as part of VetCompass, a research project being conducted by the University of Sydney and the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London.
Looking at these 2,000 dogs, researchers found that chocolate Labs had a average of lifespan of 10.7 years, while non-chocolate Labs had an average of lifespan of 12 years.
Along with dying earlier, researchers found that chocolate Labs had a higher rate of skin and ear infections. Based on the data the study examined, chocolate Labs are twice as likely to get pyotraumatic dermatitis when compared to yellow and black Labs. The study shows chocolate Labs also have a higher chance or otitis externa or “swimmer’s ear.”
What this study didn’t uncover is if/how the chocolate Lab’s coat color and health status are linked. Further investigation would be needed to explore this avenue. Lead author of the study, Professor Paul McGreevy, the chair of board of VetCompass, believes breeding could play a part in the study’s finding.
“The relationships between coat color and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding certain pigmentations,” McGreevy said in a statement from the University of Sydney. “Because chocolate color is recessive in dogs, the gene for this color must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate. Breeders targeting this color may therefore be more likely to breed only Labradors carrying the chocolate coat gene. It may be that the resulting reduced gene pool includes a higher proportion of genes conducive to ear and skin conditions.”
Along with these chocolate Lab specific findings, the study also discovered that joint issues, obesity and ear infections are the most common health issues for the Labrador retriever breed as a whole.