If Your Dog Is This Colour, It Could Live Longer—Here’s Why

Some dogs live longer than others, and the genetic reason will surprise you.

Four Labrador dogs sitting on hayPhoto: Claire Norman/Shutterstock

The truth about dog coat genetics

If you have a dog, chances are you’ll agree they’re more than pets—they’re part of the family. Keeping your fur baby around for as long as possible is a priority, so take note: You could be feeding your dog all the right foods, giving him the proper amount of exercise, and smothering him with love and affection, and he still may not live as long as you’d wish. And the secret to his longevity may be linked to the colour of his coat.

New research from the University of Sydney studying Labrador retrievers found the chocolate breeds don’t live as long as their yellow and black counterparts. The reason for this, said lead author Professor Paul McGreevy, from the University’s Faculty of Science, may be recessive genes. (Can you guess this dog’s breed based on one picture?)

“The relationships between coat colour and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding certain pigmentations,” he told Science Daily. “Because chocolate colour is recessive in dogs, the gene for this colour must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate. Breeders targeting this colour may, therefore, be more likely to breed only Labradors carrying the chocolate coat gene.”

According to the study, which took place with Labradors living in the United Kingdom and is currently being replicated in Australia, the median longevity of non-chocolate Labradors is 12.1 years, more than 10 per cent longer than those with chocolate coats. Researchers tested more than 33,000 Labradors across the UK in conjunction with the University’s VetCompass Program. In addition to lifespan, Labradors with chocolate coats are also more apt to suffer health issues, such as ear infections and skin diseases.

No matter what colour your Labrador may be, researchers noted that many of these dogs tend to be overweight, regardless of colour. So there is something you can do to keep your furry friend as healthy as possible for as long as possible—monitor his diet to prevent obesity.

Certain labs may be prone to health issues but on the upside, they’re one of the smartest dogs around. Here are the smartest dog breeds, ranked.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest