Could the color of your dog’s fur affect his lifespan? A new study by The University of Sydney found a relationship between coat color and both lifespan and prevalence of health issues.
A study by Australian researchers sought to compare the life expectancy and health issues among Labrador retrievers, one of the most popular dog breeds across the world, to determine if there existed a relationship between fur color and health.
What they found was quite surprising!
Researchers compared the veterinary health records of 33,000 Labradors in the UK across the three common coat colors, yellow, black, and chocolate. Through the study, they found that Chocolate Labs have significantly shorter life spans, as well as a higher prevalence of inflammation, skin, and ear problems than Yellow and Black Labs.
The average lifespan of both Yellow and Black Labs was 12.1 years, more than 10% longer than Chocolate Labs which averaged a lifespan of 10.7 years, the University of Sydney research found.
Paul McGreevey, who pioneered the study, said the prevalence of ear inflammation was also twice as high in Chocolate Labs and the brown-coated dogs were four times more likely to suffer from dermatitis.
“The relationships between coat color and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding certain pigmentations,” Professor McGreevey said.
“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.”
Since discovering the link between coat color and health of dogs in the UK, similar studies will be performed in other nations to determine if the same correlation exists. Researchers also plan to study links between pigmentation and health issues across other breeds to determine if the same links are found.
At the very least, Professor McGreevey said, “this report can help breeders and veterinarians prioritize strategic approaches to tackle health issues in Labrador retrievers,” and can alert pet owners to potential health problems ahead, prompting them to check and treat early.