A recent study published in the journal, Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, has worrying news for a third of the world’s lab lovers. Researchers at the University of Sydney found that chocolate labs have significantly shorter lifespans than their black and yellow brothers and sisters.
Labrador Retrievers (of all coat colors) are the long-standing favorite breed in the United States and Australia.
The researchers collected and analyzed electronic patient data from more than 33,000 black, yellow and chocolate labradors in the U.K. They found that black and yellow labs live an average of 12.1 years, 10% longer than chocolates.
In addition to their shorter life expectancy, chocolate labs are also afflicted with more skin and ear problems. They are twice as likely to suffer from Otitis externa (ear infections) and four times more likely to develop pyo-traumatic dermatitis, commonly known as hot spots.
The research team expressed surprise at the results, noting that selective breeding for the chocolate gene comes at a high price for the dogs.
“Because chocolate color is recessive in dogs, the gene for this color must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate,” explains Paul McGreevy, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “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.”
McGreevy was careful to point out that Labs living outside the U.K. have yet to be studied in the same manner. However, he feels his findings warrant further investigation. Currently, his research is being replicated in Australia.
A chocolate Labrador’s 10% shorter lifespan may only amount to about 1.2 years, but when it comes to our furry BFFs, every moment matters!