Genetic Testing

If you are thinking of having your dog tested for the POMC mutation or know your dog has the mutation and want to know more, you can find out more here.  Please also take a look at our results pages (overview and detail) where you can learn more about why the POMC mutation contributes to obesity.

Can I find out if my dog has the POMC mutation?

GOdogs are working with the Animal Health Trust to offer a genetic test to dog owners in 2017.  If you would like to receive more information when the test becomes available, please click here (link opens a pre-filled email in your usual email provider) or get in touch via the Contact Us page.

It is only worth testing Labrador retrievers, flatcoat retrievers and cross-breed dogs who are known or suspected to have those breeds as relatives.  (The mutation has not been seen in any other breed.)

I have the results – what do they mean?

You will be given results to say your dog has no copies, 1 copy or 2 copies of the mutation in POMC.

My dog has the mutation – what does that matter?

We know dogs with the mutation are more interested in food and more likely to be overweight.  There are some rare human patients with similar genetic predispositions to obesity; they report feeling hungry all the time and never feeling full even after eating, to the point of being distressed and worried when food is not available.  It is likely dogs with the mutation feel similar.

In reality, it means that owners of dogs with the mutation tend to find their dogs pester them for food more, seem more ‘grateful’ when they are given food, and scavenge food voraciously.  The effect is greater for dogs with two copies of the mutation but is also there in dogs with only one copy – it is an additive effect.

Because the mutation affects appetite, it doesn’t cause obesity per se, it just means affected dogs want to eat more and are therefore more likely to gain weight. Fortunately, that means obesity is not inevitable in dogs with the mutation – they are just at higher risk.

Owners can be successful in keeping affected dogs slim by restricting their food and giving them plenty of exercise.  GOdogs also think it is important to be sensitive to the fact that there is hard-wired biology driving these dogs to be hungry and suggest using feeding and management strategies that help distract the dog from hunger.

My dog has the mutation – what should I do?

Don’t worry, but do use that information to guide how you manage your dog to keep it healthy.

Dogs with the mutation will eat to the point of getting obese if you give them the chance.  It may also be harder for them to lose weight once they’ve put it on, but not impossible.

Remember, there are many healthy weight dogs with the mutation.  It’s just that owners of dogs with the mutation have to be more careful and work harder than owners of less hungry dogs to stop affected dogs piling on the pounds.

Should dogs with the mutation be bred from?

We advise that dogs with the mutation should NOT be excluded from breeding because:

  • It is too common – removing affected dogs would reduce the ‘gene pool’ in the breed.
  • The mutation may positively contribute to Labrador retrievers’ lovely personalities.
  • Obesity can be prevented with careful management even in affected dogs so it is not necessary to remove the mutation.

We do, however, recommend testing; if people are aware that their puppies are at higher risk of developing obesity, it allows you to get on top of the management from the very start.  It can also help owners of mature dogs which may already be overweight by explaining why their dog is so food-motivated.

See our advice on weight management next.