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CHARLIE the chocolate labrador hasn’t been the cheapest dog.
There was the time he had to have a human MRI to properly diagnose a fungal infection in his nose — that cost $5000.
And then there’s the medicine he has to take daily for his itchy skin condition that costs $300 every couple of months.
He’s had more than the average number of ear infections too.
And it turns out, Charlie’s chocolate coat could be the cause of his woes.
New research has revealed the life expectancy of chocolate labradors is significantly lower than their black and yellow counterparts.
They also have a higher incidence of ear infections and skin disease.
The study, of more than 33,000 United Kingdom-based labradors led by the University of Sydney, found that non-chocolate labradors live more than 10 per cent longer.
The prevalence of ear inflammation was twice as high in chocolate labradors and they are four times more likely to have suffered from a type of dermatitis known as hotspot.
It’s surprising news for owner Kathryn Morgan who had never thought Charlie’s problems might be linked to his colour.
“I find the news quite distressing, that he might die earlier than others,’’ she said.
“I love his colour and his boofy face. I don’t know we’d find one as beautiful as Charlie again, I think he’s a one and only.”
The relationship between coat colour and disease came as a surprise to researchers, who said it could be an accidental consequence of breeding certain pigmentations.
“Because chocolate colour is recessive in dogs, the gene for this colour must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate,’’ said lead author Professor Paul McGreevy.
“Breeders targeting this colour 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.”
The research is being replicated in Australia, where labradors are the most popular breed of dog.
The findings were published in the open access journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology on Monday.
Originally published as Why your lab’s coat matters