Chocolate Labs Are Less Healthy Than Their Black and Yellow Puppy Pals

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The color of a dog’s coat could be linked to its health — at least for one globally popular pet.

Chocolate Labrador retrievers tend to live shorter lives and have a higher rate of skin and ear diseases than their black or yellow-coated peers, according to a new study published yesterday (Oct. 21) in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. [10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dogs]

An international group of researchers examined data from more than 2,000 Labradors living in the U.K. in 2013. The data was collected as a part of research project called VetCompass, a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. The group of around 2,000 Labs was randomly selected from a larger dataset containing more than 33,000 Labrador retrievers.

The researchers found that, within the sample set of the dogs they studied, the incidence of ear and skin disease was much more prevalent in chocolate Labs than in other Labs.

For example, rates of a common skin infection in dogs called pyotraumatic dermatitis — more commonly known as “hot spots” — were more than twofold higher in chocolate Labs than black and yellow Labs. Similarly, “swimmer’s ear,” or otitis externa, an infection of the ear canal, also turned up more often in chocolate Labs than in other colored Labs.

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