The benefits of spaying your dog far outweigh the risks. But, it still leaves plenty of questions about the side effects, including do dogs gain weight after being spayed?
Unlike neutered dogs, females show little to no risk of obesity from spaying, according to a study by The University of Copenhagen’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Science.
The study tracked dogs of both sexes, finding a significant increase in weight gain and obesity risk in neutered males. In contrast, a female’s obesity risk was irrespective of neuter status.
If that’s true, why do some dog owners see weight gain after spaying? A spayed dog’s age, diet, and activity levels are the likely causes.
Should you have your dog spayed?
Having a dog spayed is the right decision for most owners. Unless you have breeding plans, spaying helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies, stops problematic behavior, and eliminates certain health risks.
Problematic behaviors in female dogs are much less evident than in intact males. Males tend to show a high frequency of unwanted sex-driven behaviors, while females share similar behaviors only during heat. These behaviors include:
- Indoor urine marking
- Excessive genital grooming
Intact females, or those who were spayed late in life, have unique behavior issues of their own. When the Sydney School of Veterinary Science observed 8,891 female dogs, they found an increase in the following behaviors for dogs with lifetime exposure to sex hormones:
- Excitability, especially for a doorbell ring
- Chewing inappropriate objects
- Rolling in animal droppings or smelly substances
Not all hormonal behaviors end with spaying. Mounting — usually associated with sexually frustrated males — can exist in spayed females. This behavior in females is often due to stress, boredom, or a display of dominance.
The decision to spay your dog shouldn’t be for behavior alone. Spaying also eliminates the risk of developing uterine and ovarian cancer, uterine infections, and breast cancer, prevalent in intact female dogs.
Do dogs gain weight after being spayed?
Weight gain is not a direct side effect of spaying dogs, but hormone changes can affect dogs differently. The common factors that contribute to a females weight gain are:
- Activity levels
Once spayed, dogs lack the estrogen hormone. Estrogen is responsible for suppressing appetite and controlling food intake levels. While your dog is hungrier and willing to eat more, the drop in estrogen also slows their metabolic rate, increasing the risk of weight gain.
Dietary needs after spaying
Dogs have dietary needs similar to ours; consume enough calories to sustain daily energy output. But, they lack self-control.
With a slower metabolism and no estrogen to suppress appetite after spaying, they happily eat the same scoops of kibble twice a day, converting excess calories to fat.
For many small dog breeds, the age of spaying and transitioning to adult food coincide. As puppies grow into adults, their energy levels and demand for calories decline.
Since puppy food contains higher calories to aid growth, continuing an adult dog on high-calorie foods longer than necessary can cause unnecessary weight gain.
Age is the highest risk of obesity for female dogs
Maintaining a strict diet and monitoring your female dog’s weight will become increasingly vital as they age.
Unlike males, female dogs have an increased risk of weight gain throughout their life cycle, further accelerating into their senior years. It’s essential to continue regular exercise for senior dogs along with a reduction in calories.
Many dog breeds have a higher risk of obesity
Your dog may be battling its genes to stay thin. Some dog breeds are prone to obesity.
The obvious low-energy loungers, like the Beagle, aren’t the only breeds. Even Labrador and Golden Retrievers have high obesity risk due to a genetic mutation causing overeating.
Dog breeds at high risk of weight gain are:
- Cocker Spaniel
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
Active dog breeds — especially those with large yards able to free roam — do better in avoiding weight gain.
There’s no way to know how your dog’s body will respond to spaying. Therefore, it’s best to maintain their regular diet and exercise routine. By closely monitoring for weight gain, you can make minor adjustments to the amount of food and daily activity.
Tips for maintaining a healthy weight in dogs
There are several ways to monitor weight gain in dogs. These include physical inspection, behavioral changes, and simply using a scale.
Weighing your dog is easiest when in your arms. To determine your dog’s weight, first, weigh your combined weight, then set your dog down and weigh yourself, subtracting the difference.
By maintaining a record of your dog’s weight, you can check monthly for weight gain. After identifying weight gain in your dog, gradually adjust their food serving size.
A healthy diet and regular exercise are essential to help your dog lose weight and maintain a safe weight. Easy ways to ensure a healthy dog are:
- Feeding twice daily
- Taking daily walks
- Playing for at least 15 minutes twice a day
- Avoiding human food and table scraps
- Maintaining a balanced diet
Creating a scheduled exercise routine will help keep you on track. Daily dog walks and exercise of at least 30-minutes is vital for all dogs regardless of age and size.
Spaying is a meaningful stage in a dog’s life, one that’s perfectly normal to have concerns about. It’s an event that changes a dog’s body and characteristics.
Each of a dog’s growth cycles is as significant of a change. As dogs grow from puppy to their senior years, their body and metabolism slow, reducing their need for calories. Without adjustments to diet and exercise, obesity forms.
Obesity is the most preventable disease dogs face today. The health risks of obesity are far greater than joint pain and include diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Helping your dog maintain a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to promote their long-term health, wellbeing, and happiness. Our dogs thrive with the right amount of physical and mental stimulation.
An active dog is a healthy dog.
Did your dog gain weight after spaying? Share this story to help others learn and overcome the dangers of weight gain in their dog.