Alongside support and advice for your veterinary team, you may take the decision to neuter your dog. Reasons for this include reducing unwanted pregnancies, reducing undesirable sexual behaviour and preventative health measures. The decision to neuter your dog will be based on age, breed, sex and other factors. This is for your veterinary team to discuss with you. If you do neuter, you might be surprised to know that a change in diet might be warranted – let’s investigate.
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What is neutering?
Firstly, let’s explain what neutering is – so we can understand why diet might play a role after the procedure. Neutering, sometimes called sterilization (more commonly in USA) or spay in females and castrate in males, is essentially removal of their sex organs. So, in the female dog it may be their ovaries or ovaries and uterus. And in male dogs it will be their testicles. The reason to neuter is very individual and based on weighing up risk factors such as health and behaviour. Neutering can prevent some unpleasant diseases – especially in our female dogs.
Once you have made the decision to neuter, alongside support from your veterinary team, you may need to think about a change in diet – why?
Why might we swap diet?
When we neuter our pets, it can help to prevent some issues. But it also does cause some other changes in their body; which is why we often wait until a certain time (in a female’s cycle) or age to neuter. Your veterinary team will have spent time looking at the pros and cons of neutering and made an individual practice protocol after weighing up the evidence for males and females of different sizes.
When we neuter there is one big downside – weight gain. If changes are implemented and managed quickly enough, then this can be prevented and minimised. Weight gain is quite common in neutered animals due to reduction in energy requirements. The loss of oestrogen hormones in females and testosterone in males could cause changes to activity levels. Although this is largely down to how much you as an owner encourage and provide for your dogs. Some neutered dogs also are poor at regulating food intake – we all know a greedy Labrador that can’t be filled. This means their appetite control, alongside excessive amounts of food and treats, means they don’t balance calorie intake with reduced energy requirements very well. All these factors can lead to weight gain after neutering.
Deal with the problem BEFORE it happens
Overall, we want to ensure that we nip the problem in the bud and make changes before our pets gain weight. This is why a diet change is recommended.
There are a few things to consider. Firstly we have a habit of over feeding our dogs – and often give excessive treats and human scraps on top of a complete and balanced diet. Of course this is likely to result in weight gain. Giving treats is something we do because we enjoy the happiness it gives our pets and helps us bond. But one thing we can do is stop the excessive treat giving and start to feed our pets a complete diet (whatever this may be) using enrichment activities. This keeps all the fun and mental and physical stimulation but doesn’t add extra unnecessary calories.
There are also special diets out there that are specifically tailored for neutered pets. You could try one of these after the operation to see if it helps maintain your dog at an ideal body condition score (4-5 out of 9). If their weight still creeps up, then you can also consider weight management diets. There are many complete and good quality brands available for all different feeding styles; so just ask your veterinary team for support.
Overall, it is likely that after neutering it would be sensible to reassess your dog’s diet. This could prevent unnecessary weight gain after the operation.
You may need to check up on how many ‘extras’ your dog gets and cut down on these, remember if they are fed a balanced diet then all these treats just add to their intake unnecessarily. Of course, the bond you get from this is still really important. So let’s start trying some fun enrichment games and feeding to keep their complete diet stimulating.
Also, remember that you may need to provide a diet (no matter what feeding style you use) that accounts for the reduction in energy requirements, you should also always feed for your dog’s ideal body weight.
Lastly, it is a really good idea to keep up with regular weight checks at your local registered veterinary practice so that you can ensure your dog is maintaining the correct weight. If they are gaining, then your practice is well suited to supporting you through changes in exercise and diet to tackle the problem.