Debarking Pet Myths: Does Neutering Cause Pets to Gain Weight?
A pet-related tidbit discovered on a website or a tip from a coworker can sometimes lead you in the wrong direction — unintentionally, of course. To help you sort fact from fiction, we’ll be addressing common myths about dogs and cats as well as shining a light on “knowledge” that pet owners only think they know.
This month’s misconception:
Neutering will make my pet fat.
NOPE! Although, without some changes in behavior, it can happen. Spaying or neutering your dog or cat doesn’t cause your pet to become overweight or obese. However, neutering is linked to an increased risk of weight gain if no change is made to what and how much you feed your pet after the surgery.
Neutering or spaying your pet results in a loss of certain hormones (estradiol and testosterone) and a shift in others (leptin, a hormone that influences appetite and food intake, and insulin, which controls blood sugar). These changes in hormones result in a slower metabolism for neutered pets while increasing their appetite at the same time.
What this means is that spayed and neutered pets generally need fewer calories or more exercise to maintain a healthy weight and body condition. If a pet is fed the same number of calories after neutering or spaying as before, unhealthy weight gain can occur. The risk for weight gain after neutering is highest during the first two years after the surgery, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Of course any time your dog or cat eats more calories than needed — whether neutered or not — he or she is at risk for becoming overweight or obese.
The good news is there are steps pet parents can take to keep their four-legged friends from packing on the pounds after neutering or spaying:
- Adjust the amount of food fed to account for the decrease in energy needs. Be sure to discuss changing your pet’s feeding plan with your veterinarian first.
- Feed a specific amount of food daily based on your pet’s calorie needs and forget about free-choice feeding.
- Don’t feed table scraps since they are often full of calories.
- Offer healthy treats such as baby carrots, green beans or pet-specific treats — as long as the treats account for 10 percent (or less) of your pet’s daily calories.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for exercise and play on a consistent basis.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about what and how much to feed your furry friend, talk with your veterinarian.
And don’t forget to check back next month to see what myth or misconception we’ll be debunking!