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Food intake after spay/neuter surgery

Q: Bailey, our 1-year-old Labrador retriever, has gained weight since she was spayed, even though her diet and activity have remained stable. We realize we need to feed her less, but how much less?

A: After sterilization surgery, dogs’ food intake should be reduced by 30 percent to account for the decrease in metabolism that occurs with the loss of most of the sex hormones.

When Bailey reaches age seven, she will need 20 percent fewer calories than she does now, due to decreased muscle mass and the resulting decline in metabolic rate. Since this advice is often ignored, 40 to 55 percent of American dogs over one year of age are overweight or obese.

Unfortunately, overweight and obese dogs are at increased risk for degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis), ruptured cruciate ligament, intervertebral disc disease, cancer, heart disease, insulin resistance, tracheal collapse, increased anesthetic risk and other disorders. Moreover, the lifespan of an overweight dog is two years shorter than her lean cousin.

So drop Bailey’s food intake, discontinue table scraps, and maintain or increase her activity. Then weigh her in a month. If she isn’t losing weight, decrease her food intake an additional 25 percent and recheck her weight a month later.

If her weight still isn’t dropping, make an appointment with your veterinarian who will review her diet and exercise habits and advise you.

Editor’s Note: Humans and dogs derive many of the same benefits from regular exercise. Here are some tips for creating a healthy pet exercise routine both you and your pup can enjoy.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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