Obesity in study cohort and age at neutering
Halloween kicks off a holiday season of eating, including lots of sweets and other foods that, when eaten in excess, can lead to weight gain – not only for us, but for our pets, too. It’s fitting, then, that October is Pet Obesity Awareness month, and we are learning more from our Golden Retriever Lifetime Study about one potential risk factor for the development of obesity in our dogs.
Dr. Missy Simpson, veterinary epidemiologist at Morris Animal Foundation, recently analyzed the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study cohort at baseline to look at the age of spay-neuter and likelihood of overweight or obese.
Dr. Simpson presented her findings at both the American Animal Hospital Association Annual Veterinary Conference and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum on the link between early neutering/spaying and obesity in Golden Retriever Lifetime Study participants. She found that in this cohort of dogs, older age at spay-neuter is protective against being overweight. Not surprisingly, more active dogs were less likely to be overweight. There were no regional differences in the number of dogs who were overweight or obese.
The question of whether neutering predisposes dogs to becoming overweight or obese has been a concern for almost two decades, as the incidence of obesity in dogs started to climb and the popularity of early neutering increased. However, the data from earlier studies is confusing, with some studies not able to demonstrate a link between age at neuter and obesity, some studies finding a link between neutering and obesity; and one study even demonstrating that early age at neutering decreased the risk for obesity!
Although most veterinary researchers are reaching a consensus that neutering is a risk factor for obesity in dogs, there are still knowledge gaps about the optimal timing for neutering, and the link between reproductive status, age at neutering, and disease development. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a great opportunity to look at these questions in more detail in one specific breed. The results could clarify recommendations not only for golden retrievers but also could provide insights for other dog breeds.
The Foundation will continue to evaluate study results, and we hope to have more information on this topic in the months and years to come.