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Strange Behavior After Spay: Hormone Balancing?

Strange behavior after your dog is spayed is not uncommon which is no wonder, considering the scope and implications of this procedure.

But why exactly do odd behaviors surface and how can you deal with them and know when something’s going seriously wrong?

Luckily, I do have a couple of tips that might help with getting to the bottom of your female dog’s behavior.

Many people just attribute out-of-character behavior to the hormones and while that can certainly be true, it’s not always the case.

While those who haven’t gotten their dog spayed yet are in a fortunate position, others might find themselves in the aftermath already.

If your dog hasn’t been spayed yet, read up about the potential risks of spaying.

Yes, the pros include reduced risks for various cancers and pyometra but the risk of the procedure itself as well as the possible behavioral changes we’ll talk about might outweigh the pros.

Never spay your dog solely based on hopes their behavior might change and avoid spaying before bone growth is finished (usually around 18 months).

Strange Dog Behavior After Being Spayed

Strange behavior after spaying is common in the first week of recovery up to a couple of weeks while the hormones are balancing, but permanent behavior changes are possible too.

While your dog’s body recovers from the surgery and balances hormones, your dog might simply be bored due to the leash restriction or cone.

Strange behavior after a spay might also be explained due to pain or medication.

Complications such as an infection need to be examined by your vet.

Boston Terrier is brought to the vet.

Strange behaviors after spaying include:

  • Whining
  • Sensitive to touch
  • Excessive urination
  • Irritability with strangers or family
  • Resource aggression or nesting

Now, many of these behaviors are reported before spaying

Sometimes, these weird behaviors are even the reason spaying is considered in the first place (which may just be doggy puberty as the study I’ve linked at the bottom points out).

To be clear, getting your dog spayed neither means that these behaviors will stop nor does it mean your dog will display these negative behaviors after being spayed.

Even if your dog is acting weird after being spayed, it’s not necessarily a long-term change.

Whining can occur when the dog is bored, sensitivity or urination is possible due to the surgery itself, as is the irritability while the hormones are still balancing.

Is it possible that your dog’s personality changes after being spayed?

White Bullterrier leans with the front paws on a table.

Yes, but rarely.

Many vets like to highlight possible positive changes such as behavior improvements, reduced cancer risk, and no heat cycle but deny potential downsides.

Even vets who are pretty upfront by stating that spaying may not lead to the desired outcome nevertheless push the narrative that there are no downsides.

I mean, it certainly is tempting especially if you’re on the fence (i.e. your dog has pseudopregnancies or bleeds heavily in heat as my Rottweiler does).

Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop your dog’s heat and menopause also isn’t a thing. But that doesn’t mean that spaying will go unnoticed when it comes to your dog’s behavior.

Plenty of dog owners are baffled over why the dog is whining for seemingly no reason or worse, dogs whose behavior has turned 180.

Unfortunately, there’s rarely a follow-up with proper veterinary exams.

Many of these reported issues do surely disappear once your dog recovers after being spayed, feels no pain anymore, and gets exercised more heavily again.

But what about the cases where the dog permanently changed?

I did find some studies in regards to that specific issue so let’s dive in.

If your dog is affected, you may find the cause or get a lead in the right direction while this can be a cautionary tale for everybody else.

Why a Dog’s Weird Behavior After Spaying Might Not Go Away

Recovery and hormonal balancing are not the only reasons why dogs often behave weirdly after being spayed. Studies have found more than a 30% increase in fearfulness and sensitivity among spayed dogs.

It almost never turns out exactly the way many owners intend it to and might even backfire.

Two studies across nearly 16,000 dogs combined provide an insight into the hormonal changes after spaying (all studies linked below).

Interestingly enough, one news outlet cites Europe as not being so keen on spaying and while that’s true, I’ve definitely heard people state that spaying will solve their dog’s behavioral issues.

The myth that males will calm down considerably without training is an even more common misconception. The studies’ findings apply to males and females.

Another study found out that the reason why many people spay their dogs is just doggy puberty.

Yep, the behavior can just be a temporary change and your dog might get back to normal levels.

Not only can this make spaying obsolete if behavior is the underlying reason, but it might also explain your dog’s weird behavior after being spayed in case the procedure is done smack in the middle of their adolescence.

Bottom line: Your dog’s behavior changes after being spayed may not be temporary.

How Long For Hormones To Balance After Spaying

It takes around 2-4 weeks for your dog’s hormones to balance after spaying.

Behaviors such as whining, sensitivity, and irritability may settle back down after the dog’s hormones have balanced.

However, your dog’s behavior may not be weird due to the hormones but instead because of the medication, surgery pain, or lack of exercise afterward.

As mentioned, another possibility is that your dog’s behavior has changed permanently.

Humans tend to view spaying and neutering as routine procedures but they’re not definitely not routine for your dog’s body.

The imbalance in hormones might make your dog feel off for a couple of days or even weeks but long-term changes include increased fearfulness and sensitivity, according to two large-scale studies.

Instead of reducing aggression, spaying increased aggression from 20% to 100%, depending on which kind (directed against owner, strangers, dogs, etc.).

These findings have massive implications and should play a role when deciding whether or not to spay.

Do Dogs Still Have Hormonal Changes After Being Spayed?

Yes, dogs still have hormonal changes for up to 2 to 4 weeks after being spayed.

As mentioned above, there are various weird behaviors after being spayed that can be attributed to the usual recovery and hormones but not necessarily all of them.

But the fact of the matter is that dogs do undergo hormonal changes, even after the spay.

Some may express these changes more (i.e. temporary irritability or sensitivity) while others never change their happy-go-lucky personality, but it’s never a sure thing upfront.

Does a Female Dog’s Personality Change After Spaying?

A female dog’s personality usually doesn’t change after spaying but while some do calm down more, others become more aggressive, fearful, or sensitive as studies have found.

Many owners do report slight positive behavior changes that don’t exactly qualify for a whole “personality change”.

However, in rare cases, dogs can go the opposite way and actually become more aggressive.

While these are important findings to evaluate whether or not a spay is necessary (especially if it’s just done to eliminate behavior) it might just be a risk many have to take for medically necessary spays.

Summary of Strange Behavior After Spaying & Hormone Balancing

Spaying does have upsides but also potential downsides which include, but are not limited to, weird behavior changes – both temporary and in rare cases long-term as proven by several studies.

Most changes are not long-term and can often be attributed to pain, medication, exercise, or hormone balancing, but a small number of dogs will change permanently.

The only thing many vets nowadays recommend is no spay before bone growth is finished, unless medically necessary.

Every spay case needs to be evaluated on an individual basis.

Age, health, and the reason for spaying need to be considered when weighing the pros vs the cons.

Behavioral issues or concerns about accidental breedings might be more easily addressed without spaying, but every case is unique.

Sources

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.