Now that winter is officially here, and the cold has crept into many places around the world, we’ve been cranking our thermostats, donning winter jackets and adjusting our lives to fit with the weather. But have you considered that you need to make a few changes for your dog, as well? One of the major things pet owners forget when winter approaches is that our pets need some adjusting for the cold, too—and one of the most-forgotten items on the list has to do with food.
You probably feed your dog the same amount every day and stick to a routine, but following the same routine throughout the entire year might not be the best idea. Your dog’s exercise routine and body systems are likely to change, leading to changes in weight.
Dogs who become overweight may be subject to health issues like joint pain, lethargy, muscle strains, diabetes and more. If your dog loses too much weight, it may also encounter health problems and not be able to function properly without enough energy. You’ll want to find the right balance for winter with your pooch.
Less exercise, less food
Dogs tend to not get as much exercise during the winter time. This might be because owners don’t want to spend as much time outside when it’s cold and snowy, or because the dog doesn’t like to be out in the cold. Or, perhaps you just tend to head to the park or go on walks more often when the weather is milder.
No matter what the reason, dogs that don’t get the same amount of exercise throughout the year probably shouldn’t be fed the same amount of food. If your dog isn’t burning as many calories through movement, it shouldn’t be eating the same amount of calories every day! This can result in weight gain and maybe even lethargy and other health problems.
If your dog lives inside all winter long and doesn’t get to be as active, you may want to reduce the amount of food you give it each day.
Out in the cold
On the other hand, if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, and perhaps even lives outdoors during the winter season, you’ll want to feed it more food, not less.
Dogs need extra food during the winter if they are in cold places because they need more calories to maintain their core body temperature. Shivering, a mechanism to maintain heat, expends a lot of energy, and your dog might also benefit from some extra fat for insulation. If your dog is being fed the same as in summer, but is expending more energy to stay warm, it may lose weight and even get sick.
You may also want to consider adding supplements to your dog’s diet this winter. Some supplements are ideal for dogs of all ages and backgrounds, while some help treat specific problems that only some dogs will encounter.
- Joint care: Much like in humans, cold winter weather can cause joint pain and stiffness in dogs that have arthritis or other joint problems. Adding a joint care supplement to your dog’s diet in winter can help reduce inflammation and make movement easier.
- Immunity: Cold weather can put a damper on your dog’s immune system, making it more susceptible to colds, viruses, bacterial infections and other nasty illnesses. There are many natural immunity supplements that are full of antioxidants and vitamins to bolster your pup’s natural defenses.
- Probiotics: Adding probiotics to your dog’s diet can help it maintain healthy digestion and immunity throughout winter. This is particularly necessary when making changes in your dog’s diet, whether by giving it new food or an increased amount of food.
Consult a vet
Of course, before you make any decisions about changing your pet’s diet for the winter season, make sure to consult your dog’s veterinarian and inquire whether this change is necessary or safe. Your vet will be able to assess your dog’s weight and body type to determine if it’s at the right weight or not, then make a recommendation for a feeding plan through the winter.
If your dog is overweight going into winter, your vet will likely recommend a weight loss program no matter if your dog stays inside or outside. If your dog is slightly underweight, they may recommend that you continue feeding your dog the same amount or more, even if it stays inside, to bring it back up to a healthy weight.
A vet-recommended diet plan is the best way to keep your pup healthy and happy all winter long.