Just like humans, dogs too put on ‘winter weight’. The combination of not being able to go outside as often due to bad weather conditions, more treats (especially with the holidays) and the fact that dogs, like all animals, need more calories in the winter just to stay warm, means that by spring if things aren’t done right, you can have one pudgy pooch! However, you can keep your dog’s weight down and still keep him warm just through the proper foods in your pet’s diet.
The fact is that James will need more calories in the winter just to stay warm. In studies done on both huskies and beagles, it was found that both breeds ate more in the winter – usually about 2/3 as much food – in order to keep their body temperature elevated. This is because the body needs the fuel just to keep warm and when temperatures plunge, the food intake must rise. Humans are the same way; we ‘bulk’ up in the winter because we need a few extra calories just to offset the cold.
Making The Switch
However, there is a good way to bulk up and a bad way. Feeding your dog many times per day is not the right way to go about it, nor is feeding him too many treats or too much ‘human’ food. Instead, switch to a combination of high fat and high protein diet. The high fat will insulate your dog and the high protein will ensure that your dog will burn off the excess and not store it as unhealthy fat. For example, cooked lean hamburger and roasted chicken are good additions to your James’s winter diet. Depending on the size and weight of your dog, about one pound of either of them, respectively. Higher fat and protein content foods also means that you can decrease the dog food a bit; they won’t need it as much and it won’t be as useful anyway. Assuming you are still feeding James kibble or canned food, you needn’t stop doing this altogether. Both have other nutrients that he will need.
Winter feeding also depends on your dog’s activity levels. For example, if your dog spends more of his time outdoors or is doing an incredible amount heavy activity outside, he will need to eat considerably more than a dog who spends most of the day inside, lounging. Age is also a factor to consider when you are juggling your dog’s diet; younger dogs will eat more than older ones, again because of activity levels.
He Doesn’t All Those Extra Sweets and Treats
It’s important not to use winter as an excuse to be lax about your treats! Dogs should still be discouraged from many human treats, especially candy or those with lots of sugar. Keep the portions of additional cooked food small and try adding some vegetables as well to keep up nutrients and to give balance to the protein and fats. Add only pure foods like cooked meat or vegetables, and avoid things like gravies or mixed foods, and make sure to keep the portions small (about one pound a day is sufficient for even more active dogs). Again, this is dependent upon his size and weight. You will want to adjust if your dog is a Pekingese or a Bull Mastiff. And if your dog isn’t being very active, but spends most of his days indoors, then you probably won’t have to add much more to his diet anyway; but do keep plenty of fresh water on hand because whatever method you use to heat your home is dehydrating.
Winter can mean fun times for your dog, but remember that he will need some extra attention when the snow starts falling. If you have an outdoor dog or one that loves to be outside, it is important to help him bulk up by feeding him the right foods so that he stays warm all winter without turning into the Pillsbury dough boy by spring.
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