Winter Weight

By Debbie Morris, Owner of Nurture Sensible Pet Solutions

Winter has settled in and so has the “winter” weight. We all gain a few pounds in the winter. We eat more comfort foods and we don’t get outside as often to work it off. It seems the same thing happens to our pets. The dog’s walks are shorter to get out of the cold faster and the ability to run around is limited due to the snow and ice. Other than the Husky and herding breeds, most of our dogs would rather be lying by the fire than running around in the backyard. Cats just don’t “do” winter. They hang out on any heat source they can find and emerge at dinner time…ravenous apparently.

Have a look at your pets. Do they have a waist? When you look down onto their back, you should be able to see a curve in between their hips and their rib cage. Feel their chest. It should be firm and tight. It’s easy to feel that extra layer of fat. Its soft and mushy…and dangerous. Extra fat and weight puts a great deal of stress on your faithful friend and it’s not usually their fault.

Obesity can result in structural damage to ligaments, joints and spinal discs. It can lead to heart and vascular disease, diabetes, liver disease and pancreatitis. All these risks can be minimized through proper weight management.

Energy Balance – When energy (calories) intake exceeds the expenditure, the excess is stored as fat. The solution is to increase the expenditure through exercise or to reduce the intake by reducing the portions when exercise is limited. I highly discourage free feeding an overweight pet. Many family’s choose to leave the bowl out all day convinced their pet only eats what he needs. Unfortunately, a bored, inactive pet will actually consume more than it requires. I reduce my pets portions in the winter months as soon as I see signs of weight gain. The manufacturers suggested servings are guide lines only. We all have different metabolisms, and so do our pets; adjust the portions accordingly. If your pet does not finish a meal within 15 minutes, remove it. Consider feeding a lesser amount at the next mealtime.

Feed A Good Quality Diet – Many brands of kibble are made with poor quality protein, fat and carbohydrates, resulting in an addictive substance that produces cravings and leads to begging and overeating. Processed, fast food diets almost always lead to low energy and weight gain.

Choose a kibble with meat protein as the first ingredient and no grains or whole grains and vegetables (dogs only. Cats should not have carbs at all) High quality, complex carbohydrates require more energy to digest than refined flours and fats. I like to see red lentils as the binder or pea starch and split peas. Better yet, avoid kibble altogether and feed a raw, dehydrated, freeze dried or baked diet.

Exercise – Yes, it’s cold and snowy outside but I always say it looks worse through the window. Wrap up warm. Put a coat on the dog and yes, there are boots for dogs, and venture forth every day into our wonderful Grey Bruce winter. The city folk drive a long way to come up here and enjoy our great outdoors, summer and winter. We have the opportunity every day. Seize it! You will arrive back home refreshed, warm and healthy. Your dog will remain at a good weight, keep firm muscle tone and remind you tomorrow that it’s time to go out and do it again.