Unfortunately, it is not uncommon during the winter months to have the conversation of weight loss with many of my clients for their pets. There is this natural trend of weight gain when there is cold weather resulting in less daily activity. There can be several factors that cause this phenomenon ranging from going for less walks due to the cold temperatures, less sunlight in the evening and/or being fed more calories than are being used in a day.
One of the biggest strategies that can be the most effective in preventing excess weight gain is to physically measure out your pet’s food by using a measuring cup. You should look at the bag recommendations for your pet’s ideal weight and feed the measurement prescribed. For instance, you would not want to feed your dog who may be 10lbs over weight at that weight recommendation but rather feed at his/her ideal range of 5-10lbs less. If you have concerns or questions about what is considered ideal for your pet, do not hesitate to speak with one of the veterinarians here at The Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt. We would be happy to guide you and your pet in their weight loss journey.
Other strategies for increased activity when it’s cold outside or gets dark too early for a lengthy walk is to encourage your pet to chase a ball in the house or a laser pointer for our feline friends. Additionally, you may be able to hide small treats around the house and encourage your pet to go on a hunt searching for the treats. This will not only encourage them to get up and move but also give them a mental task to help decrease boredom. If you have the resource and an exceptional pet, you may be able to encourage them to learn to walk on a treadmill.
Ultimately, regulating calorie intake is going to be your best strategy to ward off the excess winter weight that likes to sneak up on our pets. Being mindful of how much kibble is being fed along with decreasing table food and treat intake can greatly help in keeping your pet healthy and decrease their risk for developing further medical conditions such as joint disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Catherine Smith, DVM