Recent record cold temperatures across the US have created a host of problems including the disruption of regular exercise routines. For pet parents and their dogs, this can mean less activity and more couch time–and the result can often mean a dog gaining weight (and us, too!)
Below, in The Caring Vet Column, Dr. Jeff Werber discusses how weight gain often accompanies canine inaction as well as ways to counteract the tendency to curtail or abandon regular exercise with our dogs due to the cold.
We know that animals are more sedentary during the winter months, and some of that is because we become more sedentary too.
It’s too cold, it’s too wet, it’s too dark. It takes more commitment and “tough love” to force ourselves out the door.
Knowing that exercise is super important for your best pal may make it a bit easier to wrestle with your couch potato alter ego.
Exercise helps dogs with overall well-being and agility, curbs or stops undesirable behaviors, and helps with digestion and elimination.
And the time you and your dog spend together further cements the bond you share and creates timeless memories.
The “rules” of winter exercise are opposite of the “rules” of summer exercise, where we don’t want your dog out during mid-day when the sun is strongest and the asphalt hottest.
When you you NOT walk your dog in the winter?
By contrast, in winter we don’t want your dog out in the early morning or late past sundown, when the climate is most chilly and the ground most severely cold or icy.
This may require you to modify your own schedule so that you are able to walk your dog during the mid-day hours, or arrange with a family member or friend to pitch in.
Options for keeping your dog active
There may be dog walkers who work in your neighborhood whose help you might utilize.
If those are not options for your, look into an indoor doggie day care or gym-type facility near you. These are increasingly popular during the cold months when it’s hard to be outdoors.
Calories, calories, calories
If you sometimes lose the exercise battle, then it’s important to be aware of your dog’s caloric intake, so that the lack of regular exercise doesn’t translate into added pounds.
Since maintaining weight is a function of caloric intake and calories burned during exercise, it is self understood that if we reduce our dog’s exercise but maintain his/her caloric intake, s/he will gain weight.
So in order for your pet not to put on weight during periods of restricted exercise, you have to reduce caloric intake.
This means, cutting down on the amount of food by up to 20%, or by using a low calorie food, so that the same volume of food carries fewer calories.
The latter has the benefit of not decreasing the nutritional value supplied to your dog.
It is best to keep your dog active during the winter, though. Although you’re doing it for him/her, in the end, you’ll thank them for helping you stay fit and trim!
-Dr. Jeff Werber, Pro-Sense Premium Pet Products
This post first appeared on DogTipper in 2014.