It’s easy for a dog to gain weight in the winter, as they typically get less walks and exercise, and winter holiday festivities allow for your dog to have access to yummy scraps that we don’t think twice about giving them. Here’s how to help your dog stay healthy, happy, and trim during the winter season.
Some dogs naturally gain weight easily, like Labradors and pugs. But all dogs are prone to gain weight in the winter. A healthy dog looks like a peanut when you look at them standing from above. There should be a noticeable shoulder width, narrow waist, and then the hind end fills out a bit again. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs without digging for them. An overweight dog looks more like an oval when viewed from above, with no noticeable waist visible.
Dogs also tend to get furrier in winter, with a winter coat filling in their appearance, so your dog can appear overweight when it is just their fluffy undercoat filling out. However, if you feel your dog’s ribs just barely, or if you have to dig for them to feel their ribs, then you can’t blame your dog’s coat for their heftier appearance. Your dog may just be gaining weight in winter.
Most dogs gain weight in winter because we don’t walk our dogs as much, and we tend to feed our dogs more because our dogs appear to be more hungry. Dogs appear hungrier in winter because their instincts tell them to gorge, just like their ancestors used to do when the winter months hit. However, your dog does not need any more food than you are already giving them, so refrain from giving in to those puppy dog beggar eyes and feed them on their normal schedules, with normal amounts of food.
Thanksgiving and Christmas mean a lot of leftovers and table scraps. Just because they are available, your dog doesn’t need all those fats and skins and gravies in their bowl just because you don’t want to throw it away. Those are just extra calories for your dog that they won’t burn off lying on the couch, and these seasoned, fatty scraps that are super tasty can cause stomach upset and gasiness.
Try to walk your dog in the winter, even if it’s cold out. If nothing else, run around the yard with your dog, or allow them to be out with you while you are shoveling your walkway or cleaning off your car. 15 minutes of exercise every day in winter (even if you’re just playing with your dog indoors) is better than nothing. I often just toss a ball around the house and down the hallway for about a half hour when it’s frigid outside, and we both get the exercise we need this way. Exercise also makes your dog feel less healthy, so they beg for food less.
If you notice your dog gaining weight in the winter months, think about what may causing the weight gain in your dog and take measures to battle against it. Is it the 4 bowls of food you are giving them instead of 3? Is it the fact that the last time you walked your dog was a week ago? Did your dog get treated with a whole bag of turkey gizzards? Knowing what may be causing your dog’s weight gain in winter can help you battle their bulge by eliminating the weight gain factors.
If you are concerned over your dog’s weight in winter, talk to your vet about what you can do to help your dog maintain a healthy weight. Even a few pounds of weight gain on a medium-sized dog can prove to be truly unhealthy for your dog. 5 pounds of weight gain on a 50 pound dog is the equivalent of 10% of their previous weight. Looking at it this way, even a pound of weight gain is not healthy for your dog.
personal experience with my fat old dog