Winter is almost here and with it comes wet, cold—and sometimes even snowy—weather in the Pacific Northwest. With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget how these seasonal changes also affect our furry family members.
To help your pup avoid any excessive holiday weight gain and keep them in good shape throughout the winter months when getting outside for exercise isn’t always easy, the nutrition team at Petcurean has put together some tips to help you get through the ‘dog days’ of winter.
The majority of dogs in America are overweight. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, it was estimated that over half of all dogs in the United States were overweight or obese in 2018. It might seem harmless, but even a few extra pounds can have big consequences for your pup’s long-term health, from osteoarthritis to diabetes to respiratory issues. What’s more, the negative effects of being overweight may develop suddenly.
Tips to Track Your Pup’s Optimal Weight
For your pup’s benefit, it’s important to keep an eye on their waistline and to learn how to effectively track your dog’s optimal weight. Luckily, it’s easy to do in just a few easy steps:
Use a body score chart. A dog that’s at its ideal weight will have a proportioned, hourglass-shaped body, a slight tummy tuck, and a thin covering of body fat that enables you to feel their ribs, hips and spine without pressing down hard. Use this body score chart as a great visual reference tool!
Record your pup’s starting weight. Like people, your dog’s weight will fluctuate regularly depending on a variety of factors. Before beginning a new weight loss or meal plan, record your pup’s initial weight as a reference point to help track future weight changes. Visit your veterinarian for an accurate weight measurement or DIY at home. Simply pick up your pet, weigh the two of you together on your home scale, and then subtract your own weight from the total.
Consider dietary changes. Often, you can easily manage your pup’s weight by adjusting how much you feed them. Pups with more urgent weight issues might benefit from a high-quality diet formulated specifically to help with weight loss, while pups with unique dietary needs and preferences might benefit from premium food that’s formulated with limited ingredients to help reduce dietary irritants, such as GO! SOLUTIONS dry and wet food recipes. If you’re looking for ways to still “treat” your pup while on a diet plan (it’s the holidays, after all!), read on for a treat option that doubles as a winter boredom-buster!
Prioritize exercise. If you’re not already, get your pup back into a regular exercise routine, but don’t start too quickly. Forcing an obese dog to exercise too aggressively can cause undue stress on their organs and joints. At least one daily walk is recommended for most dogs, but when the weather’s too much of a deterrent, you’ll need to seek out some other ways to keep your pup active. Read on for some ideas on indoor activities!
Keep an eye on the scale. Try to work in a weekly weigh-in to stay on track. A rapid decline in weight can be harmful to your pup, so aim for a 1% to 2% loss per week until you hit your pup’s optimal weight.
Once you reach your pup’s ideal weight, it might be tempting to stop whatever exercise and meal plan you were on, but it’s important for your pup’s long-term health and happiness to keep their feeding and exercise routine going. Check out some indoor activities you can incorporate into your routine to keep your pup active throughout the winter months!
Tips to Keep Your Pup Active this Winter and Spring
Use boredom-busting treats. We’re all guilty of wanting to spoil our pups now and again, especially during the holidays. To keep your dog from getting too stir-crazy from all the extra time indoors, try a stuffed Kong. Incorporate some light obedience training before rewarding them with a kong to help keep their minds and bodies active. Avoid overfeeding by stuffing it with a portion of your dog’s dry and wet food for the day, and freezing it to make the treat last longer, and to help fend off boredom. Petcurean’s new GO! SOLUTIONS wet food recipes come in sustainable, re-closeable Tetra Pak cartons so you can fill your pup’s kong and refrigerate the rest for next time.
Go to school. Enroll your pup in a training class or try a dog sport such as agility or flyball to keep him active during the winter months. Taking a class together not only provides a cardio workout for your pup, it’s also a great way to strengthen the bond between the two of you, too!
Visit your local indoor dog park. This is a great way to socialize and exercise your pup while getting the chance to meet other dog lovers in your neighborhood, too. In the Seattle area alone, there are many locations to choose from: Dogwood Play Park, House of Ruff, and Voff Bark & Brew, to name a few.
Play an indoor-friendly game. Does your pup have a favorite toy? Try a game of ‘hide and seek’ by hiding it and getting him to sniff it out! Start with an easy hiding spot, and make it progressively harder as your pup catches on. It’s an engaging, active, and often hilarious way to keep your pup moving. If you live in a space that allows for some more active indoor play, try a short game of fetch to satisfy your dog’s need to stretch their legs on a cold, wet day. Even a few minutes of tossing a ball down a long hallway to get your pup moving will help rid them of the winter blues.
The days might be shorter, the weather might be colder and in the spirit of this season, it can be tempting to spoil your pup with an extra treat—or three —and to skip their daily exercise in favor of an extra long nap by the fire. But, remember, the gift of health is the best thing you can give your pup. In the spirit of the season, we’d like to give you a coupon for a FREE GO! SOLUTIONS Tetra Pak recipe here.
about the author
Dr. Jennifer Adolphe
Dr. Jennifer Adolphe is the Nutrition Manager at Petcurean. She is also a registered dietitian and graduated with her PhD in companion animal nutrition from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. Her PhD research examined the effects of carbohydrates on metabolic and cardiovascular health in lean and obese dogs. Dr. Adolphe is the recipient of over 20 awards and scholarships for her academic work and has numerous peer-reviewed publications.