How great you are thinking about this early in the season!
Regardless of species, it’s very common to gain weight over the winter months. Part of the problem is all the food we eat, or share with our pets, the rest of the problem is, for many of us, it’s cold and we don’t want to go outside and exercise.
Planning early is the best way to avoid the winter-holiday weight gain. For those of us who share the healthy parts of our meals with our pets, the thing to remember is portion sizes. My 20 pound terrier is sure he could eat as much for Thanksgiving as I can; however, he is a fraction of my size and that would be irresponsible for me to give him that much food in one meal. Instead, I can replace his normal food with some turkey, some plain green beans, and even a little mashed potatoes making sure that the total volume of his food is the normal amount he receives for a given meal. Our dogs gain weight when we give them extra treats and don’t cut back on their normal meal sizes.
Winter weight gain also happens because many of us find it cold outside and we just don’t get out and exercise like we did when the weather was warm. Less exercise means we have less need for calories, therefore, we should cut back on our food.
Same thing for our dogs. If we are not going to take them for their usual exercise then it’s a good idea to cut back on their food by about 25%.
All of these things also apply to cats. Some cats are more than happy to share our holiday turkey and duck. This means they need less food overall on those days. Even indoor only cats tend to move around less in the winter as many of them find cold to be good reason to take a nap. Therefore, even these cats should receive smaller portions during the cold winter months. You can help your cats by having a little bit more play time too; perhaps a laser pointer or a feather on a string.
Because I do support sharing high-quality healthy people food with pets, I do not find that that is where animals gain weight over the holidays, Nor is it where we humans tend to gain our weight. Where we all get into trouble is the portion size and the sweets. A tiny taste of the pumpkin pie filling or maybe a few of the apples from the apple pie are fine to share with your dog, but a whole meal is unnecessary and will cause weight gain – just as I gain weight if I eat apple pie for breakfast!
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com