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Bianca Major

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Feeding Your Pet in Winter: The Facts

As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, the layers increase as the temperature drops. It’s hibernation time for many animals, but do our domesticated pets need to change and prepare for winter too?

Some think you should feed less in winter and some owners decrease the amount of exercise in the wet cold weather, some think you should feed more.

Let’s look at the facts. Researchers in France conducted a four-year study which found a positive correlation in feline self-selection of an increase of free grazing food by roughly 15% during the colder weather, concluding the colder weather increased cats’ calorific requirements- ‘Science Daily.’ The same was found in dogs that live in cold climates, finding an increase from anywhere from 10-90% more calories to maintain body weight. However, these studies were under very cold climates whereas the winters in the UK really aren’t as harsh.

Temperature isn’t the only factor to effect metabolism. During autumn and winter, daylight hours decrease triggering a change in our pets’ metabolism, promoting fat accumulation in preparation for a temperature drop. With the daylight hours decreasing it means less hours to walk so for some exercise may decrease and potentially some pet parents may need to feed less calories to their pets!

The main thing to remember is your pet should be treated as an individual-breed, age, health and a focus on coat type are all important variables to consider as the weather changes, so for all you Chinese Crested pups you may want to increase food and pop on a coat as it gets colder. The more our pets shiver the more calories burnt!

If you are wanting to add a little extra winter support a warm pet suitable bone broth makes a lovely low-calorie dietary addition- *note* don’t use human bone broths as most contain Onions which are toxic to your pets!

Pet parents need to consider the individual needs and cater their pets’ diets accordingly to seasonal changes if needed, this may simply mean feeding some higher fat RaaW proteins like Lamb and Beef or you may need to increase the amount you feed.

Please keep in mind, with over half of the UK’s pet population being overweight the majority of pet owners shouldn’t need to increase feeding amounts!

Consideration should also be made for how we change our pet’s environment during winter. Heating is a main component that can negatively affect some heavy coated breeds, it can also be quite drying to those that have skin issues. 

Winter in the UK means mainly rain, which means lots of wet pets or warm damp animals making it a perfect environment to manifest yeast and skin issues.

In general, it’s always worth having a health MOT if you have any concerns heading into winter, especially if you have an elderly or immunocompromised pet; not much should need changing for a healthy pet in the UK…however you never know we could be heading for a whiteout winter!

Bianca Major
Written by Bianca Major

Bianca Boulton-Major BSc (hons), PGDip Nutrition & Canine Nutrition, MSFTR, CPN. Member of the American Association of Veterinary Nutrition, FNTP, RFVS, prov APBC, GODT & CHC Major Referrals- Nutritional Consultancy Service

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