Humans tend to alter their diets throughout the year. When it’s chilly outside, there’s nothing like a warming bowl of stew or a hearty slice of pie, but the sun in the sky usually means the barbecue comes out and lighter salads return to the menu.
Dogs may seem content with the same type and amount of dog food regardless of the season, but there are a few things a parent can consider as they move through the calendar. We look at a few of them below.
Fall and Winter
It’s not unheard of for people to emerge from the colder months carrying a few more pounds than they went into them with (we blame the yule log).
If you’re not careful, this can happen to your canine friends as well — especially if they’re not getting as much exercise as they do at warmer points in the year. Weight gain can put your dog at risk of several health conditions, including hypertension, pancreatitis and heart disease.
“If our dogs are getting less (or less energetic) exercise, we need to be mindful to adjust their food accordingly, and not overfeed treats too,” says Laura Ward, Dog Food Advisor’s in-house nutritionist.
In addition to this, parents should try to keep their pets relatively active indoors with toys and regular playtime.
“Food puzzle toys are really good as a substitute to keep their mind engaged,” says Ward.
Things are different if your dog is housed in outdoor kennels or a space that’s colder than it would normally otherwise be. Then, a parent can make necessary modifications to their pet’s diet to help them maintain their core temperature. The same goes for dogs that work outside, too.
“Dogs working outside in cold weather can have their energy requirements increased by up to 50%,” says Ward.
Meeting these nutritional needs isn’t as simple as increasing the portion size, however. Parents should instead look for food with heightened levels of protein and fat, rather than excess carbohydrates.
And though it can be tempting to hand down scraps of food from the Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts you’re enjoying, parents should avoid giving their pets calorie-intensive food intended for humans — once they get the taste for it, they may want more!
You might be able to spot the early signs of overfeeding on your dog’s body, but if you’re concerned about their weight, it’s best to book a check-up at the vet’s clinic to get their professional opinion.
Spring and Summer
When the weather starts to get pleasant enough to take your dogs on long walks again, you can bring their food allowance back up to the recommended amount as they’re sure to be burning it off.
However, as the mercury rises, you might notice your pet doesn’t have much of an appetite. This is to be expected, as their body’s metabolism doesn’t have to work very hard to maintain a sufficient core temperature.
If they’re still moving around a lot, it’s crucial they’re still eating. You can encourage this by perhaps changing their mealtimes to cooler times of the day, or even splitting their meals into smaller portions throughout the day. Some dogs might find recipes full of leaner protein easier to process, as opposed to meals containing heavy, fattier meats.
“Putting foods in the fridge or freezer is also an option to provide a cooling effect,” adds Ward.
There’s another thing that parents shouldn’t overlook in the warmer seasons.
“Hydration is key,” says Ward. “You can increase this through water, a dog drink, providing wet food or a frozen treat. However, it’s important that ice is never given to a dog suffering from heatstroke.”
A different kind of season, this. If you’re a parent to a female dog that hasn’t been neutered, you’ll see them go through an estrous cycle (also referred to as ‘the season’ or ‘being on heat’) at least once a year and possibly up to three or four times a year for smaller breeds.
This usually lasts between two and four weeks, and you’ll notice changes in your dog, ranging from frequent urination and bloody vaginal discharge to possible shifts in their behavior — you might also witness male dogs becoming a lot more interested in your pet!
Vets recommend parents keep their dogs relaxed and comfortable during what can be a distressing time for them, so it’s important to make sure they continue to eat the suggested daily amount and keep their energy levels high.
“Dogs on heat can go off their food, but generally we can continue to feed them as usual,” says Ward. “Some parents choose to add extra toppers or gravies to the food to encourage their dog to eat it.”