Maintaining a Healthy Weight For Your Pet

Ask PHP Pete!

Dear PHP Pete,

The temperatures are dropping outside as winter is starting to kick in, and it got me thinking about my dog, Molly. Molly is a larger collie mix, so her coat should keep her fairly warm in the winter, but should I increase the amount of food for her? Would more food give her more of a “coat” to make it through winter? Any suggestions would be great!


Winter Molly

Dear Winter Molly,

It would seem to be intuitive that more food might be needed to keep our pets warm in the winter.

However, Dr. Ken Tudor points out that this may actually lead to a winter weight gain. Why might this be so?

Just like their human counterparts, colder weather may lead to cutting outdoor exercise short. Colder weather and shorter days also cause changes in hormone output leading to a lower metabolic rate and the conservation of calories. The tendency to overfeed a pet during the winter will lead to obesity and poor health.

In humans, we use a body mass index (BMI) to evaluate the fat to muscle ratio and to identify an over or underweight problem. Veterinarians use a scale called the Body Condition Score (BCS) in a similar fashion. Ask your veterinarian how your met measures up and how you can offer food appropriately.

You can also use this visual guideline to give you an idea of your pet’s BCS:

PHP Pete

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