Has Your Dog’s Appetite Increased This Winter?
Many pet owners have been reporting that their dogs have been begging for food more often than normal this winter and it seems as though their normal daily food intake does not suffice. Although this may seem like something is wrong, it is likely the weather that is to blame.
This winter in Vancouver we were hit with what some have called ‘snowmageddon’ – weeks of snow and below freezing temperatures; a weather pattern that we Vancouverites have not seen in years. The plummeting temperatures can create physiological changes in our pets that cause changes in behavior such as appetite.
Why Exactly Does This Happen?
There are some theories surrounding the phenomenon of why dogs may eat more food in the winter, including evolutionary and psychological explanations, as well as physical demands.
From the evolutionary perspective, it is scientifically proven that modern canines take after wolves. In the winter, wolves need to hunt
and consume as much as they can when food is available as food is often scarce and it is essential that they keep a layer of fat on their bodies for warmth. There is some debate surrounding this theory since most dogs today are kept in climate controlled homes and do not have to hunt for food. However, there is no doubt that dogs are direct descendants of wolves and therefore can have some remnants of those same instinctual traits.
From the physiological point of view, it has been proven that dogs have instincts that prepare them for the start of winter. As the days become shorter, hormonal signals are sent to your dog’s brain altering their metabolism and triggering them to eat more. This is especially important for dogs that live in colder climates, as they need more calories to make up for body heat lost due to shivering. In fact, studies have shown that dogs who live in colder climates require 2-3 times more food than dogs living in a more moderate climate. Pets that do not receive this bigger quantity of food are likely to lose weight. Because Vancouver is generally a mild climate, our dogs normally don’t exhibit these changes, but do to the fact that Vancouver experienced an untypically cold winter, many pet owners have noticed a change in appetite in their dogs.
What Does This Mean For Your Dog?
If you notice your dog is begging or seems unsatisfied with his daily portion of food, try increasing it by a little. Even adding in some low calorie/ low fat, filling foods could help curb begging without your dog gaining weight. If your dog seems happier and stays at a healthy weight, keep up the good work! It is all about finding the right balance – try to find the right amount of food to keep your dog from begging consistently without him gaining too much weight. Check out the handy guide to the right to determine if your dog is at an ideal weight.
Some low fat food and treat options for a dog at a healthy weight:
- Lamb or Beef Lung
- Low glycemic fruits and veggies like blueberries, spinach, green leaf lettuce, broccoli
- Green tripe – stomach contents of ruminant animals
- Meaty bones without marrow such as ribs
- Antlers, horns and hoofs
Some higher fat food options for a dog would could gain some weight:
Of course, it is important to watch for signs of illness that may present with symptoms similar to this. If you have increased your dog’s food and he continues to lose weight, it is important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to rule out any possible ailments. Just like us humans seem to crave comfort foods in the winter months, it is not uncommon for the dietary needs of your dog to change too!