By Lindsay Turnbull, LVT

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. Family and friends are dropping by to visit, and bringing tasty treats for everyone to enjoy. Most of us tend to indulge during the winter months/holidays and decrease our exercise, but this can affect our pets. If our exercise has decreased, probably Fido is not receiving the same exercise he received in the spring and summer. Slipping Fido or Fluffy scraps from the Holiday meals can not only add excess un-needed calories to their diet, but can also lead to gastrointestinal issues. Here are some tips on how to help your pet avoid these problems during the winter/holiday seasons.

Exercise is always the best way to keep your pet fit and healthy. When the winter months approach, and the roads become too slick for daily walking, consider other means of exercising your pets. Doggy daycare can be an excellent way for your pet to get exercise and stimulation. Pets that are in doggy daycare should be social animals that are not aggressive towards other dogs, but most daycares will want to do an evaluation of your pet prior to them entering a group of dogs. The biggest downside to daycare is expense, and your pet will need to be up to date on whatever vaccines the daycare requires to assure that he/she will not be a risk, or at risk of disease. Another method of exercise and stimulation is to join a dog training class. There are many classes offered throughout the year to fit a variety of pet needs; flyball and agility classes allow your pet ample exercise and also creates a bonding experience for you and your pet. Again, cost and vaccines will need to be considered before entering your pet in a training class. When these options are not available to you, consider exercise you can do within your home environment such as training and fetch. If you have cats consider purchasing new toys, a cat tree, or a laser pointer to help them be active in the home.

When exercise levels are decreased during the winter, adjusting your pets feeding schedule may be necessary to keep them lean. Remember to consider your pets’ activity, calories in vs. calories burned. If your pet has decreased exercise levels during the winter, consider decreasing their overall quantity of food and treats. An example: Fido eats 1 cup twice a day during the active months of the year, but during the winter Fido only receives ¾ cup twice a day because his/her activity is decreased. If decreasing your pets food is worrisome to you, consider switching to a reduced calorie version of your pets diet during the winter months. Most pet food brands carry a “light” version of their diet. Royal Canin is the brand we carry at Dehler Animal Clinic and some of their diets are considered Moderate Calorie or Reduced Calorie. Consulting your veterinarian can help you decide the best food for your pets needs. Royal Canin diets try to help guide owners by giving recommended Daily Feeding Portion based on activity level: Moderate (less than 1 hour/day) or Average (1-2 hours/day):

Feeding guides are general recommendations only. The amount of food required by your dog may vary above or below that listed in this feeding guide. In consultation with your veterinarian it is recommended that you weigh your dog 4 to 6 weeks after starting a new diet in order to adjust food intake to maintain or achieve an optimal body weight and body condition score (Royal Canin, Weight Control Small Dog).

Allowing our pets access to holiday prepared meals by hand or even the trash can lead to additional health risks aside from weight gain. It can be the “tasty” turkey leftovers, stuffing, potatoes, or even the “tasty” turkey bones from the trash that Fido found in the middle of the night. This can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, toxicity, and possible obstruction which may require surgery. If any of these instances occur, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian to determine the next course of treatment. We all love to “treat” our pets, but during this holiday season, remember to “treat” wisely to avoid potential health risks.



Royal Canin Veterinary Care Nutrition. Weight Control Small Dog. Copyright Royal Canin S.A.S

Merriam Webster Online, An Encyclopedia Britannica Company. Copyright 2012 Retrieved

November 8, 2012