Winter Couch Potatoes; dogs get fat too

by Guest Blogger Dr. Rex Riggs, Best Friends Veterinary Hospital

I love winter and snow. I am aware that many of you don’t share my affection for the cold months.  I grew up in northern Ohio where we can have brutal winters.  So I had to learn early to stay active in the winter months.  My two favorite activities, road cycling, and golf are not going to happen in a foot of snow.

So what do we do to keep in shape?  We may go to the gym (or tell people we do) and some of us will either cross country ski or downhill ski.  But let’s be honest….many of us grab some snacks, get our favorite drink and sit on our couch to hibernate the dark months out.

Then comes the holiday season.  The feasting starts at Thanksgiving, with the turkey, stuffing, your aunt’s mystery casserole, and the wonderful pies. Then come the cookie and sweets filled Christmas season.  Then comes the college football Bowl games, all seemingly 3 million of them!

So we sit, eat, drink and……gain weight.  Who is there to veg out with us, happy to share in any snack you wish to throw their way?  Our furry, loyal friends, our dogs and cats and…..they get fat too.

We forget how important it is to keep our pet at the optimal weight. If they get less activity in the winter then cut back on their calories. Give them ¾ of the food you give them in the summer months. Substitute a half can of green beans on their food.  They will love them and you are adding virtually no calories.

We all know that being overweight predisposes us to heart disuse, diabetes, arthritis, and hip and knee problems.  The same thing goes with our pets.  Obesity is the number one disease we see in our animals.  We have the world’s highest incidence of diabetes in our dogs and cats.  Being overweight increases our dogs’ incidence of cruciate ligament tears of the knees by at least 30% and a lean dog can live up to 35% longer than an overweight one. We have a responsibility to our pets.

So what do we do?

We can reduce calories by feeding fresh dog food which has fewer fillers and more fats and proteins that are important to dogs.

We get our butts off the couch and take our dogs outside.  Go for a walk. Throw snowballs for them to catch.  Just keep them active.  You do need to make sure they don’t get salt in their paws and watch for ice ball accumulating in the hairs of the feet, just common sense things.  There are a lot of doggie boutiques out there that carry a variety of coats and boots to help protect your dog from the cold, so don’t use that as an excuse.

Guess what?  Your dog will love being outside playing, rather than watching you become one with your couch.  

So let’s make a promise to not become house-bound spuds this winter and keep our beloved pets active and healthy!

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