The two most common health problems I see in dogs are dental disease and obesity. In Arizona, the hot summer weather keeps people and dogs indoors. The lack of exercise packs on the pounds. Most dogs come into the clinic 3 to 5 pounds heavier every fall then slowly lose the extra weight over the winter when good weather returns to our area.
I saw the opposite when I practiced in Minnesota. Dogs gained weight over the winter from the lack of exercise and the holiday season. Those special holiday treats really pack on the pounds too. By the time spring arrived, many dogs gained substantial amounts of weight. Summer activity helped them slowly shed the excess weight until they were back to normal by fall.
Here are my suggestions to help curb seasonal weight gain in dogs:
1) Monitor your pet’s weight closely during periods of inactivity. I welcome all my clients to come in and use my clinic scales at no charge to keep tabs on their dog’s weight. Most of my veterinary colleagues do the same.
2) Change from high calorie to low calorie treats. Dog treats contain a surprising amount of calories. During periods of inactivity, use vegetables or low calories items for treats. Alternatively, break a standard treat into pieces and give 1/4 instead of the whole.
3) Decrease the amount of food by 5 to 10 percent during periods of inactivity. Supplement with green beans or other vegetables. If using canned or frozen vegetables, use low or no salt brands.
4) Find ways to exercise despite the extreme temperatures. Many boarding and training facilities offer indoor group play sessions. To avoid the excessive summer heat in Arizona, I walk my dog at early in the morning. I also recommend swimming for my patients who enjoy the water. In winter climates, many dogs can walk year round with the appropriate gear. Neoprene vests and snow booties come in a variety of sizes that will fit almost any dog.