During Christmas many of us worry about how our overindulgence will affect our waistlines come the New Year, but have you considered the weight your dog could potentially gain over the festive period?
Often, the more we treat ourselves, the more lenient we are with our pets, too. But whilst there is nothing wrong with the occasional treat, it’s important that we prioritise their health all year round.
Here Lauren Hudson, nutrition specialist at Vale Pet Foods shares her top four tips for preventing your dog from putting on weight during Christmas.
Remind visitors to ask you before feeding
With coronavirus restrictions being lifted from 23rd to 27th December, many households will have visitors for the first time in months as people take the time to celebrate together. Often, more visitors can mean more treats for your pet, so it is important to set boundaries with extended family and other guests, asking them to check with you before feeding.
These seemingly small titbits quickly add up on top of regular meals and can contribute to your dog putting on unhealthy weight over the festive period.
If you are expecting visitors who are likely to want to treat your canine companion, give them low calorie treats or cooked, lean meat to offer instead, which will help you control how much your dog is consuming and ensure everything they are eating is healthy and nutritious.
Keep human food for humans
It may seem like a nice idea to allow your dog to join in the celebrations with some human festive food, but overly processed items that are only meant for human consumption can result in illness and excessive weight gain when fed to dogs.
You can still get your dog involved by adding lean turkey meat to their regular dog food, as well as leafy greens such as sprouts and broccoli. However, avoid putting gravy on your dog’s meal as it can be very high in salt and calories. You could also choose limited edition festive flavoured tinned or dry dog food to give your pet a treat whilst avoiding potential weight gain or illness from consuming human food.
If you do opt for a Christmas dry or tinned dog food, still check the nutritional information to ensure it is not overly calorific and the ingredients are suitable for your pet’s dietary requirements.
Limit excessive Christmas presents
95% of pet owners admit to buying their dog a Christmas present, so it’s easy to see how dogs are susceptible to gaining weight over the festive period. Many retailers now provide Christmas themed treats marketed as gifts for dogs that will be perfectly fine in isolation, but these too can quickly add up.
Make an effort to limit how many edible presents you are buying your dog for Christmas and instead gift them toys which will keep them active and reduce their caloric intake.
Brave the cold
As temperatures drop, it can be tempting to skip the occasional dog walk. However, ensuring your dog’s diet is balanced with regular exercise is key for keeping them fit and happy, not only during the festive season but all year round.
Continuing to take your dog out for regular exercise over Christmas is crucial to keeping their mental well-being in check, too, as a bored dog often becomes destructive.
To keep your dog active, try splitting a long walk into two shorter walks – one in the morning and one in the evening. This will keep them sufficiently exercised whilst limiting the amount of time you both spend out in the cold on each walk. During shorter walks, throwing a toy can help to maximise your dog’s energy expenditure and help them burn off any extra calories.
As a dog owner it is your responsibility to ensure you are giving your pet the best quality of life and keeping them as healthy as possible. Monitoring their treats and making sure they get sufficient exercise, not just over Christmas but throughout all seasons, is vital for keeping them in optimum health.
If you notice that your dog’s weight has increased and you do not believe it is due to their diet, speak to your vet as it may be caused by an underlying health condition.