Why dogs loose weight when it’s cold?

It is winter, weather gets cold and your dog starts to seem a bit slimer, even if it eats usual amount of food.

Why this happens?

Apparently it is quite a normal thing to happen to your pet.

This is because every organism has a basal body temperature (37-38.5°C for dogs, 38-39°C for cats) that must be maintained to perform the vital functions at its best.

This does not mean that the ideal conditions are when outside and body temperature are equal. The functions of dog body work better, without using too much of calories, when your furry friend is in a neutral ambient temperature: between 15°C and 25°C.  That is the wellness area for your pet.

What heppens when the temperature is lower or higher than the wellness area of the body? At lower temperatures the dog will have to use more calories to produce energy to keep body heat in balance, meanwhile at higher temperatures it will use calories to disperse heat to cool down, as the dogs do not sweat as we do and the only ventilation is through the mouth.

On winter days, the body of the animal will consume part of its body fat in order to produce more energy to help fight the cold, which will result in weight loss. 

Although this forced fat loss is normal for outside dogs it is not so common in dogs living in apartments. House temperature, usually, is in the optimal range for your pet and while on the potty trip they are usually covered with doggy coats and sweater; as dog goes on with his business protected by coat, its body manages to produce enough energy to keep warm without using too much of calories. 

However, if you like to take your dog for long trips outdoors or it is quite active, you need to remember that in the extreme temperatures its needs change of its food habits.

Generally, if the ambient temperature is 10°C the usage of calories increases by 10% but if it comes below zero it even reaches a 50% increase compared to the normal take.

What to do if my dog needs more energy?

First of all, the easiest thing is to increase the daily dose of food without changing its type.

But, if the temperature drops below zero and energy requirement increases by 50%, it might result in such a big dosage of food that the animal will simply become unable to eat it all without exploding. This is usually the case with the low energy concentration food, because it fill the stomach but does not fill the storage of the body fat. 

In this case it is best to integrate food with higher energy concentration in your pets winter diet. Lipids, rich foodprovides your dog with so much needed calories (around 9 calories per gram),  which are consumed slowly so your pet does not need to be stuffed with kibble to keep warm.

Among the commercial diets there are many that contain a good percentage of fat, but you can also decide to add some animal fat (cattle, poultry, unpurified pork lard or egg yolk) or good quality vegetable oil to the daily ration.

Also remember to add some warm water to the food if it is dry to ensure sufficient water supply to your dog, in case your pet does not drink much of it on its own in winter time.

Keeping your pets weight in check means guaranteeing the health and full functionality of its body.

Do not forget your outdoor pets. If you can, try to keep them in for the cold period of the year or invest in a well insulated and warm shelter to prevent your dog from freezing in the winter.

For any additional doubts, contact your vet.

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