Christmas is a time for treats and, since we know that sharing is caring, many of us think that it would be nice to let our dogs enjoy some of our favourite Christmas foods too. Unfortunately, not only are a lot of Christmas foods not safe for your dog to eat, but when you feed them Christmas treats as well as their usual meals, you are also giving them more food than they actually need each day. Food contains units of energy called calories. All animals and people need a certain number of calories each day to give them the energy that their bodies need. However, eating too many calories and not using enough energy leads to weight gain.
Research shows that nearly half of dogs in the UK are overweight or obese which is more than ever before. Vets also think that the number of overweight dogs will continue to grow over the next few years.
Why it’s important for pets to be a healthy weight
Being overweight can affect your pet’s health and their quality of life. Animals who are overweight are more likely to develop problems with their heart, lungs and other body organs. Being too heavy also places strain on their joints and muscles, making them painful and it harder for them to move around. It can also shorten your pet’s lifespan, so it is important to do what you can to help your pet to maintain a healthy weight, even around Christmas.
Be careful how many treats you feed your pet over Christmas
It’s nice to share safe and tasty treats with your pet, but you mustn’t give them too many. Stick to a single treat each day. This way you are still spoiling your dog and giving them the opportunity to eat something delicious that they might not have at other times of the year, but you won’t be giving them too many calories.
Stick to the recommended portion sizes
If you’ve ever eaten a very big meal, you will know that it can make your tummy feel bad afterwards. Your dog feels the same way, so it is important that you stick to giving them the right amount of food each time you feed them. If you aren’t sure what this is, your vet will be happy to help. Feeding the recommended portion sizes will also help to ensure that your dog isn’t getting too many calories.
Get your pet out for exercise as much as possible
When the weather is colder and wetter and the nights are longer, it can be trickier to take your pet out for exercise. Your dog’s body burns calories all the time, even when they aren’t moving around. However, exercise burns off even more, helping to make sure that they don’t have excess calories that could cause them to gain weight. Try and make time to take your dog out for regular exercise through the winter to keep their weight steady and healthy.
If you are concerned that your dog may be overweight, you can check out this guidance from the RSPCA website, which shows you how to tell if your dog is too heavy, or make an appointment for your pet to have a health check with your vet.