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Dr. Scott Sandeman

Dr. Scott Sandeman

While a Deep Freeze hasn’t arrived just yet in our area, it’s a safe bet that sub-zero weather will be here sooner or later.

Pets who spend most of their time under a blanket on the couch won't notice the difference, but dogs that spend a lot of time outside or are housed outdoors and enjoy high-energy activities such as hunting or running may need some dietary fortification to keep them at their best weight and body condition.

Feeding a high-protein food, or one specially formulated for active or working dogs, can make it easier to ensure that a pet gets adequate calories. These energy-packed foods will require a smaller quantity to equal the calorie content in some store brands or cheaper foods and can actually cost less overall.

Most pets that have been raised on self-feeders or free choice feedings will simply eat more food to keep up with their increased energy needs during winter. If you measure your pet’s food every day, a rough rule of thumb is that he or she should be fed about 1 percent more food for every 10-degree drop in temperature, an amount that can be critical when frigid weather arrives.

To ensure your pet is receiving adequate nutrition, make sure you know his current weight and check it at regular intervals during winter weather. Long-haired pets especially can hide serious weight loss. Watch also for a decreased appetite or fluid loss because of parasitism, vomiting or diarrhea that could be life-threatening at times of stress.

Equally important is the availability of fresh, non-frozen water for kennel situations. Offer water at least twice daily or use an electric water heater to keep water from freezing. Some pets may have special needs for food or water — those with diabetes, hypothyroidism or kidney disease — and may not be suitable for outdoor confinement during any conditions. Check with your veterinarian to ensure your pet's age and health will allow him to maintain an optimal weight this winter.

Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to papertrained@ mchsi.com. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

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