Winter weather changes the nutritional needs of pets.

A few weeks ago, one of my patients and I had a literally shocking experience. The dog and I made contact and shocked each other with static electricity.

Water, fluid and humidity requirements for pets increase.

This phenomenon is not a direct result of dehydration, but rather a build-up of abnormal electrical charge. I often find patients/pets who experience static electricity are, in fact, dehydrated, as shown by their blood work and have very dry skin.

Forced air heat and low humidity lead to a high demand for water or food with excess moisture.

Occasional mild dehydration is not life-threatening, but chronic dehydration affects all internal organs and tissues in the body except the skin. The kidneys and cardiovascular system are affected by tissue dehydration, leading to decreased oxygenation of cells and premature cell death.

To make sure your pet is protected from dehydration, and that they drink plenty of water, get creative with both their feeding and drinking habits. Consider adding a water fountain for your pet, which simulates fresh running water. Many cats and dogs prefer it to stagnant water, and the sound of running water will entice your pet to drink more often.

Pets who do not drink much water can be encouraged to add canned or fresh meat, vegetables and fruits (pureeed in a blender and mixed with their meat) or low-sodium meat broth, Kefir or goat’s milk for their food.

Being outside in cold weather also increases the fluid needs of people and pets, as shivering uses more body fluid and energy.

During cold weather, make sure your pet has plenty of water at all times. Warming pet food and slightly warming bone broth after going out will help warm and hydrate your pet.

Changes in calorie needs

Some pets and owners become less active during the colder months with fewer walks and less outdoor play time. If your pet fits into this category, it needs fewer calories. Unfortunately, the tendency to eat more calories increases when we are bored, less active and doing things like watching TV.

Make a conscious effort to get up and throw the ball for your pet, or have a food parade, encouraging your pet to follow you around the house as you carry their food up and down.

In addition to eating fewer calories, make sure you eat more lean protein, such as lean meats, and cut out carbohydrate-laden snacks such as grain-based foods. Dry pet foods are higher in calories than real foods, including blueberries, carrots and green beans. Replace some of these with your pet’s cable.

For pets who maintain an active lifestyle in the winter, increasing calories through fresh protein (meat, fish and eggs – lightly cooked or raw) and healthy fats can help with hydration and keep your pet hydrated. Keeping at a healthy weight may be the answer.

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oils, nut oils and grass-fed animal fats, are great for reducing inflammation, protecting pets from cancer and increasing skin moisture. But, be careful when introducing new fat sources to pets. Use small amounts at first and increase gradually.

If the pet has experienced previous episodes of pancreatitis or gastroenteritis, the introduction of new food ingredients, including healthy fats, needs to be gradual.

Include cold weather seasonal carbohydrates in the diet.

Ever wondered how many foods are readily and naturally available during certain seasons?

Until the last 60-80 years, pet diets reflected what was seasonally available to the people they lived with. For example, fruits were not readily available in winter, but abundant in summer, so they were not eaten raw in winter.

Instead, root vegetables and tubers, such as sweet potatoes, were cooked and eaten during the winter months. Give your dog a break from processed foods and consider adding some home-cooked meals with cooked meats and sweet potatoes, instead of grains, wheat and legumes (lentils and peas).

Cooked oats are another great warm food to feed pets in the winter. And canned pumpkin filling (no added sugar) is an excellent source of fiber for pets year-round.

Spice up your pet’s food.

Warming spices such as cinnamon and turmeric are excellent and safe ways to safely warm a pet internally. Avoid cooling foods, such as cucumbers, cold foods, ice cubes and ice cream. Bring food and drinks slightly warm or at room temperature.

Stay warm, dry and active for your pet’s health and yours.

Dr. Cynthia Maro He is a veterinarian at Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a bi-weekly column on pet care and health issues. Email if you have a topic you’d like addressed.

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