Staying healthy in the cold: Winter pet diet

by | General Pet Care |

During the cold weather months, your pet is using lots of energy, and a change of diet may be in order. For other pets, a change may not be needed!

Dave Wilson, senior director of Shelter Health & Wellness at the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society and retired vet, shares what factors you need to consider when looking at a new winter pet diet.


To start off, Wilson says you and your vet make up a team, so it’s always important to consult them when it comes to nutritional questions. Wilson says a change of diet can simply come down to environment.

“It really comes down to – although the weather’s getting colder, how much is the pet’s day to day environment changing?” he says.

If your pet is strictly an indoor cat, then they’re exposed to the same temperature as the rest of the year, Wilson says. When it comes to dogs, he says to consider if your outdoor activities increase in length during cold weather, or decrease. For example, he says if you take your dog for a run with you in the cold, they will be using more energy for sure.

“They essentially have to expend calories to keep warm,” he says.

Special considerations

Wilson says if you’re running a barn cat program then colder temperatures mean increasing the food intake. The same applies to feral cat colonies. He says overall, you’ll be able to tell a change is necessary.

“The animals will let you know,” he says.

You can watch for this, Wilson says, by seeing how fast their food intake is. If it disappears too quickly, their bodies are demanding more.

To ensure your pet is not getting overweight in this season, Wilson suggests looking up the body condition score on Royal Canin’s website. Some major points are if there’s an increased layer of padding that can be felt over the shoulders and ribs. He says you can also look down and see if the waist tapers in and then goes out at their waist.

If you have any concerns about the diet or weight of your pet, consult your veterinarian. They have the expertise to assist in any changes you have to make.