Do you feed your dog the same amount of dog food every day no matter what season it is? Did you know that seasonal changes impact your dog and make feeding changes necessary, even in the summer? Where you live may be an important factor in the way you need to feed your dog.
Effect of Summer Temperature on the Diet
Many parts of the north and northeastern United States enjoy moderate temperatures even in the hot months of July and August. Dogs are able to play more vigorously when temperatures are mild. That means they are burning more calories than normal and need additional portions added to their daily meals.
Dogs that live in areas that are extremely hot or humid during the summer may not exercise nearly as much as in the spring and fall. Exercise may be limited to the early morning and late evening and reduce overall calorie expenditure. Dogs in these climates need less food to compensate for the decreased activity levels.
Dogs with unlimited access to water for swimming can be active all summer regardless of the temperature. Swimming burns a lot of calories so summer swimmers may need 25-30% more calories during this time of year.
How to Adjust the Amount of Dog Food
So how does a dog owner know when and how much to adjust their dog’s diet? The Body Condition Score or BCS is an easy way to determine if more or fewer calories should be fed. A fit dog has a BCS of 4-out-of-9 or 4/9 with a midriff that has a distinct hour glass shape when looking at the dog from the top. If a dog is being over fed the hour glass tends to disappear within weeks. It can become exaggerated in the same period for dogs that are underfed for their level of exercise. These dogs are too thin with a BCS of 3/9.
How Much to Feed
I am only talking about fit dogs here. Any dog with a BCS of 6 or greater needs a weight loss program and a reduction in food no matter what season it is until it scores a 4-5/9 BCS.
For the fit dogs with a changing BCS during the summer, an adjustment of 10% more or less food per week until the BCS returns to 4-5/9. For example, if you feed your dog 2 cups of dry food daily and she is losing weight increase her to 2.2 cups or 2 ¼ cups of food per day for 1 week. If she is still too thin after 1 week and another ¼ cup per day each week until the BCS returns to normal. Follow the same formula for subtracting amounts of food for animals with an increasing BCS during the summer.
These are only starting guidelines and you may have to modify them depending on your dog’s metabolism and the calorie density of your dog’s food. Don’t be too conservative in your changes, especially if your dog needs food reductions. Weight gain is always easier and faster than weight loss.
~Dr Ken Tudor
The Dog Dietitian