Watch Tip: Winter Feed Needs

Posted on February 20th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

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Watch for “outside” pets during cold winter months—they need more food to maintain weight. Winter fur can minimize the signs of starvation. Can you see two humps protruding above the rump—could they be hipbones? Food bowls could look full but be inedible. Talk with the owners or call the authorities today to save a life.

Food bowls look full but the dog or cat is starving in winter? Yes!

Sometimes the owner thinks that their dog or cat “just doesn’t eat much in winter.” Ask if the bowls are metal. Bowls should be plastic, and better yet, be electrically heated. If metal bowls are used outside, tongues can freeze to the bowls. After an animal has had that painful experience, they may stop eating from the same bowl. Moreover, kibble can freeze just like the water will. If the kibble is a frozen inedible lump stuck to the bottom of the bowl, the hungry dog or cat will attempt to knaw on it. Knawing and licking frozen food lumps and ice in the water bowl lowers the body temperature. The risk of hypothermia always increases with dehydration and starvation—a winter triple-threat. That hungry, thirsty animal can freeze to death in only moderately cold temperatures, especially if very young, very old, or sick.

Twice-daily feeding and watering is required in winter, along with increased amounts of food. But if the food and water bowls look full, they may not be replenished enough. And because winter fur covers the body, who will discern that the dog or cat is in serious danger? Please watch your neighborhood for outside or chained companion animals in winter. Look and look again, and always take action if you see hipbones or a narrow waist. If not you, who?

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