Poppy, our Westie, puts on a little weight every winter. Ed, who weighs her regularly and keeps a log, has noticed this seasonal increase for the past three years.
Besides snow walking, Poppy loves “snow hopping” (her favorite sport). Both give her a good workout and help control winter weight for all of us!
This winter, because she’s had more exercise than in past years, we’re scratching our heads to figure it out. We weigh her food and monitor her treats so we’d know if she were eating more. She’s not. Is there something in a dog’s nature that hangs on to calories in winter? Does her metabolism slow down?
The Thrifty Gene
After some research, we learned the answer to those questions is,”Yes!” Ken Tudor, DVM, on the Pet MD website wrote, “Shorter days signal to the dog brain that winter is coming. This sets off hormonal changes to slow metabolism and conserve calorie expenditure.” He says, “These changes also promote the deposition of fat. This phenomenon is a result of a genetic adaptation called the ‘thrifty gene.’ The thrifty gene prepares the dog for the harsh winter and allows for normal performance in harsh conditions.”
We have to offset the thrifty gene with more attention to the “food in/exercise out” balance. Just as it is with humans, dogs have to eat less or exercise more to keep from gaining weight.
Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino adapted for BostonZest from one of our City Paws newspaper columns.
Photos: ©2017 Penny & Ed Cherubino