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Top tips for keeping your dog svelte in Winter!

By Kate Bendix; broadcaster, journalist, founder of My Itchy Dog 11 months ago 1726 Views

27 Feb 2018 12:37:12

Keeping your dog svelte in Winter!

Crumpets. That staple of a rainy, winter Sunday afternoon if you’re anything like me. I wouldn’t dare to presume you indulge too though I sincerely hope that you do. My friend came over for a dog walk last Sunday, it was raining for a change (when will it stop?) so I thought tea and crumpets would provide good energy before we strode forth, a kind of crumpet duvet against the elements.

Of course, Nikita was sitting by my feet at the ready lest any warm buttery crumb should somehow escape and tumble to the floor. She likes to stare at you intently, her eyes darting back and forth from eyes to crumpet and back. So, I gave her a couple of small pieces and realised this is what happens in winter in our house, and maybe yours too, higher calorie tidbits given to the dog and less exercise because frankly the sofa looks far more alluring when it’s only light for seven hours a day.

It made me wonder how many extra calories I’m feeding her because let’s face it our dogs are always far more important than we are.

Crumpet maths

So, I ran the numbers and the results are a bit of a shocker.

Two crumpets with butter and jam comes out at 500 calories (cue self-loathing). I gave Nikita two small pieces and that adds up to 25% of her daily intake. That’s 500g of fat Nikita will pack on over your average winter, a 5% increase in bodyweight.

That’s not even taking the sugar and salt content into account.

So, we’re taking a crumpet hiatus.

You get the point.


To keep the weight off you have two choices; you can either resist those big brown eyes entirely and/or opt for a far healthier treat. The key is to make the extras count towards your dog’s daily ration. So, if your dog needs 300g of food per day and you’re feeding 25g in treats then only feed 275g of food.

Quality treats


We know that high carbohydrate treats; crumpets and processed dog biscuits, even in small quantities can make a big difference to overall weight, plus they’re higher in sugars which puts a greater burden on the pancreas. Any sugar the pancreas can’t deal with is shipped on to the liver which turns it into fat. Hence keeping carby treats to a minimum is a must.


High protein treats are fine for most dogs no matter what breed or age. And because protein keeps a dog going for longer and doesn’t mess with their blood sugar to the same extent, they’re a better treat all round. Luckily a pure meat or fish treat is a high value reward. Make it clear they’re only getting one or two and you’re free to enjoy your fat packing crumpets with your friends.

Dogs with pancreatitis need super low-fat treats, Natural Instinct duck necks, Lamb Lites, Liver Treats, Fish Fingers and Fish Skins should suit, ideally keeping the fat content as far down as the vet recommends or below 5%.

A higher protein diet in older dogs works too, it helps to maintain muscle mass which all of us lose as we get older. Even if they’re short of a tooth or two a spine or lamb neck will keep them licking it for hours. Nikita wasn’t blessed with the best of teeth but give her a chicken carcass and that’s the last you’ll see of her for a while.

High protein treats

You can go for anything Natural Instinct has in their freezers. They’re all 100% meat or fish which means you know exactly what you’re feeding, especially good for dogs on a special diet or intolerant to certain foods.

Depending on the size of your dog there’s something in there for everyone. Lamb paddywack, duck carcasses, little chicken hearts, lamb necks, whitebait and beef pipes (another good chewing treat).

You don’t need to feed something tiny per se, you can give them a larger Natural Instinct treat and just deduct it from their daily ration. By spreading their food out across the day, giving them something to chew or find, you’re free to come to terms with the fact that while your dog will be fat free come spring you’ll have lots of time to lament your crumpet eating choices.

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