The last couple of weeks have been a worrying and scary time for many. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated some drastic and restrictive measures being implemented for millions across the globe, in a clear effort to save lives. As a result, our dogs are now having to adapt to a sudden change in their daily routine and how best to manage this is a key concern for many of us just now, in addition to the more general anxieties and worries!
Remember, your dog has no idea of the situation and while many dogs will be aware that things have changed and that their owners might be behaving a little differently to usual, they aren’t worrying about many of the long-term consequences many humans are facing. Indeed, it is a good opportunity to really benefit and learn from the typical dog “in the moment” thinking, for a little while anyway! We can maybe even spend some extra quality time with our dogs, albeit in slightly restricted circumstances. This will benefit both them and us!
Here are our top tips to help you, help your dog just now in terms of mealtimes!
- Don’t panic buy dog food (PLEASE!) – pet food manufacturers and suppliers have been deemed as essential in the current crisis. This means that pet food WILL be available, although be prepared to perhaps change how and where you might typically purchase it for now. If you cannot get your usual food, consider swapping to as close an alternative as possible. The Skinner’s website is a good place to start and if you need any advice on alternatives, we would be happy to advise.
- Plan meals carefully – if you don’t already, now is the time to start weighing out your dog’s food. This helps to ensure you are feeding accurately and you can plan how much you need and are actually using, as well as starting a good habit for monitoring calorie intake!
- Transition gradually – if you do need to change foods, try to transition gradually over a few days to minimise digestive upset as you might not be able to get veterinary advice as quickly and easily as usual, with many veterinary practices also following restricted contact guidelines.
- Consider reducing calorie intake – with the impact of restricted exercise for many dogs, it is sensible to reduce their food intake NOW to minimise the chance of them gradually popping on some extra weight while physical distancing restrictions are in place. My own highly active and fit spaniels have had their food intake reduced by 10% already and I’m weighing them AND their food to keep a careful eye on their waistlines (and in truth… mine!)
- Look for low fat – if restricted exercise or weight management is a real concern for your dog’s waistline, consider moving to a lower fat food NOW. This is really important if you reduce the amount fed to significantly less than the recommended feeding guidelines. Field & Trial Light and Senior is a good option to consider if this is the case.
- Be creative – make mealtimes active and maybe ditch the bowl. Look at scatter feeding, using snuffle mats, stuffed Kongs and other food enrichment toys to prolong mealtimes and help your dog keep active while eating. You can also use kibble as training treats over a longer period of time; this uses both mental and physical energy and can become a great way to keep them occupied, as well as incorporating training into your new daily schedule!
- Be smart with treats – you might be tempted to treat your dog more during this time but remember to reduce their usual food intake accordingly and even look at healthy treats as an alternative – many dogs love small carrot chunks as a training treat!
Everyone at Skinner’s wishes you and your dog the very best just now. Stay safe and stay well. If at any point we can help you with nutrition or feeding advice and support, contact us and we will do our very best to help you and your dog.