How Much More Food Do Pets Need in Winter

Many owners are unaware that their pets need more food, and better nutrition, in winter months, especially in places where temperatures get below freezing.


Understanding how Cold Effects our Pets

When a pet is cold it shivers to keep warm. Shivering burns calories. Thin pets have a hard time staying warm as they lack a layer of insulation – of course we do not want overweight pets either, this is just a note of concern that allowing a pet to become underweight in winter will make thing tougher on them. As such we can clearly see that pets need more calories in the winter.



Dogs may need anywhere from 10% more food to nearly double depending on their situation. An indoor house dog who seldom ventures out may only need a few more calories. A dog who lives outdoors all the time will certainly require an additional meal.

Thin dogs can be pumped up a bit by giving them canned food, puppy food, or food for active dogs.



Some people keep their cats indoors all the time, but if our house is cooler the cat might need a few more extra calories. However if the cat goes outdoors at all, or lives outside it will certainly need more food. Even if you feed your cat at special times of the day, outdoor cats should have free access to additional dry food all the time.

Thin cats can have an extra helping of canned food – particularly kitten food which will give them extra needed calories.

The Authors Cats go out on nice days but always curl up indoors at night!


This is primarily addressing outdoor birds, such as chickens, ducks, peafowl, and the like. These birds should have free access to unlimited food at all time.


Horses, and other Outdoor Pets

Some people do not feed horses in the summer when they have suitable pasture, however these animals nearly always require food in the winter. Even when grass is exposed it is worth noting that it loses nutritional value, particularly after the first frost. As such feeding hay in the winter is always important to keep our outdoor animals healthy and fit. Depending on how cold it gets, and to what extent these animals are active they may need quite a bit more food – including oats.

Miniature Stallion, Kipper, enjoying his dinner.

Other Factors

  • Pregnant, or nursing, animals must be fed more.
  • Deworming will help animals digest food better and absorb more nutrition.
  • Better food means the pet can eat less to get more nutrition.
  • Pets must have access to fresh water in the winter. Eating snow is hard on their bodies as a lot of snow must be eaten to be absorbed as water (snow is mostly air), plus snow will chill their body, meaning they need to eat more food.
  • Animals who have better shelter in the winter will need less feed than those with poor shelter.


Feeding Tip

Rather than feeding larger meals – one of the best things to do, is offer an additional meal or snack, or by feeding better quality food (either better quality food – or adding a serving of canned food – or oats – depending on the type of animal).

Related Links

Dog Food Quality

Cat Food Quality

Care for Pregnant Pets

Keeping Outdoor Pets Safe from Predators

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User Comments
  1. helmkhat

    On December 5, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Me gusta

  2. Suni51

    On December 5, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Very lovely post with beautiful pictures.

  3. dino renaldo

    On December 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    nice share………thanks

  4. albert1jemi

    On December 6, 2010 at 10:16 am

    nice work

  5. Freethinking

    On December 8, 2010 at 5:04 am

    How very true. My little boy dog and girl dog seem to have voracious appetites during these long winter months. Then there are the bird feeders outside that are endlessly being filled. I love it all.

  6. webseowriters

    On December 8, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Very well, my dear

  7. lillyrose

    On December 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Great article Brenda. Our horse is getting as much hay as she can eat, it’s the water that is the problem at the moment with temperatures well below freezing and taps freezing up!

  8. PSingh1990

    On December 8, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Nice Share.


  9. Love Nancy

    On December 8, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Good Write..!!! Thanks.

  10. The Soul Explorer

    On December 8, 2010 at 9:38 am


  11. PR Mace

    On December 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Well done and much needed article. I always feed my dogs a bit more once the weather turns cold. I can see Katie does gain a little more weight but she slims down as soon as it gets warm again. I don’t give Kole as much extra because of his age and the fact that he likes to stay inside most of the time. Don’t forget those walks in the winter. Our dogs still need a good walk even when it is cold.

  12. N. Sun

    On December 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Very nice! I really should get a pet; my old fish died lately :’(

  13. albert1jemi

    On December 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    well written

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