Huskies were bred to metabolize food efficiently so they can endure long bouts of exercise in the cold. Even with this special adaptation, sometimes a husky will still need extra chow. Depending on the severity of your winters and your dog's activity level, you may need to feed your husky more in winter.
How Severe Are Your Winters?
If temperatures in your area don't go below freezing, your husky's warm coat is enough to keep him comfortable without extra feeding. His body won't be working extra hard to stay warm, so he won't burn additional calories. But if you live in a place where snow and ice dominate half the year, you'll want to supplement your husky's diet. How much extra food he gets depends on how much time your husky spends in the cold and how active he is.
How Much Time Does Your Husky Spend Outside?
Even if the weather outside is frightful, your husky may not need extra food if he's spending most of his time indoors. In fact, he might be burning fewer calories than in spring or winter if you keep your thermostat at a cozy 72 degrees F. If your husky is outdoors much of the day or goes for daily long walks in the cold, he could use a little extra nosh at breakfast and dinner. How much his portion sizes increase depends on the severity of your winters and his activity level.
How Active Is Your Husky?
When your husky is outside, does he walk casually, lounge, and have a chat with the neighboring poodle, or does he run, jump and play vigorously? Sled dogs can burn up to 10,000 calories per day when they're working in the wintry months. It's doubtful your husky is working out as hard as a sled dog, so the increase in his intake should be small. The ASPCA recommends that active dogs who play outside should receive maintenance calories plus 20 percent to 40 percent on active days. You can add to that during very frigid conditions.
Monitoring Your Husky's Weight and Health
If you're concerned your husky is eating too much or too little during the winter, monitor his weight and his behaviors, and ask your vet for some feeding advice. If you can't weigh your husky at home, your vet will surely be happy to let you use the office scale once a week or so -- after all, your vet wants your dog to be healthy just as much as you do. A good way to tell if your husky is warm enough in winter is the snow on his fur. If soft snow collects on his fur, he's retaining enough body heat that the snow stays frozen. If ice accumulates on his fur, this means he's losing body heat, which melts the snow that then refreezes as ice on his coat. If your husky is turning into an icicle, trim his outdoor time and top off his bowl until that snow stays put.
- National Park Service - Denali: Frequently Asked Questions About Denali's Sled Dogs
- Dr. Yin's Animal Behavior and Medicine Blog: Cold Weather Safety for Dogs - Insights from a Sled Dog Veterinarian
- ASPCA: Feeding Your Adult Dog
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Siberian Husky
- All About Huskies: Food for Your Siberian Husky, Malamute or Sled Dog
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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