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Benefits of Warm Food for Pets

Picture this: You’ve just peeled off your scarf, heavy coat, gloves and snow shoes after spending the afternoon shoveling cold, wet snow from your driveway. Your mind drifts to images of the perfect food to thaw you out – a steaming cup of soup, or perhaps a hearty, warm casserole. Have you ever noticed that as the seasons change, so does your taste in food? Now that winter is fast approaching, that cold pasta salad you craved last summer just doesn’t seem appealing. When temperatures plummet, warm foods just make sense; they’re like a cozy sweater for our insides. But are there also benefits of warm food for pets? The answer is “yes”!

benefits of warm food for pets

Warm Foods Help the Body Stay Warm

Warm foods work their magic in a couple of ways, according to Babette Gladestein, VMD, owner of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. They provide an immediate sense of internal warmth as they travel from the mouth to the stomach. They also help to increase blood circulation. “When we are cold, everything in the body constricts and the blood concentrates in the body’s trunk to warm and protect the internal organs,” Gladstein says. “Warm foods help reduce constriction, enabling the blood to flow away from the core to the extremities, which creates a sense of warmth.”

Warm Foods are Easier to Digest than Cold Foods

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, warm foods are quicker and easier to digest than cold foods. “The body needs to bring the temperature of food closer to its own internal temperature in order to efficiently digest it,” Gladstein says. “If the food is already warm, the body does not need to expend as much energy heating it and can get right down to the business of digestion and absorption.”

Warm Foods Entice the Olfactory Senses

Warm foods also have a practical appeal for animals.

The better a food smells to an animal, the more appetizing it becomes. Warm foods release aromatic vapors, which stimulate an animal’s desire to eat.

If you’ve ever stepped into a bakery and began salivating with hunger at the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the air, then you know that scent plays a powerful role in inducing appetite. Now imagine you are a dog or cat, with a much more powerful sense of smell than a human. Just imagine how much more tempting those bakery treats would seem! In addition, the increased aroma of warm foods may help entice older dogs and cats who have a decreased sense of smell.

Warm Foods are More Palatable

After an animal becomes attracted to a food with his nose, the next step, of course, is to taste it. Warming food to just below the animal’s normal body temperature (101 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit for dogs and 100.5 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit for cats) increases the food’s palatability. As with increasing the food’s aroma, creating a more palatable taste experience may help entice older, ill or finicky pets to eat.

In addition, old and ill animals, as well as flat-furred dogs such as Chihuahuas, Weimeraners, Chinese Cresteds, Grehounds and German Pointers, are more susceptible to the chilling effect of cold temperatures. These animals may particularly benefit from consuming warm foods.

Best Way to Heat Warm Food for Pets

I do not recommend warming your pet’s food in the microwave for a couple of reasons. First, microwaving destroys important nutrients. Microwaving can also create uneven heat, with certain sections that are scalding and dangerous for your pet.

My favorite method of preparing warm food for pets is to mix some warm water into commercial or fresh food to create an enticing cold-weather “stew.” If you feed dehydrated or freeze-dried food, simply rehydrate the mix with warmer water than usual. Just be sure the food is at a comfortable temperature and not too hot prior to feeding.

Note to Raw Feeders

Please note that I am not suggesting that you cook your pet’s food prior to feeding if this is against your philosophy (plus, you never want to feed cooked bone). But, consider that your pet may enjoy his food at a warmer temperature in the colder weather. And, bear in mind that foods heated to a temperature below 118 degrees Fahrenheit are still considered “raw” and retain their enzymatic activity (however, again, please do not heat bone or foods containing bone).

So, the next time you start to put that bowl of cold food in front of your dog or cat, why not try gently warming it for an extra satisfying culinary experience on a cold day?

(Note: This article was adapted from an article Diana originally wrote that appeared in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of Dogster magazine.)

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  1. karen paul says:

    Just saw your nutrition course offered and would like to know why it is so costly even with the $100 discount. How long is the course ? Just a little confused .

    • Hi Karen,
      The course took more than a year to write and consists of 19 detailed lessons on canine nutrition, plus FREE live monthly group coaching calls with myself and Dr. Dodds through 2017 included! This is most definitely not expensive given the calibre of what you get. 🙂
      For more information, please visit My Healthy Dog.