New research recently reported in the Telegraph claims that many cats and dogs are becoming obese because of "comfort eating" to cope with "emotional distress." However, the British Veterinary Association is speaking out against the research, claiming it reinforces the "mistaken view" that "giving extra food to your pets is a way of showing that you love them."
The study by Dr. Franklin McMillan, a veterinarian and former clinical professor of medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, in California, USA, suggested that owners should try to understand the causes of the emotional distress, rather than simply cutting down on the amount of food pets' eat, which could make them even more unhappy and hungrier, the research said. McMillian's research suggested a number of factors that could trigger "emotional eating" in pets, including boredom, anxiety and depression.
But, Robin Hargreaves, president-elect of the British Veterinary Association, disagreed, saying: "The research may have merit, but the concluding advice makes me worry.
"Animals do have emotional needs. You can't get away from that. But the biggest problem relating to pet obesity, is human behavior, rather than animal behavior. This advice gives an excuse to people who do not want to stop feeding their pets. My fear is that owners will latch onto this and say 'my animal needs this amount of food because of his emotional needs.' People clutch at straws because they would rather do anything than stop feeding their pet and this advice is manna to them.
"It can be hard to resist that hungry look from your dog and too easy to substitute real attention and interaction for treats, but it's in the pet's best interests to get it right," Hargreaves said.