Comfort Eating: Stressed Out Pets

Humans commonly engage in comfort eating when we’re stressed. But we have the benefit of medical advice, dietary options, exercise and a sense of long-term well-being. Our pets can’t take medical advice though. They eat what we give them, they only exercise when we let them and they don’t think about long-term consequences. That means we have to keep their best interests in mind.

Is your pet comfort eating?

A 2013 study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior looked at obesity in cats and dogs. The study (subscription needed), caused controversy and debate among some veterinarians.

The Debate About Comfort Eating

Lead author Dr. Franklin D. McMillan said that if more research confirms  comfort eating in dogs, limiting the food supply may deprive the pet of its only coping mechanism.

The British Veterinary Association responded by expressing its concern that Dr. McMillan’s theory may encourage some people to overfeed their pets in an attempt to comfort them.

Obviously, too much food and too little food are both unhealthy for pets. The scientific debate, although not settled, does provide veterinarians and pet guardians with useful insights.

What to Watch For

Comfort eating, whether a reaction to stress, depression or an underlying health condition, is just a symptom. It’s important to look carefully at our pets’ behaviors to learn why they overeat. Boredom, changes like moving to a new house and even meeting a new pet, a new baby or a spouse can all bring on depression in dogs.

There are a number of ways to help your pet deal with depression, but they all boil down to one simple approach: give them more attention and exercise. We all have busy lives but it’s important to remember that your pet’s life revolves around and the time you can spend together. If the tendency to overeat persists or your pet remains less active than usual, you may want to bring them to RegionalVet for an examination by one of our doctors.

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