Pet obesity linked to emotional eating?

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Stories like these make me smile and cry at the same time.9ffaa519586d5bcaf666bdc4306919c4
In an article in the latest edition of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Franklin McMillan suggests pets sometimes eat to dispel negative emotions, stress and nervousness
Pet obesity linked to emotional eating –
I smile because it is great to learn of research that attempts to increase our understanding of a dog’s “emotions” and how they manifest in behaviors.

I cry because this article is suggesting that our pets are fat in part, because they overeat due to emotional stress!

Most pets, especially dogs, will eat what you feed them. If you have a fat dog, it means simply that you are feeding them too much given their size and activity level, assuming no underlying health issue. It is not because they are stressed out.
Does emotional stress cause the human to overfeed the pet? Perhaps it does. Which is why pet owners need to have a good idea of how many calories their pet needs each day and a plan to make sure that they get this amount and not more. But the pet obesity problem is a human problem, not a pet problem. Let’s “come correct” and acknowledge this and stop trying to find excuses or other lame reasons for why our pets are fat.
If you need some help figuring this out, download the SlimDoggy iPhone app. It will help you determine your dog’s daily calorie needs and has an extensive dog food calorie and ingredient database. Use it in conjunction with a measuring device or look into some of the new smart feeders like that being created by (aka to make sure your servings are what they should be.

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  1. Ahhhhh, this is lovely, because, as you said, they’re trying to understand our canine kids. But giving humans and excuse for not learning/understanding more about dog nutrition and fitness isn’t a great start. I wonder if people who experience this are free feeding their dogs. Our dogs will eat and eat and eat. And then give me a sweet look that makes me want to give them more, but they’re fine.

    When they start gaining, I can tie this to less exercise or more food/treats. It’s really easy and they gain and lose quickly so it’s easy to resolve.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Sydney’s Vajayjay and Dr. Harvey’s Organic Healing Cream + GiveawayMy Profile

    • So true.

      Any overeating (and associated weight gain) is not because of the dog’s emotional stress. It is because we humans provide them more than their bodies need.
      steve recently posted…Pet obesity linked to emotional eating?My Profile

  2. Retrievers would eat what you put in front of them and then some. 🙂 But I do know of some who are allowed to free eat and don’t over eat. In fact when Storm was nursing her pups, they had food available to her at all times. A big bowl. I figured she would have her head in it all the time, but she didn’t. She just ate a little at a time. I guess she was too busy to eat. 😉 Of course now that pups are long gone, she is back to inhaling her food.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Tasty Tuesday–Smiling Dog Freeze-Dried TreatsMy Profile

    • Yes, and her calorie consumption is capped based on how much (and what) you make available. Even if Storm was having emotional and psychological issues (whatever they might be), she wouldn’t overeat because of them. She would overeat because she had access to too much food!
      steve recently posted…Pet obesity linked to emotional eating?My Profile

  3. I agree that pets have emotions but overeating because of stress seems like too much anthropomorphism to me.

    I keep a steady supply of kibbles in the bowls of my Poodles and they never overeat and always maintain their weight. If I didn’t keep the bowl full, they would hide food around the house. They just seem to need to know that the food is available even if they aren’t hungry. I don’t know if that is just a Poodle thing.
    jan recently posted…Barking at a police dog–free speech or a felony?My Profile

  4. Nellie is a stress eater, she stresses out because she can’t hunt in the winter time so she hunts her own food and finds dead critters to eat on to make her feel better. LOL no seriously I agree dogs are fat because people make them that way. I take the blame for Nellie being fat, I spayed her when she was 8 and her exercise when down and even know I measured out her food she was getting too many calories for the amount of zero exercise she was getting.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~Stink EyeMy Profile

  5. This is a great post. We definitely need to be aware of how our own emotions affect our dogs in many different ways!
    BoingyDog recently posted…10 Ways to Praise Our Dogs Without FoodMy Profile

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