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Posted: Monday, 30 September 2013 6:17AM

Study: Obese pets may suffer from stress-induced eating

Obesity in our pets has become a huge problem and a new study shows, just like people, they can be suffering from anxiety or stress-induced eating.

The study authors note, "Not every animal given more food than they need will become overweight, which raises the critical question: Why does the animal that overeats do so?"

Emotional eating can be a problem for cats and dogs according to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, as they say lack of activities, stimulation or exercise, and too much time alone can cause emotional distress for them.

Dr. Anissa Peneguy with Causeway Animal Hospital says obesity is one of the top diseases veterinarians deal with.  What helps?  She says, "We do find stimulating their environment, increasing exercise during the day and if you have a pet that is otherwise healthy, we do recommend about 30 minutes of exercise, aerobic exercise.  They need to get the heart rate increased, so sitting in the yard chasing the occasional squirrel is not enough."

She says pets benefit from lower carbs and higher protein diets, and that owners need to check out high quality food in addition to feeding less food to battle obesity. 

As for trying to exercise cats, who frequently don't go outside, Dr. Peneguy says, "There are more toys that can be used to try to increase your cat's exercise in the home now.  Laser pointers for instance, many cats will chase that.  There are toys that have a small ball or something that will move under a piece of fabric, or try feathers at the end of a string.  Those types of toys can be used to increase exercise in cats."

This study finds obese pets are more common in households with just one dog or 1-2 cats, and the authors say "Moreover, because emotional eating is a coping mechanism, overeating may be a sign that an animal's psychological well-being is impaired."

Click here for more from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior

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