Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
If humans can have eating disorders, is it possible that pets can too?
While dogs and
cats can suffer from issues with eating, their problems don’t always parallel the disorders that commonly afflict humans.
Plus, diagnosing an eating disorder in a pet comes with an added caveat: It can be difficult to determine if the cause is behavioral, medical or even nutritional.
Check out these six bizarre yet classic eating antics commonly observed in four-legged family members.
For the majority of pets who eat too much, “it’s not an eating disorder as much as a feeding disorder,” says Dr. Julie Churchill, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVN, Associate Clinical Professor at the
University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center. “Owners assume that if their
dog is begging, it means he’s hungry.”
But dogs eat less to satisfy hunger, and more because food seeking is a normal canine behavior.
“It’s a preserved evolutionary trait from when dogs hunted, and it was feast or famine,” explains Dr. Churchill. “Dogs are gluttonous, opportunistic feeders — they’re capable of eating 16 percent of their body weight in one sitting, and they don’t turn it off when they’re full.”
And while cats were also born to hunt, it’s rare to spot a fat barn feline.
“Cats may hunt to excess, but they usually don’t eat to excess,” says Dr. Churchill, adding that
obesity occurs in kitties “who don’t have a hunting ‘job,’ and have a food source that’s too available.”
Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t behavior and medical problems that can lead to overeating.
Certain medications can cause overeating, and it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, including
Cushing’s disease and gastrointestinal diseases.
“I have seen cats who are cranky and irritable if they’re the slightest bit hungry,” adds Dr. Christopher Pachel, Diplomate ACVB, of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Ore. “They launch themselves at their owners with teeth and claws bared.” In such cases, Dr. Pachel recommends training to modify the behavior, but it’s sometimes also necessary to adjust a cat's diet in consultation with a veterinarian to avoid adding weight.
While a dog can miss a day or two of meals, any prolonged stint without eating can be disastrous for cats, who can develop
hepatic lipidosis, also known as “fatty liver disease.” In most cases, no amount of begging or wheedling can coerce these cats to eat, and they will literally attempt to starve themselves to death.
According to Dr. Pachel, although anorexia is often the first sign of illness, it can also have behavioral roots: “After the loss of a family member, whether it’s a pet or a person, pets may show signs that are consistent with
depression, including social withdrawal and loss of appetite."
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
A stray yellow Labrador Retriever puppy
appeared to be unharmed after being
rescued from a well in Georgia.
Bringing home a new puppy can be
exciting, but also overwhelming. Follow
our tips so the transition goes smoothly.
What do you do when you feel like
something’s not quite right with your pet,
but you can’t pinpoint exactly what it…
From fertilizers to insecticides, an expert
discusses which common gardening
products are dangerous for animals.
Your pet’s health could be at risk if you believe these misconceptions, like “home remedies” that are actually…
New to the sporting group, this gorgeous breed is an all-around hunting dog with a clever nature and sensitive soul.
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.