For pet owners it can be a difficult decision whether to grant a demanding animal more food and when to say enough is enough.

One of Britain’s leading vets has attacked research reported recently, claiming that dogs and cats were becoming obese by “comfort eating” to cope with emotional distress.

The study suggests that owners should try to understand the causes of this turmoil rather than reducing the amount of food they give to pets. Such a course of action it said could even make the animals unhappy and even hungrier.

However the advice has prompted a rebuke from the president of the British Veterinary Society who argues that it reinforces the mistaken view that giving extra food to your pets is a way of showing that you love them.

The research may have merit but the concluding advice is worrying. Animals do have emotional needs but the biggest problem relating to pet obesity is human behaviour rather than pet behaviour. This advice gives an excuse to people who do not want to stop feeding their animals.

People could clutch at straws because they would rather do anything than stop feeding their pets and this advice is manna to them.