Posted by Kim Pelgrims | 26/07/2019
Owners are increasingly treating their pets like people. But Kim Pelgrims, former intern at Elanco Animal Health, asks how far this should go.
While human relationships are sometimes complicated, our animals simply love us for who we are. In many countries, pets are now considered part of the family, and we’re spending more and more on them.
In a vivid illustration of how much we’re humanising our pets, the National Retail Federation estimated that US owners would spend $886 million on their pets on Valentine’s Day in February this year.1
And social media is stoking the trend; 24 per cent of owners say they take more pictures with their dog than with friends, family or their significant other.2 But it’s not always for the benefit of the pet.
Dangerous impact on pet health
Humanisation is spilling over into pet health, as people apply the same views on people to their pets. For example ‘anti-vaxxers’ – parents who choose not to vaccinate their children – are now doing the same with their pets.
Without vaccinations, we wouldn’t be able to control diseases such as rabies – devastating for both people and pets – or serious diseases in our beloved dogs, such as canine distemper and kennel cough. The danger starts when people stop trusting the opinion of experts.
Unhealthy effect on nutrition
Diet is another area where pet humanisation has caused dispute. We often make dietary decisions based on our beliefs and backgrounds, and some have started to impose these on their pets.
Recent trends towards vegan and vegetarian diets in the West have led many to extend this lifestyle to their pets. Although it’s possible for dogs to live on a vegetarian diet, if it’s not approached carefully to ensure the dog gets all the right nutrients, it can lead to illness.
Foods considered healthy for humans could also be harmful for animals.
It’s important to remember that as a pet owner, you may view your pet as your best friend but they’re still an animal with their own needs and requirements. It’s essential to stay informed – that way you can keep your pet healthy and enjoy your mutual bond for as long as possible.
1National Retail Federation 2019 Valentine’s Day Spending Survey: https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/fewer-consumers-celebrating-valentines-day-those-who-do-are-spending Accessed July 2019
2Rover.com survey of 1,450 US dog owners: https://www.rover.com/blog/power-of-dog-love-rover/ Accessed July 2019