Home-Alone Dogs. — 42% of American dogs sleep in the same beds as their owners…
Excerpted from James Vlahos’ Pill-Popping Pets in NY Times Magazine, 7.13.08.
Lead: “Americans are spending millions on mood-altering drugs for their cats and dogs. Is it because we’ve driven them mad?”
1. Dogs too suffer from separation anxiety and compulsive disorders like hours and hours of tail-chasing.
2. More than 20% of American dogs are overweight.
3. Slentrol, approved by the FDA in 2007 is the country’s first canine anti-obesity medication.
4. Aging dogs can become absent-minded (“where did I put the dog dish?”).
Pfizer’s Anipryl “treats cognitive dysfunction” to help absent-minded dogs remember…
5. “For lonely dogs with separation anxiety, Eli Lilly brought to market its own drug Reconcile last year. The only difference between it and Prozac is that Reconcile is chewable and tastes like beef.”
6. Dogs develop mental illnesses “that eerily resemble human ones and respond to the same medications.”
7. “Marketers have a new name for the age-old tendency to view animals as furry versions of ourselves: ‘humanization,’ a trend that is fueling the explosive growth of the pet industry and the rise of modern pet pharma.
8. Americans forked over $49 billion for pet products and services last year, up $11.5 billion from 2003; other than consumer electronics, pet products are the fastest-growing retail segment…
9. The market expansion is being driven both by more pets and by more spending per pet, esp. by affluent baby boomers whose children have graduated from college…” the fastest growing category is health care, with treatments formerly reserved for people–root canals, chemotherapy, liposction, mood pills–being administered to pets.
10.”…77 percent of dog owners and 52 percent of cat owners gave their animals some sort of medication in 2006, both up by at least 25 percentage points from 2004. ‘Owners want their pets to be more like little well-behaved children.'”
11. Darwin’s theory is that evolutionary continuity applies not just to bodies but to brains. “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind,” Darwin wrote.
12. “In laboratory experiments and field observations, practitioners have presented evidence of analogical reasoning by apes, counting by rats and the capacity of pigeons to distinguish the paintings of Picasso from those of Monet.”
13. “Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (S.S.R.I.), prolongs the effects of that neurotransmitter to reduce impulsivity, stabilize moods and lower anxiety, [Dr. Nicholas] Dodman says. He is friends with the noted Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, and they once compared the drugs they employ to treat violent people and animals. ‘You superimpose my portfolio on top of his, and it’s the same thing,’ Dodman says.”
14. “There is evidence that animals experience auditory and visual hallucinations and can temporarily enter deluded states in which they attack… ‘By engaging in and winning aggressive encounters, dominant animals drive up serotonin levels and gain in composure…’ Prozac can boost the effects of the neurotransmitter.
15. “Archaeologists and geneticists estimate that the domestication of wolves (Canis lupus) into dogs began at least 15,000 years ago.” See Jack Page’s book “Dogs: A Natural History.”
16. “Many dogs, 42 percent, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association) now sleep in the same beds as their owners. Extreme attachment to people is one of the defining traits of dogs.”
17. “Extreme attachment, unfortunately, also causes some dogs extreme suffering when deprived of their owners’ company… an estimated 14 percent or more of American dogs have separation anxiety. The problem signs include home and self-destruction; prolonged whining, barking or drooling; or simply standing by the front door all day in a lonely, panting vigil. (‘Nannycam’-type video recorders have captured all of the above.).
18. “…more than half the dogs on the drug [Reconcile] experienced short-term side effects, including lethargy, depression and loss of appetite.”
19. “Modern owners are increasingly trying to ‘sterilize’ pet ownership [Dr. Dunbar says] … trying to pharmacologically control dogs so that they don’t act like dogs. ‘What people want is a pet that is on par with a TiVo, that its activity, play and affection are on demand,’ he says, ‘Then, when they’re done, they want to turn it off.'”
20. “Training is basically about forming a relationship, but for some people, that interactive process is now giving the dog a pill.” [Dunbar]
21. “Long before Prozac, Paxil and the like were taken by people, they were tested for safety and efficacy in legions of laboratory creature. You can plausibly argue–and Dodman and others do–that humans are in fact using animal drugs.”
a. German shepherds tend to tail-chase,
b. Doberman pinschers tend to suck their flanks
c. Cocker spaniels may have genetic underpinings for what looks like psychotic rage…
23. “…the causes of mood disorders and obsessions in humans and our pets aren’t so different–faulty genetics, dreary environments…” [Dodman]
24. “All of the behavioral issues that we have created in ourselves, we are now creating in our pets because they live in the same unhealthy environments that we do… that’s why there is a market for these drugs.” [unnamed pharmaceutical company executive]
25. The healthiest dogs in America today belong to homeless men and women, says the “dog whisperer.” They’re well enough behaved so they can move about without leashes, they get plenty of exercise, forage for food… and, in short, unlike the druggies, they’re allowed to be dogs.
“Americans are spending millions on mood-altering drugs for their cats and dogs. Is it because we’ve driven them mad?”
Pill-Popping Pets, by James Vlahos, NY Times Mag. 7.13.08