Is Humanizing Our Pets Healthy?

For the first time in history, pet dogs outnumber children in America. As of 2010, the number of pet dogs in the States was 43 million, whereas the number of children was 38 million.

This continuing population trend — that seems to exist not only in North America — has led to the now widespread saying that “dogs are the new kids”. Dogs are everywhere, and the dog care and dog product industries only continue to grow, as more and more dog owners raise their dogs as though they were childlike additions to the family.

Dog owners, or should we say “dog moms” and “dog dads”, now host organized play dates and birthday parties for their “furkids”, bake dog cookies and cakes that look eerily similar to human baked goods (dog-safe icing and all!), write blogs and keep twitter accounts from their dog’s perspective, take their dogs on luxury holidays all around the world, enroll their pups in canine yoga, and purchase an array of designer doggie paraphernalia.

Dog parents might choose to walk their smaller dogs in strollers, spend thousands of dollars a year in dog clothing and accessories (including diamond doggie jewelry, sunglasses, and colourful diapers), and talk excessively about the life and times of their fur children at arranged dog parent get-togethers. It’s been well-documented that in Japan some dogs even have their very own bedrooms, complete with fancy furkid furniture. In many countries, doggie clothing and accessory boutiques are outnumbering similar stores for human children for the first time in history.

We have humanized our dogs to such a degree that Bob Moran, CEO of PetSmart has stated:

“Pets have moved from the barnyard to the back porch to the living room, the bedroom and now under the sheets.”

Most of this seems fairly innocuous, and humans and dogs have been cohabitating for at least the last 15,000-20,000 years. But never before have dogs been so incredibly pampered or treated like a child-equivalent in the family.

Besides going broke from spending so lavishly on our furkids, what’s the potential major downside of humanizing our dogs?

Kate Schwartz writes for ADWEEK that it’s all about the dogs’ health. She says that when we humanize our pets, we pass on our own bad habits, especially pertaining to our diets. 40% of Americans own a dog, and a whopping 68% of those dogs are overweight (which is around the same percentage of Americans who are overweight). Sadly, this percentage only continues to increase. In direct relation to dog obesity, canine diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart and respiratory diseases are all on the rise.

We need to make sure that pampering our beloved furkids does not go overboard. We need to make sure that our own rampant unhealthy eating habits do not get passed on to our furbabies, perhaps by educating ourselves on proper exercise and nutrition. As Kate Schwartz says, we need to learn something from them and let them take us outside.

(image 1 via The Guardian; image 2 via Polyvore)



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