This is an excerpt from a larger piece of work I am writing regarding veterinary medicine, and veterinary care in general in contemporary society. I don't mean to be presumptuous, but publishers feel free to contact me.
In 1994 Americans spent $17 billion (US) on their pets (1) . This climbed to just under $40 billion in 2006, equal to about 1/325th the United States’ GNP, half that of Romania, and nearly 20 times the GNP of Rwanda.
Today, there is at least one cat in 38 million homes, while a dog can be found in nearly 45 million homes. Six million American homes have a “small animal,” that is neither a fish nor a reptile. In the U.S. in 2008, an estimated $16.9 billion was spent on pet food while $10.9 billion was spent on veterinary care. The remaining $15 billion were spent on pet-related products and services, excluding food and vet care.
Pets are ever increasingly being considered a member of the family. This becomes more true when considering that the services and products that were hitherto catered solely to Homo sapiens are no longer: “Max” now has his gourmet raw food, his dog walkers who come in twice daily, a full wardrobe (lumberjacket, raincoat and matching boots, a backpack, and more) a canine sleep-away camp while his owners (2) are on vacation, acupuncture for his arthritis, chiropractic for his pinched nerve, a holistic veterinarian for his liver problem, a veterinary dentist to fix his canine that he broke chewing on the door of his massive crate (3), a veterinary oncologist to treat his skin cancer, and a pet cemetery where he can be interred and remembered by all, forever.
Today, in 2008, you might be amazed at the technology and level of care humans are providing to non-humans. One hundred years ago, a severely lame horse would be shot, ending its suffering. Today, we hear stories of teams of equine surgeons (yes, specialists in equine surgery) reassembling the leg bones of champion horses (4). The technology present is allowing veterinarians to ultrasound pregnant dolphins and camels, to replace a dog’s cataracts with artificial lenses in the exact same way yours were replaced, and to pin the broken wing of a barn owl, releasing it to the wild after its lengthy reha-bilitation. It does not stop there. A veterinarian can become specialized by completing a residency in a specialty field. Veterinary radiologists specialize in diagnostic imaging, while veterinary ophthalmologists have advanced training in diagnosing and treating diseases of the eye. Veterinary internists diagnose, manage and treat diseases such as diabetes, infectious diseases, and everything in between. Veterinarians often refer their patients to one or more of these specialists for confirmation of their diagnoses, if a diagnosis cannot be reached, or if advanced diagnostics are required. The list of veterinary specialists goes on...
Advanced veterinary care certainly has a place in today’s ever more technologically-advanced world, though one must concede that it caters almost exclusively to the upper-middle class, if not to the elite. How many on the planet can truly afford such services? Is it not ironic that our puppies and kitties are fed four-star gourmet cat food, have access to MRI within days (if that), and whose biopsy results require less than a week to be reported, while human beings are often denied these or must wait many months for diagnostic tests, results, and surgery? How would you feel if you heard that some pet owners have spent tens of thousands of dollars on advanced care for their pet? Should a dog with bone cancer be afforded this treatment, while his human counterpart without healthcare receives but palliative care for the same ailment? At this point in human civilization, does human health not trump that of pets? This is not to say that the fate of wild species and the world’s ecosystems are not of primordial importance (domestic pets have long been removed from their wild roots, yet are still strongly constrained by them through their genes).
So what makes a pet owner nuts? When does one become a crazy-cat-lady? How could dressing up your pug in a pumpkin suit be harmful for you and her? And why should you not take your Yorkshire Terriers out in a stroller? Many behaviors exhibited by pet owners that are seemingly cute and harmless can induce behavioral nightmares in our pets. Also, many of such behaviors alienate the pet owners from other human beings (pet owners and non-). Please don’t hesitate to take a step back, no matter how short a step, as you will undoubtedly be reading about situations that you could swear were written about you.
(more to come)
1 According to the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association, Inc. (AAPPM)
2 This term may be offensive to some: the term “guardian” is being used more and more.
3 I know some people whose bachelor apartments are smaller.
4 What would be the outcome were it not a champion?
Know anyone like her? I'll bet there's a little bit of crazy-cat-lady in all pet owners.... all (and that includes guys).