Changing Pet Relationships

How Our Relationship with Our Pets Has Changed Over the Years


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by Lorie Huston, DVM on June 7, 2013

Recently, at BlogPaws 2013, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend a luncheon and presentation offered by Hartz Animal Health. The presentation covered many different topics. I’d like to present some of this information to you. We’ll start today with a look at how our relationships with our pets have changed over the past 3-4 decades. We’ll finish in a follow-up post discussing some of the most recent pet trends and how these trends are impacting our pets.

Pets and Pet Owners in the 1980’s

In the 1980’s, according to the folks at Hartz, rising divorce rates and an increase in single person households led to a situation where pets began to fill both an emotional and physical void. This in turn led to our pets moving from our backyards and into our beds. During the same time period, improvements in pet nutrition and widespread vaccinations also worked to increase the lifespan of our pets.

Here’s a trivia point that I didn’t know: The world’s first dog park was established in 1979.

Pet Trends in the 1990’s

By the 1990’s, 57% of the homes in the United States had a pet. One in five dog parents and one in four cat parents got their pet from an ad in the newspaper. Most people shopped at the local pet store for their pet’s supplies.

Also during the ’90s, over half of cat and dog parents used flea collars while one in four used flea dips. I remember the days of flea dips. Pet owners today don’t realize how simple flea control has become comparatively. Flea dips had to be diluted to the proper strength in order to avoid toxicity. They were applied directly to the hair coat and left in place to dry. The whole process was unpleasant for both pet and pet owner in most cases. Thankfully, flea dips are, for the most part, a thing of the past. New products such as topicals, oral medications, and even more sophisticated flea collars have, thankfully, taken their place.

Pet Care and Pet Ownership in the 21st Century

Today, 63% of households have a pet and 63.2% of those pet owners think of their pet as a part of the family. That figure corresponds to what I’ve seen in my veterinary practice. The vast majority of pet owners, regardless of their financial circumstances, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or age, think of and talk about their pets as though they were members of the family. Many of them refer to their pets as their “kids”. I should add that I count myself among that group. I frequently refer to my cats as my “furkids” or my “four-legged kids.”

The past few years have also seen an increase in the variety of products and services offered for pets and their owners. Natural and/or organic pet foods, luxury spas and pet hotels, dog walking services, and doggy daycare centers are just a few of the luxuries of which pets and pet owners can take advantage. The number of dog parks now available has grown drastically. Some companies even allow their employees to bring their pets to work. Birthday pawties, pet halloween costumes, even pet weddings have become commonplace now.

Pet toys have emerged as a means of occupying a pet’s time. These toys have health benefits for our pets as well, both in terms of providing exercise and mental stimulation for our pets.

Veterinary medicine has also advanced and changed drastically over the course of the past 10-20 years. There have been breakthroughs in both technology and science that benefit our pets tremendously. Today, equipment that was once rarely or never found in the average veterinary practice is becoming standard. Ultrasound, digital radiology, and in house blood analyzers are just a few examples.

Specialty veterinary practices are becoming more common, especially in larger communities, and the consumer demand for these specialties is increasing as well. In Rhode Island alone, we have an emergency/referral hospital that is staffed 24 hours a days, 7 days a week, featuring veterinarians in a broad number of specialties including emergency care, internal medicine, radiology, oncology, surgery, neurology, cardiology, exotic animal medicine, and more. In addition, we also have a practice that specializes in veterinary ophthalmology, another that focuses on veterinary dentistry, and yet another practice that boasts a board-certified dermatologist together with a veterinary behaviorist, also board-certified. And we’re the smallest state in the country.

Today, we’ve touched on some of the ways our relationships with our pets have changed and how the bond between us (pets and pet owners) has deepened over the years. In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the latest trends in pet diseases and pet care, and we’ll talk about how those trends are affecting our pets. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear your experiences. How has your perception of the animals in your life changed? Has your view of pets changed over the years or do you feel the same today as you did way back when?

This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette