Litigation Against Pet Food Manufacturers Becoming More Common

We love our pets. That means we care about their health and well-being. Making sure they get enough exercise and eat the right kind of food is just part of the job. But taking care of them is more difficult than ever before because it is so much harder to trust those manufacturers who make their food. That’s why Blue Buffalo is under suit for a massive $5 million. Shannon Walton argues that Blue Buffalo’s recipes led her beloved dog Tucker to become diabetic.

If Walton has her way, others who have had similar pet issues will step forward and the judge overseeing the lawsuit will grant it class-action status.

The lawsuit is simple: It comes down to false advertising. Blue Buffalo says its formula is best becomes it was “inspired” by ancient wolf diets. But Walton says that the formula is actually chock full of carbs that no animal would have chowed down on when hunting. But those same words could create a problem for the case in court. The words “inspired by” aren’t meant to be taken literally, and that’s what the company will almost certainly argue.

There is an ingredient label, after all. And pet owners should take responsibility for knowing what their pets need and what they do not. 

Another issue the suit might run into is the presence of undefined variables. Bad food is one thing, but bad eating habits are another. Dark chocolate, a bowl of cereal, and even a glass of wine can all have health benefits when consumed in small amounts, but they become much more detrimental to health the more you heap on the plate. So how much was Tucker eating? That matters a lot more than the ingredients. 

Blue Buffalo may or may not need to change their manufacturing processes to make food healthier for pets. But the pet owners have a responsibility to know what they’re putting into the food dish, too.

So what do dogs need to eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Like most pet diets, it’s best to provide your pup with a combination of wet and dry food. This ensures that Sparky gets the right combination of nutrients instead of all empty calories. We usually think of dogs as carnivores, but that’s not true. Technically, they derive nutrition from plenty of other sources. They’re omnivores! Feeding them a combination of meat, fruits, veggies, and grains is the best way to keep them completely healthy.

For a better idea of how to feed your animals, try the Merck Veterinary Manual. It recommends serving sizes by dog weight and age, and will also provide plenty of examples of the best foods to put in their dish. No matter what you choose to feed your dog, make sure to read the ingredient label first!

Is It Normal To Have Conversations With Your Pet?

We all have that one friend who bizarrely — and publicly — holds a conversation with their cat or dog. Sometimes, even more bizarrely, that same friend will actually supply a response, because of course the pet cannot speak. Okay, it’s not that bizarre. We all do this ourselves, but most of us are smart enough to refrain from doing it within the public’s prying eye. It turns out that this type of behavior is completely normal.

But why do we do it?

Nevin-Giannini is a 31-year-old vocational trainer who owns a dog named Maverick. And he does exactly what so many of us do: He speaks both to, and as, his pet.

Giannini said, “I find that my dog’s personality, or the voice I give my dog, is somewhat sarcastic or critical, particularly of me or my girlfriend. His most common phrase is ‘You son of a bitch.’”

We don’t exactly have a lot of scientific data to help explain why people choose to perform as their pets, but at least one study was conducted in 2004 by a Georgetown University linguist, Deborah Tannen. She used family members, so it was hardly an impartial study. But she said that people seemed to imitate a pet for specific reasons, including: “effecting a frame shift to a humorous key, buffering criticism, delivering praise, teaching values, resolving conflict, and creating a family identity that includes the dogs as family members.”

She continued: “People make use of whatever’s in the environment to communicate with each other. The fascinating thing to me is how people find it easier to say things to each other if they don’t say it directly, but they say it in the voice of the dog. It introduces humor, and it becomes indirect. The dog’s criticizing you—not me.

In other words, we occasionally use the pretend voice of a dog or cat to say the things we’re not comfortable saying in our own skins. Is this a problem? Not really, according to Tannen, because any effective communication between friends and loved ones is good communication. This is especially true because pet owners often see their dogs and cats as members of the family.

But unsurprisingly, it doesn’t just stop with pets. People also make up voices and personalities for babies and stuffed animals, too, and mostly for the same reasons.

Tannen says, “the kinds of motives and feelings you might impose on the baby would be closer to what the baby might have, because it’s a person.”

What’s more noteworthy is that a lot of us perform these functions so habitually that, after a while, we don’t even notice!

Why Puppies Do Not Make Good Christmas Gifts

For those of us who grew up watching Disney, seeing Lady from Lady & The Tramp revealed as a Christmas present has seeped into our brains and normalized the idea of giving a puppy as a Christmas.

As cute as this may be, the practicality behind giving it as a Christmas gift is a bad idea, for several reasons.

First and foremost, puppies need to be trained. The wintertime is not the best time to be training your pet to go to the bathroom outside. Besides the fact that it is cold, precipitation such as snow, sleet, and hail can be dangerous not only for your new pup but also for you! If you plan on taking your dog outside to do it’s business, to keep them warm, you might need to put on a sweater. If there is snow on the ground, the dog will bring in with water leading to wetness everywhere. If your dog is too cold and/or scared to go out, this might lead to many accidents throughout the house. And since Christmas time is a busy year, a puppy needs to be interacted with. No leaving for New Year’s Eve!

Secondly, as adorable as the scene is in Lady and the Tramp putting a puppy in a tiny box only to be greeted to absolute chaos is traumatic for the animal! Within the first 12 weeks of the puppy’s life is when its brain develops its “fear or avoidance” reception. By overwhelming your puppy at Christmas time you are basically giving tiny Fido Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Your actions as it grows up can have damaging effects when he is an adult dog.

Thirdly, as much as your children want a dog, dog’s are a huge responsibility and cost a LOT of money. Expenses include and are certainly not limited to:

  • annual vet visits
  • required vaccinations
  • medications
  • normal check-ups
  • dental cleanings
  • medical care and surgeries as needed
  • good food
  • treats
  • toys
  • beds and crates
  • grooming tools
  • accessories like leashes, collars
  • poop bags
  • clothes
  • travel crates
  • dog walkers
  • doggy daycare, and boarding facilities or pet sitters for the times you travel without your pet

Unlike stuffed animals, puppies need constant attention and to be played with. They need to learn commands and have some socialization. They also will affect your lifestyle tremendously which is why a lot of Christmas gift puppies end up in shelters after people realize they don’t want the responsibility. And although these puppies have the chance of being adopted – 90% of shelter animals are euthanized!

Dog ownership is not the same thing as a toy. If you are serious about owning a puppy then you can wait until after Christmas and go to the shelters to adopt a puppy.

When Adopting A Pet, Be Wary Of Animal To Human Disease Transmission

In Norman, Oklahoma, veterinarians want you to know about the dangers of diseases that can affect humans and pets, or spread from one to the other. Sara Rowland works at a Main Street Veterinary Hospital in Norman. She recently encountered a newborn puppy suffering from leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can affect pets and pet owners.

Leptospirosis can result in a large number of symptoms, making it potentially difficult to diagnose. Some of those who are infected might present with no symptoms at all. But without immediate medical treatment, the bacterial disease can result in damage to the kidneys and liver, meningitis, or respiratory distress. Those who suffer in silence could face an early death.

Rowland explained the circumstances that led to her own diagnosis of the poor puppy: “In this instance, the pet was not eating well, vomiting and had a yellow tint that you could tell the liver was affected. It causes failure, definitely kidney and liver failure. The big thing I think with this particular you can vaccinate to prevent this disease.”

And perhaps you should. Pets can infect other pets, their owners, or vice versa.

Believe it or not, the anti-vaxxer conspiracy campaign is affecting pets and their owners as well. Rowland said, “For some reason, there’s a myth out there that this vaccine is really likely to cause reactions.”

But that’s not the case.

The bacterial disease is transferred through contact with an infected animal’s (or human’s) bodily fluids. Rodents and livestock can spread the disease as well as dogs. 

Those who contract the disease might present with fever, achy muscles, headache, vomiting, red or itchy eyes, diarrhea, abdominal pain, rash, coughing, or jaundice.

And man-made climate change might increase the number of those who contract leptospirosis in the future. Outbreaks often occur directly after flooding or heavy rain. Stagnant pools are often contaminated after these events, and anyone who wades through them is put at risk. 

In these circumstances, take care not to drink from water sources that may have been contaminated during a rare weather event. Do not bathe in floodwater. Do not eat food if you are uncertain where it has been. Anything you drink should be treated beforehand. Be sure to take proper care of any open wounds, like cuts or abrasions. When venturing outside after flooding, wear waterproof boots and clothing. Keep all trash properly stored, and lock trash cans to avoid infestation or hungry critters coming around for food.

The disease is normally treated using antibiotics.

New Survey Finds Pets Almost As Possible As Biological Children

You know that old saying that being a parent is the best job ever? How about the common soundbyte that no matter how many children a parent might have, they can never be a favorite? One might think these (obviously skewed) beliefs extend to pets, but apparently that is not the case. A recent survey from I and Love discovered that more than a third of adults who have both pets and children actually prefer the pets to their own kids.


2,000 pet owners took part in the survey, which also found that 78 percent of respondents said the pet is a member of the family. 67 percent openly admitted that their best friend was the pet. Interestingly, when asked why the pet is better than flesh and blood family, over half of pet owners said their pets are able to better understand their needs. Humans’ ability to listen to their best friends or significant others came in a distant second.

Of course the results of the poll should be taken with a grain of salt: more outrageous responses showed that nearly half of pet owners throw them birthday parties and a nearly equal number routinely spend less cash on groceries so that their pets can eat better. We’re not sure about those answers!

A different — and more serious — survey was conducted to determine pet owners’ thoughts on food safety. It turns out that a high number of people feed their pets raw food, including meat, that could hold dangerous bacteria. According to the safe study, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki in Finland found that human infections rarely occur as the result of a pet’s food, raw or not.

That doesn’t mean it will never happen. A recent outbreak of Salmonella poisoning spread through 35 states from pig ear treats that pet owners feed their dogs. 143 confirmed human infections were documented, but it’s also possible for pets to become sick as well. 

About 99.6 percent of households found no reason to report infections based on their pet’s raw food. That doesn’t necessarily mean that none existed — it just means that pet owners didn’t make the connection.

Researcher Johanna Anturaniemi from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine said, “It was surprising to find that statistical analyses identified fewer infections in households with more than 50 percent of the pet diet consisting of raw food. Furthermore, feeding pets raw salmon or turkey was associated with a smaller number of infections.”

New York Just Became The First State To Ban Cat Declawing

It’s a major victory for pet enthusiasts in New York State — no longer will their furry friends be subjected to the inhumane act of cat declawing. Not legally, anyway. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill that banned the procedure. It takes effect immediately. Those who opposed the bill likely thought it overreaching, ridiculous, or a danger to the well-being of their living room furniture set.

But what they might not know is that cat declawing can only be done by partially amputating toe bones in a cat’s feet. There are lifelong consequences to this: chronic pain results because declawed cats will end up straining joints or even their spine. Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris likened cat declawing to “removing a human finger at the knuckle.”

Not all cat declawing is banned. When the cat’s well-being is at stake and the health of the animal demands the procedure be done, it’s allowed.

The bill states: “Cats’ claws play an important role in various aspects of their lives. When a person has its animal declawed, usually in an attempt to protect furniture, they do fundamental damage to that animal both physically and in behavioral ways.”

Not all veterinarians agree with the bill or its findings. While the American Association of Feline Practitioners says scratching is a “normal feline behavior” and declawing should not be legal, the New York State Veterinary Medical Society (NYSVMS) said it “believes a veterinarian…should be permitted to make medical decisions after direct consultation with a client and a thorough examination of the patient and its home circumstances.”

There are alternatives available for pet owners who are tired of their cats’ scratching habits. They can leave scratching posts throughout the habitat. They can trim nails frequently to reduce the potential damage. They can put nail caps on the cat’s claws. Many of these actions may make it more difficult for a cat to climb — one of their favorite activities — but they’re still better than full declawing. 

Other states may soon follow suit now that the debate is live. Massachusetts lawmakers recently proposed a similar bill. The procedure is also banned in the UK, Switzerland, and Israel.

Claws are used to help the cat survive. While we don’t condone allowing cats to roam outdoors (because they’re little psychopathic serial killers), they are used for hunting. If your cat escapes outside, it needs the defense mechanism to help it survive. Claws are also used for climbing and defending, both of which are just as important.

The Most Illegal Pets People Actually Have

Not everyone is fluent in the English language. For example, do you know what the word “domesticate” actually means? Since so many people apparently have a hard time determining the difference between tame and wild, we thought we’d give you a short crash course. Domesticated animals can be kept as pets or brought up in a farm-like environment. Most often humans have taken these once-wild animals and bred away their most aggressive instincts over time.

For example, wolves are essentially just wild dogs! Millennia ago, some of these wolves developed a genetic predisposition that allowed them to notice how sticking by humans meant more food. Over time, we obtained man’s best friend. All modern day dog breeds came from the wolves of old.

Would you want a wolf for a pet? Hopefully not. Here are a few more completely illegal — and insane — pets that people actually keep at home.

  1. Bats. Although they might seem cute (upon a closer look) they can still do some damage or spread disease. Wild bats are a protected species, which means not only can you not own one in your own home, but you also can’t kill them. Same deal with rattlesnakes.

  2. Lions and tigers. Believe it or not, they’re only illegal in most states. Lions can be tamed, but accidents will always occur because at heart they are still wild animals. They aren’t man’s best friend for a reason.

  3. Skunks. If you’re not too afraid of the potential for stink, then you may have also noticed how adorable these little critters actually are. That’s obviously the reason some people try to obtain them. It’s possible to remove their stink glands surgically. Even if you find a veterinarian who will do it, you still probably can’t legally own a skunk in most U.S. municipalities.

  4. Alligators. Yes, that’s right: some people have gone off the deep end and actually want to own an alligator. While these creatures are perfect pets when they’re small, they all grow up eventually. That said, news stories about some idiot keeping one in his bathtub pop up all the time. Darwin usually takes care of that problem sooner or later.

  5. Hedgehogs. All right, we’ll admit hedgehogs are darned cute. But they’re still dangerous, especially to other household animals who love to harass them — like dogs who never seem to learn how to avoid spiky things. Ownership is forbidden in many places, but you can still get your hands on them in certain parts of the country. On top of that, there’s a lot of debate about whether or not they make good pets. We’ll leave it up to you to make that decision — but we recommend keeping wild animals where they belong (in the wild).

Why Will A Predator Sometimes Befriend Its Prey?

You’ve probably seen the adorable videos that are so pervasive on the internet these days: a cat and a bird fall in love, a snake and a rat become best friends, a horse and a goat cannot be separated, and on and on the wheel spins. Animals can build strong bonds with one another even when nature seems to insist they cannot. But why?

In one example of this phenomenon, a man named Marc Bekoff brought a fox into his home temporarily. This could have turned into a huge problem because Marc already owned a dog who was certainly unfamiliar with the new species of animal. But guess what? The fox and the dog became inseparable (literally). When Marc used a baby fence to separate the two at night, the fox gnawed through it. When Marc caged the fox during the day, the dog would hunker down in front of it and start to whine.

Human animal lovers, and especially pet owners, immediately become infatuated with this kind of story. How could we not? Animals are supposed to be aggressive and uncomfortable with species they do not know, and predators are supposed to eat their prey, not fall in love with it. Animal lovers are not the only ones who find these relationships fascinating. Scientists do too.

A psychologist at the University of Tennessee, Gordon Burghardt, does not believe these relationships are imagined. Current research seems to suggest he’s right. Studies have conclusively shown that a number of animals choose companions for specific reasons: chimpanzees for personality, elephants for emotional support, and bats to find a place within a larger colony.

Interspecies pairings are a bit more difficult.

Zookeepers in Siberia left a goat meal for a tiger named Amur, but he decided he would rather make friends with what may have been a tasty morsel. This surprised everyone, as Amur was already accustomed to eating all the other goats that had been provided. But it’s more than that: Amur is actively aggressive towards anyone who approaches his goat companion. Zookeepers get hissed at when they try.

Burghardt believes a case of loneliness may have inspired the awkward pair-bonding. When predators no longer have to hunt for prey (or a mate), they can become quite bored. Amur probably wanted to play more than he wanted to eat. The goat must have been quite the talker. Even so, another zookeeper from a different park estimated that the goat would almost certainly be eaten sooner or later. For now, Amur is on a diet of rabbits.

It’s important to note that the lion’s share of these weird relationships have occurred in captivity. Whether or not they are common in the wild is another question entirely, and probably equally as difficult to answer as all the other questions raised. Why do these animals fall in love with one another? We don’t really know.

How Some People Are Ruining The Service Dog Industry

Recently, the need for “psychiatric” service dogs (as opposed to service dogs that help people with a physical ailment) has skyrocketed. Service dogs are being recommended to everyone from PTSD to anxiety to Autism. The problem is that the service dog industry is not regulated. There is no certification program in any state. The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act does not require that a service dog does not need to be professionally trained or certified. This has led to many “fake” service dogs being sold to families with loved ones that have disabilities – which is fraud.

There have been several lawsuits between companies as recipients of dogs who often found that their service dogs to be nothing more than every expensive pets and are not capable of helping in a life-threatening situation.

According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, in order for a service animal to be properly trained, it must undergo at least 120 hours of training and obey basic commands such as sit, stay, come, down, and heel. All of this in conjunction with not being aggressive towards other people or animals.

In one extreme case, after a service dog was taken away from a child with PTSD and anxiety for not being properly trained, the child ended up committing suicide.

These businesses that sell “trained” service dogs are misrepresenting their business and there should be consumer protection laws in place. Pets and dogs bring so much joy into people’s lives, it’s a shame that people are being scammed out of money.

Do Pets Really Have Different Personalities?

Any pet owner will tell you it’s a not a question worth asking. We already know our cats and dogs have personalities all their own. Different animals behave and react differently when placed in different situations. The way they grow up matters. Their human make a big difference. Whether or not they’re around other pets makes a big difference. Big changes in environment make a big difference. Okay, so they have different personalities, but what does the science say?

Probably more than you’d expect. Personality traits aren’t unique to our pets. Character traits have been observed throughout the animal kingdom. Fish. Monkeys. Birds. Even hermit crabs. All of these animals can have unique personalities. It’s easy enough to observe, but harder to measure and categorize. Humans can take quizzes and surveys online (even though we would argue that these are always skewed one way or another by the person’s bias). Animals can’t.

Researchers use animal behaviors to determine what kind of personality is being observed. For example, a basic interaction between a member of an animal species is observed. It might interact with another member of the same species, or it might interact with a rock. Based on the collective behaviors of other members of the same species an animal might be categorized as bold or timid or docile, or any number of other easily understood traits.

Like humans, however, these traits can be dependent on mood or experience. Scientists have noticed that fish who are involved with a violent struggle with other fish might learn to avoid similar situations in the future. When once they were bold, they have learned discretion is the better part of valor and evolved to become timid or shy, avoiding future interactions with the same type of fish.

These traits also guide how animals interact with the environment around them. This means that an aggressive animal might experience the risks and rewards of its environment very differently than a gentle animal. Although it’s difficult to measure the extent to which genes factor into personality expression, we know they do.

Of course, these categorizations don’t do the animals any justice. Each human is unique. We act differently and we think differently. We each have our unique quirks. So do the animals we love so much!