America's Pets Are Lapping Up Prozac. Do You Think They Have Issues With That?

Illustration for article titled America's Pets Are Lapping Up Prozac. Do You Think They Have Issues With That?

Pets act different on drugs. Anyone whose dog ever discovered pot brownies can corroborate this one. But antidepressants are increasingly being marketed to pets, because a drug company whose blockbuster drug just went generic can get a whole new patent when they make Prozac chewable and meat-flavored, and somehow this is raising the age-old question: just how human are our pets? It it a matter of, "they stop attacking the kids when we feed them SSRIs, therefore they 'are'?"

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Anyway, so, as someone whose family dog used to be on some form of doggy Xanax and whose ex-boyfriend's ex-cat used to take a variety of pills for schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I can tell you, I have occasionally wondered, whether all their playing sweet and dumb crap wasn't simply a Canis familiarus-wide conspiracy to leech off the upright race's superior work ethic and tireless capacity for scooping up feces. (Fun fact: American pet spending has risen 30% or eleven and a half billion dollars over the course of the past five years, a period of time during which the average American household income did not increase at all.)(!!) But…

The underlying controversy of the story seems to be, do pets only know basic fear/joy/pain type feelings, or do they have actual consciousness? Because dogs can be compulsive and anxious and schizo and crap. But, you know, until I hear a little more evidence there is some epic existential barking tradition being endangered by the nation's shock collars, I am going to venture that the whole thing is just one more case of humans overintellectualizing their bad tendencies, when it's really pretty clear a lot of the crap we do is primal and doglike and basically dumb, which probably explains why we so dote on and empathize with the lesser species, and the only solace is that consciousness allows us to recognize that, and also, why we keep sleeping with assholes.

Pill-Popping Pets [NY Times]

Related: How Prozac Sent The Science Of Depression In The Wrong Direction [Boston Globe]

DISCUSSION

southwer-old
southwer

I'd also like to say that in cases of abused animals, meds can help. My friend M rescued an angelic dog who had been severely abused and we put her on doggie prozac because she went insane when M had to leave the house. Poor thing. M would coordinate us to babysit when we could. eventually she improved.

My family always had strays. we were the farm in the county that all strays somehow heard about (they're total pushovers! they let you live IN THE HOUSE!) and found. dogs and cats. we've never had an animal that didn't improve at least somewhat from living with us and being treated kindly and consistently. If we couldn't take in a stray, we would always take it to get shots and be spayed and neutered, and then try to find it a good home.

Most importantly, and I feel REALLY STRONGLY about this, we never decided to permanently take in an animal only to change our minds later. You wouldn't do it to a child and a pet is just as much your responsibility. God knows I find it hard to say no to lots of things, but for some reason I really have always felt really clear about defining in my mind whether my situation would allow me to commit to another pet. Once you commit you take responsibility for that life until it ends. this doesn't preclude fostering if necessary, but I think it's important to understand that you can't infinitely stretch yourself and still be a great pet owner, and this statement is coming from an admitted cat lady.

This brings up the interesting case of parrots. is parrot ownership ethical? parrots are BRILLIANT, develop really strong attachments to their owners, live 100+ years, and like dogs, they are absolutely NOT solitary creatures. In the wild they live in flocks and are extremely social - leaving them alone all day (as most of us must do) can be really, really bad for them. a narcissistic acquantaince somehow got ahold of an african grey because she thought it would be so cool! within a month the poor thing was seriously trying to gnaw off its own leg. The story has a happy ending as he became the pet of an experienced bird owner whom he adores.

All that said, even if you are an awesome parrot owner, there is theunfortunate fact that the parrot is probably going to outlive you. even if you make arrangements for another awesome person to inherit, is it really fair to the parrot? I know stuff happens but this is not really an animal that was domesticated or bred as a human companion. we try to make pets out of far too many animals that were never meant to live in our apartments. hence the insane story about that woman who didn't think she had time for a baby AND SO DECIDED TO GET A MONKEY. OMFG.