Economic Progress Benefits All Nature's Creatures (Including Our Pets)

Economic growth and human ingenuity have improved the lives of man’s best friends.

Environmental activists want you to “take action for our planet and nature” by sitting in the dark for an hour on March 24th. But we at the Competitive Enterprise Institute would rather keep the lights on and celebrate Human Achievement Hour, because we recognize that living well is not a crime. In fact, the human ingenuity that brought us light has proved not only good for people; it benefits nature and its creatures as well.

Not bogged down by government regulations, developments in veterinary medicine are remarkable.

The anti-technology activists somehow think that economic development is inevitably connected to environmental destruction, but evidence suggests otherwise. The most economically advanced societies generally have less pollution and more environmental amenities.

Even pesticides, which greens demonize, help wildlife by making it possible to produce more food per acre, leaving more land available for wildlife. Read more about that here.

Economic growth and human ingenuity have also improved the lives of man’s best friends: family pets. Not bogged down by government regulations, developments in veterinary medicine are remarkable, allowing pets to access a host of advanced medical treatments

Man's Best Friend

It’s not all that uncommon today for pets to benefit from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasounds, or even laparoscopic surgery, and veterinary specialists have proliferated. Consider my dogs. They have benefited from a doggie dentist, cardiologist, ophthalmologist, and an orthopedic surgeon. And the emergence of a private pet insurance industry helps make such treatments much more manageable for consumers.

In addition to advanced medical technology, routine pet care has improved thanks to developments in pet medications. Better quality, and more regular use of, heartworm medications appears to have significantly reduced those risks, according to a report by the Banfield Pet Hospital.

Advances in flee and tick medicine have also made a once unmanageable menace largely a thing of the past for those who administer these medications to their pets. One scientific review reports:

Field studies have shown that on-animal treatments dramatically impact the populations of fleas and can provide significant reductions in the number of adult fleas in the indoor environment.”

The biggest challenge is getting consumers to apply them correctly. 

But you don’t have to read a scientific report to validate such benefits. Some of us remember the days when flea collars and flee baths were the best we had to control fleas, and they didn’t always work long-term. Fleas would not only get on your pets, they’d take up residence in rugs and carpets, and eventually start biting at the ankles of the rest of us. Yet today, I never worry about fleas because my dogs never get them, thanks to topical flea treatments. 

Banfield details that some of the biggest challenges to pets today are things we can do something about: obesity and poor dental care. Accordingly, vets recommend better oral care and healthy diets without overfeeding, which can greatly reduce related health issues. And nowadays there are many great, high-quality dog foods as well as dental care products to help.

Pets Are Living Longer

All these veterinary advances mean pets are living longer than ever before. According to one news story, some dogs are living into their 20s and cats even longer, and that includes a 26-year old terrier and 34-year old cat noted in the article. Similarly, Reuters reports:

Dogs are now living an average of 11.8 years, according to the 2016 State of Pet Health report from privately owned Banfield Pet Hospital, which operates veterinary clinics around the United States. That is up from just 11 years in their 2013 study, and 10.5 years in 2002.

All these veterinary advances mean pets are living longer than ever before.

Cats are also enjoying more golden years, an average of 12.9 years, or roughly 70 in human terms. That is up from 12.1 years in the 2013 study, and 11 years in 2002.

“Dogs used to be considered geriatric at six or seven. But these days larger breeds can make it to 15 or 16, and smaller breeds can even live up to 20 years,” says Laura Coffey, author of the book, My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts.

Technology is also being used to learn more about man’s best friend. For example, Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns is using MRI technology to assess how dog’s brains work and whether that will tell us if they have feelings like humans. While many science-minded people may argue with pet owners who believe their pets do express love and other feelings, these tests may provide some evidence that pet owners are right. “Everything we started doing to elicit positive emotions showed that dogs had corresponding parts of their brains to humans,” Berns says.

So, as you consider rescuing that kitten or puppy, you really might be adding a true and devoted family friend for decades. As for my family—which includes three dogs—we’ll be celebrating human achievement and its amenities with the lights on, while anti-technology activists sit in the dark for an hour with nothing to do. 

Reprinted from Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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