A Specialist Explains Why Our Animals Suffer

Although we only want the best for them (for most of us, of course), the way we treat our pets is often problematic for them – and sometimes for us humans as well. It is often because of the lack of information about them that we make mistakes, by the way.

The duties of a veterinary pathologist

“I believe that most pets are kept reasonably clean, but we pathologists have seen a lot of bad trends in recent years deliberately ignored and where, all too often, pet owners don’t even know what sacrifices they are demanding from their pets,” says Achim Gruber, a Berlin-based veterinary pathologist.

In a book, Gruber summarizes his experiences in order to clarify what is wrong with our relationship with pets.

A veterinary pathologist determines the cause of death of animals by autopsy. This is important, for example, so that zoos can exclude the danger of an endemic infectious disease, so that in compensation matters it can be determined whether the neighbor is really responsible for the death of his cat, or so that crimes under the Animal Welfare Act are generally brought to light.

The cult of the animal

To illustrate his work, Gruber describes, for example, a case of hoarding disorder with animals, in which more than 30 cats and rabbits were found dead or neglected in an apartment. Some of them had already been eaten by the others.

Pathologists determined the time of death of the animals and which ones had eaten the others, thus challenging the owner’s claim that she had only been away for two days and had left enough food and water.

Problematic developments

But what Achim Gruber reports in general about the education of pets is no less alarming. He criticizes two aspects in particular: on the one hand the mistreatment of animals and on the other hand the consequences of an over-inflated love, especially with dogs.

Pets such as cats or dogs sometimes suffer from obesity and lack of exercise. Because they spend most of the day in the home, the owners are the only reference persons and the animals have little contact with their fellow creatures for psychological and physical stimulation.

Proximity is a problem

But physical proximity is also becoming more and more problematic. Owners build a strong emotional bond, consider pets in part as family members, children or even partners, and let them sit at the table to eat or sleep in their beds.

“Today, pets are social partners, especially in a big city like Berlin, where so many people live alone. Of course, the dog can come into the bed from time to time, if the hygiene is right,” says Gruber.

Because if the hygiene is not correct, there is a risk of disease transmission. From animal to human – for example in the form of tapeworms – but also from human to animal.

The kiss of death

Achim Gruber, for example, talks about a case in which a chinchilla died of a mysterious brain infection. Chinchillas are endangered rodents from the Andes. They are more numerous in European homes than in their native country.

It turned out that the brain inflammation was caused by the human herpes virus. Gruber immediately understood how the chinchilla could have been infected when he saw the pet’s owner, a ten-year-old girl: she still had herpes blisters on her lips, therefore, her pet literally got the kiss of death.

The eunuch dog

In another case, a male Rottweiler lost his hair and his testicles shrank. He lost interest in the local bitches and gradually lost his energy.

The problem was that his owner was suffering from severe menopause and applied an estrogen cream every night before going to bed. But because the Rottweiler was sleeping with his mistress, he came in contact with the cream and got estrogen poisoning. He became a kind of eunuch.

Once the cause was analyzed and repaired, the Rottweiler’s fur grew back, his testicles grew and he became more energetic, even towards the opposite sex.

Excessive inbreeding

Achim Gruber sees the other big problem in mass pet breeding. Dogs, in particular, are bred with so-called beauty ideals, which go against the real anatomy of the animals and lead to serious health problems.

This is especially noticeable in French bulldogs, which are always being tried to be more “human-like”: “The muzzle is flattened, the eyes are forward, the forehead is high and the head is well rounded,” Gruber explains. And he continues: “These animals have tremendous difficulty breathing, panting, thermoregulating under stress or heat.”

Some of these animals die of heatstroke in the middle of summer due to overwork. Sometimes they even try to sleep in a sitting position as well, so they don’t choke.

The merle coloring / hairless cats

Other dogs are bred with what is called merle coloring, a special coat pattern. However, the gene responsible for this effect is also responsible for deafness, so the animals are very likely to be born deaf or become deaf at a young age.

Without tactile hair, naked cats cannot orient themselves properly in the dark, for example, and communication with other cats is restricted.

In addition, there is a common misconception that hairless cats are more affectionate than other cats. The reason for their so-called affection may be that they are cold and seek warmth.

Achim Gruber wants to draw attention to these problems in the interest of the animals. He says, and he is right, that animals should be allowed to become animals again, i.e. to treat them as animals and not as humans. This is for their physical as well as psychological well-being.

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