pet news

JULY 20, 2011

The Human-Animal bond


Humans and animals have interacted together for thousands of years. From the very first people who decided to domesticate the dog, to the present day “pioneers” that choose to keep goats and pigs in their houses, animals have played huge roles in the lives of many people. While early civilization saw them as mainly a food and fiber source or a hunting tool, modern society views them as companions, family, and best friends. The human-pet bond concept emerged in veterinary medicine as recently as the last few decades, and it has caused the companion animal industry to explode.

According to Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the inclusion of pets in many non-traditional activities, such as family ceremonies, photos, trips and gatherings, drives part of the pet industry today.

Many pet owners include their pets in their day-to-day activities, and a lot of them include their pets in social outings. Some people raise and show pets as part of their livelihood, while others do so as a sport.

According to Crist, “People want to make sure their pets are provided for in the event of their deaths, causing the inception of companion animal centers that care for pets when their owners pass away or are no longer able to care for them.”

An example of such a facility is the Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center in College Station, Texas, where animals are provided life-long care in a home-like environment.

What has caused this shift in the way people view animals?

“In the past, most dogs and cats were kept outside on the family farm or ranch,” states Crist. “These working dogs and cats were usually fed table scraps and taken care of in passing when a veterinarian came out on a call to check a farm animal.”

As populations changed and urbanization began, dogs and cats started moving into the house and the human-pet bond began to grow and strengthen. Additionally, the bond developed in food and farm animals as well.

“Youth began to get involved in FFA and 4-H programs in schools,” explains Crist. “Many enjoyed the companionship of the farm animals they raised and showed, and then as adults they purchased farm animals to have simply as personal pets.”

As people and animals began living together, the bond between them became more emotional. Traditional uses of animals were questioned and modified to satisfy the want of companionship.

Veterinarians are now learning some of the diseases and issues that go along with geriatric (older) food and farm animals. They have improved greatly at pain management for these animals and have a better understanding of the pharmacokinetics (action of drugs in the body over a period of time) of the medications that can be used in these animals.

Snakes, birds, dogs, horses, goats, cats- for all pet species, there are humans that love them. Pet owners want their pets to live long lives so that they can have as much time with them as possible. Diagnostics in veterinary medicine have greatly improved; many of the diagnostics and treatments that are available to humans are now available to animals too. Owners want the best for their pets, and in return, they receive a life-long friend that might bear a ring in a wedding, pose in the family photo, or follow them room-to-room while wearing pantaloons.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at