Pet owners across the United States are increasingly treating their furry friends like humans, but experts warn that this trend may not be beneficial for the pets or their owners. The rise of dog strollers is just one example of how pets’ lives have become more restricted and reliant on human intervention.

According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately two-thirds of American households have pets, a significant increase from 1988. Americans spent a whopping $136.8 billion on their pets in 2022, reflecting a growing trend of treating pets as family members. In Europe, an estimated 91 million households own pets, showing a similar increase in pet ownership over the past decade. Similarly, India saw a substantial rise in pet ownership from 10 million in 2011 to 31 million in 2021.

Pets are being pampered with specialized nutrition plans, luxury carriers, hydrotherapy sessions, and even stays in upscale pet hotels. High-end pet stores like All the Best in Seattle report that enrichment toys for pets are top-selling items, highlighting the growing desire to provide mental stimulation and happiness to pets that may be feeling lonely and bored.

However, some animal welfare experts and veterinary scientists are raising concerns about the consequences of humanizing pets to such an extent. By treating pets like people, we may unintentionally be limiting their natural behaviors and independence, leading to various health and behavioral issues.

James Serpell, an ethics and animal welfare professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, points out that pets are not children and should not be treated as such. The increasing protective and restrictive behaviors of pet owners may hinder animals from expressing their innate instincts and behaviors freely.

The health risks associated with overindulgence in pets begin with breeding practices. For instance, breeds like the French bulldog, which are popular in the US, belong to the brachycephalic group of dogs with flat faces. While these dogs bond well with humans, they often suffer from breathing difficulties and other severe health issues due to their breeding.

As pet owners continue to blur the lines between pets and humans, it is crucial to consider the impact of these behaviors on the well-being of animals. Finding a balance between providing care and allowing pets to exhibit their natural behaviors is essential for promoting their health and happiness in the long run.