It’s a terrier’s world, we just live in it

Animal Pharm from the New York Times

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Photo Illustration by Zachary Scott for The New York Times

The practice of prescribing medications designed for humans to animals has grown substantially over the past decade and a half, and pharmaceutical companies have recently begun experimenting with a more direct strategy: marketing behavior-modification and “lifestyle” drugs specifically for pets. America’s animals, it seems, have very American health problems. More than 20 percent of our dogs are overweight; Pfizer’s Slentrol was approved by the F.D.A. last year as the country’s first canine anti-obesity medication. Dogs live 13 years on average, considerably longer than they did in the past; Pfizer’s Anipryl treats cognitive dysfunction so that absent-minded pets can remember the location of the supper bowl or doggy door. For lonely dogs with separation anxiety, Eli Lilly brought to market its own drug Reconcile last year. The only difference between it and Prozac is that Reconcile is chewable and tastes like beef.


Doggy diet pills may be plainly absurd, but scientists in an expanding field known as behavioral pharmacology say that the combination of new drug therapies and progressive training techniques can solve problems that in the past almost always resulted in euthanasia. The supposed effectiveness of psychiatric medicines in treating mood and behavior issues is prompting new questions in the centuries-old debate over what, exactly, separates mankind from the beasts. If the strict Cartesian view were true – that animals are essentially flesh-and-blood automatons, lacking anything resembling human emotion, memory and consciousness – then why do animals develop mental illnesses that eerily resemble human ones and that respond to the same medications? What can behavioral pharmacology teach us about animal minds and, ultimately, our own?
New York Times


Written by aterrier

July 13, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Posted in medical

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