Your pet is unhealthy and unhappy, says former Veterinarian

Got a pet? Former Veterinarian Charles Danten says he or she is probably unhealthy and definitely unhappy. Perhaps that smile you see on your pet’s face is actually a grimace.

slaves very smallSlaves of our Affection, subtitled The Myth of the Happy Pet, exposes the dark and disastrous underbelly of the pet world. And it ain’t pretty.

Every pet owner should read this book. And if you are thinking about getting a pet, read this book first. But it won’t be an easy read. Troubling, is more like it. Genetic illnesses caused by pure breeding, anatomical abnormalities in the chapter “Pet Frankensteins”, all the bad results caused by captivity, horrible pet foods (turns out our pets are eating someone else’s pets), and even an expose’ of veterinarians (Danten was one), will have you staring into your pet’s face wondering what you have done to him or her. And if he or she can ever forgive you.

Linda and I have had two dogs in our 35 years of marriage. The first was a combination Irish Setter and Golden Retriever, a gorgeous red dog who, much to my disappointment, had no interest in hunting but who loved our children. Ok, he did freak out during thunder storms. A storm blew through one time when we were away, and when we got home, Riley had chewed his way right through two doors trying to get out.

Our next dog was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Ok, he was my dog, a duck hunting machine who gave me much pleasure throughout his brief 10 years of life. We had to have him put down when his hips failed. Outside the vet’s office, I was wailing in grief, until the vet came out and assured me I’d done the right thing. I still cried all the way home.

Linda was not so much overcome with grief. Blake was a terror outside the duck blind. He’d leap up and knock visitors down, mess all over the house, rip and tear at our furniture – until finally Linda insisted that he reside in a dog house in the back yard. I turned an old chicken coop into Blake’s comfortable home, with a large screened-in area outside. According to Danten, this was not sufficient.

Linda loves cats. I pretend to hate them. Sometimes I’m not pretending. They are relatively self-sufficient, and good mousers, but when we are away from more than a couple of days, we have to ask our neighbor to come by and care for them. Our current almost 100 percent coon cat, Wyatt, obtained at a local animal shelter, starts howling at 4 am every morning, and really ratchets it up if he hears us moving in the bedroom.

DSCN6658On the other hand, Wyatt and I have a morning ritual. I kneel at the fridge, he trots over, and we enjoy a petting session. It’s my only concession to what otherwise is a very annoying animal.

I was intrigued by Danten’s chapter on pet food. “The quality of ingredients used in pet food is very much inferior to the quality of our food, and the industrial processing that the ingredients undergo only further degrades their nutritional value,” reports Danten. “This explains the very high frequency of diet-associated diseases and clearly demonstrates that it is not possible to produce a commercial pet food with the nutritional value and health-promoting qualities of an animal’s natural diet.”

Wyatt has special dietary needs and Linda has been purchasing an expensive cat food produced by Hills. So I was shocked to read Danten’s diatribe against Hills, a division of Colgate-Palmolive.

The chapter on exotic and wild animals particularly interested me, because Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife – which bears the responsibility for governing and licensing these animals in our state – has been struggling for two years to create a new body of laws and rules to get on top of the growing problem of exotic animals in Maine.

“Each year, Honduras, Columbia, El Salvador, and Costa Rica export more than 2.5 million reptiles to the United States, of which 1.5 million are Green iguanas,” reports Danten. “100,000 pythons are exported each year from Togo… The states of Louisiana and Florida export yearly to Europe more than eight million aquatic turtles, such as Red-eared sliders.” And there’s more – lots more.

Maine allowed Red-eared sliders to be owned in our state, thinking they could not live here in the wild. Big mistake. They have now established themselves in the wild, negatively impacting our native species.

Danten estimates that 1000 pounds of cyanide – enough to kill 500 million people – has been poured on the reefs in the Philippines, Indonesia, and elsewhere in south-eastern Asia, to paralyze and capture fish and seahorses for the aquarium trade.

Well, there are astonishing revelations in every chapter of this book. I was especially surprised by Danten’s claim that a single rabies shot should be sufficient for the lifetime of dogs or cats. Maine requires them every other year.

I’m going to try to get Linda to read this book. But I am pretty sure Wyatt is here to stay.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.