Guest Post: Popular Culture and the Rise of Designer Dogs

Kim KardashianPop culture has been defined as “a collection of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, perspectives, images (you name it) preferred by the mainstream population.” It seems we all want to be like someone else. An actor, an athlete, a singer, or God forbid, the Kardashians. Why? I don’t know. I have never understood why people want fame. You lose control of your life. You can no longer be a normal person, doing normal things, but I digress. Pop culture has definitely impacted veterinary medicine also, affecting what are sometime called “designer dogs” and even pet food.

First, let’s talk designer dogs. These are a cross between two pure breed dogs. Traditionally, we just called them hybrid or mixed-breed dogs. Now, most of my clients don’t like when I use the term mixed breed dogs, because you don’t pay $3,000 for a “mixed breed dog.” You might for a “designer dog,” most commonly Goldendoodle, Labradoodles, Cockapoos and Puggles. The number of “new” breeds is only limited to the imagination and the availability of willing dogs. Whenever I see one of these I can’t help but wonder, “Should we be breeding mixed breed dogs and calling them a “new” breed. And, secondly, should people pay thousands of dollars for them?” Do owners actually know what they are buying? Don’t get me wrong, many are great dogs. We see a boat load of them. The idea of hybrid breeding is that you are looking for the best traits of both breeds. It is the opinion of many vets that mixed breed or hybrid dogs are healthier and live longer, but that has come into question recently. The problem is you can also pass on the bad traits or even worse, develop new traits not seen in either parent breed. The more generations you get out, the more problems you can get. Goldendoodles first came on the scene here in the U.S. in the 90’s, but now they are the new poster child for skin and gastrointestinal allergies.

Miley CyrusIf you’re committed to buying a designer dog, never buy from a pet store. Instead, do your research to find a top notch breeder, or better yet, consider looking into breed rescue or your local shelter. Even designer dogs can end up homeless and need a second chance.

Now to pet food. Argh… a battle I fight every day. There is so much misinformation out there. People talk to their friends or pet store employees about the new greatest food. They have to get it for their dog! They buy it without talking to their vet about whether it is actually a good fit for their dog or cat. The pet food industry is a poorly regulated industry with new manufacturers introducing new products each day. This lack of regulation means that there are little to no repercussions for companies that make false claims or do not meet expectation. This is just now starting to change, as we are starting to see law-suits in this arena, such as the one Purina recently won against Blue Buffalo for false claims. The pet food manufacturers need to be held accountable to make accurate claims, for the health and safety of our pets. Rather than look to celebrities for their pet food endorsements, please ask your vet about what food they recommend. After all, I do like putting all that nutritional education I had in vet school to use.

Remember, celebrities can be a source of entertainment, but when it comes to our pets, check with the real experts.


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

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