A Vet Revealed The Popular Pet Store Items You Should Always Leave On The Shelf

Picture the scene: you’ve gone to the pet store to buy your best friend a new toy and are met with such an array of options that it’s impossible to choose. What to do? Take the advice of internet vet Dr. Hunter Finn, that’s what. He posts videos letting owners know what they should and shouldn’t buy for their fur babies — and some of the items he believes are best left on the shelf may surprise you.

Dr. Finn officially launched his career as a practicing veterinarian in Arlington, Texas in December 2019. In his press release published on the Accesswire site, he said, “I became a veterinarian because it is my passion. The human animal bond truly is a gift, and anything I can do to help strengthen and improve that bond is a life worth living to me.”

The young veterinarian revealed that his interest in becoming an animal doctor was inspired by the family dog he had as a child. He pestered his mother — who had recently divorced from his father — to get him a puppy. When she finally gave in and got a dog, a special bond was formed. 

Fast forward 15 years and Finn graduates from college with an Animal Science bachelor’s degree. His aim was to go to veterinary school, but unfortunately none of the institutions he applied to accepted him. Even his “dream veterinary program” at Louisiana State University turned him down. Despite feeling rejected, Finn knew what he had to do.

Over the following year, Dr. Finn took courses to improve his grade point average and sat his entrance exam again. “One year later, I applied only to LSU and was accepted into the class of 2019,” he told Accesswire, “The rollercoaster called veterinary school over the next four years was full of excitement, fear, heartbreak, and triumph.”

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However, Dr. Finn’s success story was almost derailed by a potentially tragic illness. During the clinical part of his veterinary program, a malignant melanoma was discovered on his back and surgery was needed to remove it. The doctors did just that, and also took some lymph nodes that they felt had the potential to cause problems somewhere down the line.

After the surgery, Dr. Finn knew he had to regain his strength in order to finish his intensive course. He hired a nutritionist to get his physical health back. This helped him finish school, but it also gave him a new outlook on the benefits of nutrition — for both humans and animals alike.

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After graduating veterinary school, Dr. Finn accepted a job as a companion animal vet In Arlington, Texas. His new workplace was “a fantastic clinic that has far surpassed any and all expectations I had of what life could be like as a veterinarian when I was just a kid dreaming of this exact moment.” Soon after starting his new job, Dr. Finn published some advice for new pet owners.

Adopting a pet is an exciting experience, but it can also be daunting. Dr. Finn’s first piece of advice was that all new pet owners should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. He believes this is essentiall, especially if the owner isn’t fully informed about the animal’s background or previous owners.

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“One extremely valuable reason is so the veterinarian of your choosing can get acquainted with your new fur child and perform a thorough physical examination,” advised Dr. Finn. In his opinion, physical exams were critical for any new pet. This is because animals are incapable of verbalizing if they are in pain or feeling unwell, so the vet needs to see for themselves. 

Dr. Finn continued, “We rely on thorough examinations to be able to detect and prevent disease processes. This is extremely important for older adopted animals who have more than likely had a stressful and tough past. But [it is] just as important in new puppies as they can have congenital diseases, intestinal parasites, and other conditions that, if left untreated, can certainly be life threatening.”

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Investing in pet insurance is also critical for new pet owners, according to Dr. Finn — as he’s seen the same situation occur too often. He said, “One of the most frustrating aspects of veterinary medicine is diagnosing a very manageable condition but being unable to bring relief to an animal solely due to financial constraints.”

While pet insurance may seem a significant cost to a new owner, Dr. Finn believes it is a smart investment in the long run. If an unforeseen medical issue rears its head, insurance gives the owner the best chance to ensure their animal receives the care it needs. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Dr. Finn also encouraged new owners to talk to their veterinarian about the best diet for their pet. He said, “I truly believe that there is not a single diet out there that fits every animal’s needs. This is why you should have a discussion with your veterinarian about what diet will best allow your pet to not only survive but thrive.”

Dr. Finn’s holistic approach to pet health has led him to specialize in an unusual treatment method: acupuncture. He told website California Business Journal that he trained in the discipline at Florida’s Chi University. He said, “I went there to learn about the healing power of food and nutrition. Once I saw what these people were doing, and the more I listened to these people speak, it really left an impression on me.”

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And Dr. Finn has first-hand experience of how beneficial acupuncture can be. After a year of using the treatment on his own dog, he was able to come off all medication apart from a joint supplement. Dr. Finn said that, when it comes to any pet he treats, “My goal is to reduce the amount of medication or get them off completely if it’s possible.”

Spending quality time with your pet is also key to health and happiness, according to Dr. Finn. An animal that is kept inside all day, with no interaction with its owner, is more likely to be anxious or badly behaved. But this interaction is also good for the owner, as Dr. Finn said, “Just petting a dog for a few minutes a day has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate.”

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Using his own pet as an example again, Dr. Finn recalled being stressed and tired during veterinary school, which made him play less enthusiastically with his dog. But he soon realized that going out into the fresh air for walks made both of them feel better. He lost weight, slept more peacefully and was more focused at work, while his best friend stopped acting out and exhibiting signs of anxiety.

After these press releases, Dr. Finn would subsequently transfer his tips to social media. He quickly became an internet celebrity, seeing his popularity explode on Facebook and Instagram. He was written up in Entrepreneur and Buzzfeed, and even won the crown of Go Girl magazine’s “Hottest Doctor of 2020.” He beat out People magazine’s “Pet Vet” Dr. Evan Antin and YouTube celebrity Dr. Mike to the title.

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But it was TikTok that really propelled Dr. Finn to fame, though. He started posting on the app in March, 2020 and by October had more than a million followers. His very first video went viral, with over 4 million views. It was followed by a series of videos advising owners on what not to buy for their furry friends at the pet store.

As Dr. Finn told Buzzfeed, “After a walk through a local store looking for new toys for my own dogs, I realized that there are an overwhelming amount of options. Marketing and colorful products play a huge role in the consumer’s decision. Unfortunately, those well-marketed products are not always what’s best for their loved ones.”

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Using his expertise, Dr. Finn wanted to help owners make the most of their pet store. He said, “As a veterinarian who sees sick patients from toys, treats and foods that aren’t necessarily the safest for them, I feel it is my job to go above and beyond and give pet owners the information they need to make informed purchases to prevent these mishaps.” But what kind of advice did he offer?

One video was used to point out what should always be left on the shelf. Dr. Finn said, “Absolutely never buy rawhides with double-layered ends. These are absolute choking or surgical hazards.” He then gave a piece of wisdom regarding dog bones that’s probably not something many owners will have considered.

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In the TikTok video, he included a caption over some dog bones that read, “These will wear/break your dog’s teeth and possibly cause gastrointestinal problems.” As a follow-up, he told Buzzfeed, “If any treat is too hard to slap on your knee or make a fingernail indentation in, it is too hard for your pet.”

When it came to treats such as pig ears, Dr. Finn was not a fan. His TikTok captions read, “Very fatty. Can contribute to obesity, vomiting and diarrhea. Higher chance of bacterial overgrowth.” Jerky was also on his hit list, as he told Buzzfeed, “There is enough evidence to support the claim that certain jerky treats cause renal disease in pets.”

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Dr. Finn wasn’t able to suggest a treat that would be healthy for all dogs, as every animal’s makeup is different, just like every human. But he was able to say with certainty that Schnauzers shouldn’t be given treats with moderate-to-high fat content. This is because, as a breed, they are prone to pancreatitis.

Dr. Finn then spotlighted rope toys, which he said aren’t dangerous as a rule. But our feline friends may be at risk after they’ve played with them for a while. This is because their claws can shred the rope over time and, in some cases, these shreds can be ingested. In high enough quantities, this can sometimes become life threatening.

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In this case, the cat’s life would be in danger because they are unable to pass the shredded rope. “Never ever give cats unsupervised time with stringy toys,” Dr. Finn recommended to Buzzfeed. “Cats are the poster child for developing linear foreign bodies from eating string toys, socks, or rubber bands.” 

In another video, Dr. Finn took aim at the misleading tactics used by pet food manufacturers. He said that, if you see the words “gourmet” or “premium” on food packaging, you should take that claim with a pinch of salt. Why? Well, it’s all to do with regulations imposed by a branch of the World Health Organization. 

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The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) regulates certain words, enforcing strict guidelines that manufacturers have to abide by if the word is to go on their packaging. “Gourmet” and “premium” are not regulated words. So, manufacturers can use them if they want to, regardless of what is actually in the food.

On the other hand, “natural” is a regulated word. This means that foods which champion their product as “natural” are likely to be much better for your pet’s health. These manufacturers have gone through the steps to meet the WSAVA guidelines and Dr. Finn believes you can trust these products much more than the ones which may be pretending to be something they’re not.

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Also, Dr. Finn warned pet owners to be vigilant regarding products that claim to support dental health. He recommended only purchasing chews, treats, or supplements with the Veterinary Oral Health Council stamp on the packaging. He told Buzzfeed, “If it does not have the VOHC stamp, move on and find another product because you are wasting your money.”

Products such as water additives and dental chews are great for improving your pet’s breath, according to Dr. Finn, but only if they are VOHC-approved. He also recommended brushing your cat or dog’s teeth every day. After all, our furry family benefit from good oral hygiene just as much as we do.

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Overall, Dr. Finn told Buzzfeed he wanted people to be more sceptical of the marketing associated with the pet products they buy. The manufacturer may not be entirely honest on their packaging. He said, “Just because something has meat as the first ingredient, contains no grains, or is completely raw, does not mean that item is superior compared to others.”

Dr. Finn continued, “In fact, whenever a client asks me about nutritional advice, I always recommend they research the company they are using and make sure they have a full-time, board-certified veterinary nutritionist on their staff.” Essentially, he believes the market is skewed. There’s an imbalance in terms of selling product and looking out for the health of animals.

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“People don’t realize that many pet foods and treats can be placed on the market with pretty minimal testing requirements,” revealed Dr. Finn. “In my opinion, this leads to businesses spending more money and time on advertisement than actually developing a safe product for our fur babies.” At the end of the day, though, it’s up to the pet owner to make sure the manufacturers are on the level.

“I don’t mean looking at their reviews,” clarified Dr. Finn. “I mean actually call them and ask them questions about their products. If they don’t answer, or do not want to disclose any information on the ‘Selecting a Pet Food’ list provided by WSAVA, then I would not use them.”

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Comfortable with his newfound fame, Dr. Finn told Insider that the most rewarding aspect of being so popular online isn’t the adulation. It’s the feeling of helping pets and their owners. He said, “The number of people who have told me that I’ve helped them with something or they watched one of my videos and it led them to check out a problem at their vet — that is huge to me.”

Dr. Finn’s posts about pet advice — as well as his interest in his own health and fitness — has led to him writing a book. It will draw from his experience as a vet and the questions he’s been asked by clients about their pets. He told California Business Journal, “It’s been a good outlet. When you are writing about your passions, it’s an incredible experience.”

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Overall, Dr. Finn values his experience helping pets and their owners but acknowledged that his job can sometimes be difficult for someone who loves animals as much as he does. He admitted, “Our days are filled with disease and heartbreak. It takes a lot out of me, but I’m doing the best I can to give animals the best quality of life they can have. They’re worth it.”

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