Thursday 2 May 2024

Owners trick dogs with lemon slices in new animal exploitation trend on TikTok

A veterinarian, Dr. Anna Foreman, is yet another who has expressed concern about videos on TikTok in which animals are abused and exploited. TikTok has acquired a bit of a reputation for animal abuse videos; videos to attract viewers at any cost and the animal is there as a convenient subject to be used for this goal.

Owners trick dogs with lemon slices in new animal exploitation trend on TikTok
Owners trick dogs with lemon slices in new animal exploitation trend on TikTok. Screenshot.

On TikTok there is a hashtag  "#DogVSLemon" which has amassed 20.1 million views on the social media platform. That said, we should recognise the fact that TikTok statistics are heavily distorted by the way videos are looped to replay immediately after you've stop viewing it. I would estimate that all TikTok videos have received accurate views which are somewhere near a quarter of that which is stated adjacent to the video.

In one video which has apparently been viewed 16 million times, we see an uncomfortable puppy after its owner throws a lemon into its mouth. There has been a 65% increase in online searches for "dogs eating lemons".

It would seem that the amusing aspect of these videos is to see a dog's discomfort when they chomp down on a bitter lemon. Dr. Anna said that: “Many dogs will eat anything thrown at them (or grab any food on the floor etc.) without a second thought, often not even sniffing or tasting it first. “This can be good in a few scenarios, for example with giving a dog a tablet, however, it can be quite dangerous in many others.”

She added that “Sour citrus fruits such as lemon and lime tend not to be palatable to dogs, however if eaten in anything more than minimal quantities can cause gastrointestinal upsets or more severe clinical signs like collapse.

“Throwing food at a dog for them to catch is a choking hazard, particularly if the piece of food is too large to swallow whole.”

Owners who do this might at least slightly erode the relationship between themselves and their dog. They might undermine the trust that the dog has in them.

And it is also worth saying that this trick cannot be repeated with the same dog over and over again because they will learn that if they participate they'll be uncomfortable. It is a good example of negative reinforcement or punishment to alter behaviour. It is a clear-cut case of owners exploiting their companion dogs.

We have seen on numerous occasions owners exploiting companion cats in the same way. They are called "funny cat videos" but they aren't so funny for the cat because a study found that more than a third of cats in these videos are stressed.

Finally, a cat or dog might become stressed when performing the lemon throwing trick for a social media video. This may lead to aggression and that aggression might, on rare occasions, be directed at their owner or somebody else in the vicinity.

It is unwise behaviour and TikTok should stop it. They do promise to moderate videos but as usual for successful platforms like TikTok, the administrators have an impossible task. 

There are too many uploaded videos and they are therefore reliant upon other users to notify them of animal abuse or other policy breaches. This doesn't happen enough and never will. It is a failure within social media.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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