Sunday, December 13, 2015

Great pet gifts for this holiday season

One of the highlights of Christmases past has been watching my pets open their gifts. My favorite memory is of my gentle dog, Chris, frantically tearing at the wrapping paper while making excited wuffing noises. Upon opening the package and finding his favorite fleece Chewman toy, he trotted merrily around the house, continuously squeaking it. The grand finale was when he removed the noise maker with surgical precision. A short-lived plaything, but his joy made it worth every penny.

Not only do dogs and cats enjoy opening presents, but their people do, too. And dog and cat owners appreciate pet-related gifts. To that end, I’ve been keeping a list of noteworthy goods that are veterinarian approved ─ by me, of course! 

Here are my top picks for Christmas, 2015: 

I love these elegant 12-ounce microwave- and dishwasher-safe mugs. They’re chic and come individually packaged in brightly colored artsy boxes. 

Kyjen Outward Hound Port-a-Bowl  $4 - $17

A must for the active outdoor dog! It dries quickly and collapses to fit in  your packpack, pocket, or purse, and it can be used for food or water on the go. Every pooch can use a refreshing drink of water during his walk on a hot day. 


Cat climber (Door Hanger)  $99.95

I wish that I had thought of this – brilliant! This cat tree fits a standard 80-inch door, but its spring-loaded bracket system allows it to adjust to similar-size doors. And the post is made of sisal for scratching.  Move it from door to door to give your cats a new view. 

Show off your pet every time you pick up your cell phone: Have his or her picture incorporated into a custom Renaissance portrait for your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone case. Choose among characters such as a king, queen, guard, beggar, saint, jester, maid, or general ─ from humble quadruped to King Henry VIII in the blink of an eye!

You’ve just spent megabucks redecorating your kitchen. Do you really want to plunk that nasty old chipped dog bowl down on the floor?  Mon Dieu, non! Besides, veterinarians recommend raised feeders for your pet’s comfort. From the metal grillwork base in an aged copper finish to the natural slate top, this feeder combines elegance and rustic charm. Sure, it’s ridiculously pricey; but your chien sp├ęcial deserves to eat in style!

Sleepypod mobile pet bed $139.99-$179.99

It’s a bed! It’s a carrier! It’s a safe car seat! It’s all three products in one. Turn it from a bed into a carrier by zipping on the mesh dome. A seat belt can be fastened through the handle for travel. I especially love this for cats, who will enjoy traveling in the comfort and familiarity of their own bed. What a great way to reduce stress on those visits to the vet! 

Drinkwell Ceramic Pagoda Fountain for Pets $79.95, in taupe, blue, red, or white

Veterinarians recommend fountains to encourage water drinking, especially for senior cats and dogs. My objection to the ones that I’ve owned is that they get slimy and are hard to clean. And they’re ugly!  Drinkwell has come out with a fountain with simple, elegant lines. Not only is it attractive, it’s made of easy-to-clean ceramic, and it’s dishwasher safe. It has an upper and lower dish to accommodate both small and medium-sized pets. The carbon water filter helps keep the water fresh. 

Wheel House Socks $10.95 

These comfy socks come in multiple sizes and colors. With dozens of breeds from which to choose, they're the perfect stocking stuffer for the dog lover in your life. 

Zogoflex  $7.95 - $10.95

I researched the best chew toys for dogs in a previous post, and these came out on top. They won’t fracture teeth, and they’re environmentally friendly:  When you send your worn-out Zogoflex toys back to the company, West Paw recycles them into new ones. They come in a variety of colors and shapes, so there’s a good chance you’ll find one that your buddy approves of.

Interactive feeding toys help slow hasty eaters, and this one makes meals more interesting. Your dog will learn to turn the revolving sections to reveal his vittles. The Tornado allows you to gradually increase the level of difficulty as his skill improves. Dogs like to have a job, and this feeder gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Rope Slip Lead, 4 feet and 6 feet  $7.99

A humble gift, yes, but one much favored by veterinarians, shelters, and trainers. We use these at Vernon Hills Animal Hospital. When our clients feel how soft and well made these rope leads are, they invariably ask where we got them and buy a couple for themselves.

Do you have a feline food bully at home who nudges your other cats out of the way and eats too much food? I do, so when I saw this microchip feeder I had to have it!  It works with your cat’s existing microchip (or we can insert one for you) or with the included tag. When your pet approaches the feeder, a covering slides up and allows her to eat. When she’s finished, it quietly closes. The two bowls, which are suitable for both dry and wet food, seal tightly to ensure freshness. I love that it runs on batteries, so there are no cords.

If you think $149 is pricey, consider the financial implications of diabetes and other obesity-related diseases, which can cost hundreds of dollars in vet bills every year. Now our clients whose cats are on weight-loss and prescription diets won’t be able to steal other cat’s food and overeat.  Awesome!

Pet Tree Houses   $199-$1999

Ridiculously expensive, but so cool I just had to include these. They’re made from real trees embellished with silk foliage to give your feline friend a lifelike experience. The trunk can be used as a scratching post. But there’s no need to spend megabucks to own one. For someone good at woodworking, I think this would be a fun, reasonably priced do-it-yourself project.

Happy shopping, and happy holidays to you and your family members, including the furry ones!



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The cyberbullies have their claws out

Every year the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the charitable arm of the AVMA, hosts the America’s Favorite Veterinarian contest. Its objective is to “honor and recognize those entrusted to preserve and protect the health and well-being of pets, as well as to celebrate the special relationship pet owners share with their veterinarians.” Seems like a laudable and harmless event, right?

A group of animal rights activists opposed to declawing cats disagreed, and it launched vicious cyberattacks against most of this year’s 20 finalists. Their actions brought the contest to a halt before a winner could be declared.

The activists phoned the animal hospitals where the finalists worked and, posing as potential clients, asked about declawing. If those hospitals performed declaws, the activists subjected them to fraudulent negative advertisements on Facebook, damaging negative online reviews, and threatening phone calls. One contestant was called “a whore, a butcher, a mutilator, a hack, an animal hater, a disgrace to the profession.”

Most of the practices contacted did offer the surgery as a last resort if their clients had tried everything else to prevent destructive clawing behavior, or if being scratched presented a health risk for the cat owner. That is the stand we also take. We discuss alternatives with our clients. If they decide they must have their cat declawed, and if it’s an indoor cat, we’ll perform the procedure if the case fulfills the criteria we have established in our practice.

My experience has been that cat owners who make the decision to declaw don’t take it lightly. They’re concerned about whether their kitty will be in pain after the surgery, and about how he’ll function without front claws. Because we use both general and local anesthesia, a CO2 laser, pre- and post-op pain medications, and take-home analgesics, our patients experience very little pain and discomfort. They also function very well with no front claws. I can’t recall any long-term complications in cats we’ve declawed, and our clients are pleased with the results.

Many of our clients disagree with declawing and choose not to remove their cat’s claws. I support that decision; I prefer not to declaw. But I always urge cat owners to think ahead:  What if they buy an expensive sofa, for example, and their cat destroys it? Will they accept that willingly, or will they then decide to declaw? Young cats recover quickly from the surgery, but it can be much harder, both physically and mentally, for older cats. Because of that, we prefer not to declaw adult cats. So it’s imperative that owners carefully consider the pros and cons of living with a fully armed cat before making a decision. 

I understand the passion of animal rights activists. In fact, I’ve eaten a completely plant-based diet for almost five years, not only for health reasons but also because I feel that big agriculture is inhumane to our animal friends.  It may seem like my views – about preventing animal cruelty by not eating animal products, but allowing cat declaws – are at odds with each other. But exceptions are the rule. Some populations need to eat animal products in order to survive; I fully accept that.  And sometimes we have to declaw a cat to allow him to share a loving home with humans.

Pet owners have to make many life-changing choices for their pets, and most do so with good intentions. We can’t allow bullies to interfere with decisions that should be made between a client and a doctor. 

 Great scratching post!