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Perfect Pet Presents

Forget junky treats and cheap toys. Give your pet the gift of health.
By Sonya Collins
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by William Draper, DVM

Looking for the perfect gift for the furriest member of your family? Well, three of the best gifts you can give your pets are a healthy weight, a healthy mouth, and healthy skin, says veterinarian Marty Becker, DVM, a regular contributor to NBC's Today show.

"You'll eliminate a lot of veterinary bills without shortchanging your pet," says

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Becker, who recommends healthy holiday gifts that help meet these basic needs.

Food Puzzles

Just like people, more than half of American pets are overweight. Many veterinarians replace their pets' bowls with food puzzles, toys that pets must play around with  to release the food inside. In one study, overweight cats that had to get half their daily food through food puzzles for a month lost weight.

Becker likes Kong Genius for dogs because you can link several toys together when one is no longer challenging. His pick for cats is Egg-Cersizer, a ball that cats must push, roll, and secure to get to the food inside.

Edible Toothbrushes

If you'd rather not scrub your cat's or dog's canines, treats can do the job. Becker gives his dogs CET HEXtra oral hygiene chews; he recommends them for cats, too.

Pets chew on them rather than swallowing them whole like they do with many other treats.

The texture of the rawhide in the dog chews and the active ingredient work together to break down tartar and plaque. "They just chew and chew, so it provides prolonged contact with the teeth."

Pet Shampoos

"Skin problems are the No. 1 reason for vet visits," Becker says. Regular baths can help skin, glandular, and ear problems. Becker recommends weekly baths for dogs: "Dogs mop up everything on the floor -- pollen, spores, dust, dust mites—and absorb it into their skin." Cats may need an occasional bath, too.

If your pet doesn't require a prescription shampoo, Becker recommends Earthbath pet shampoos, which contain natural ingredients.

Stress and Anxiety Help

Every pet has to go to the vet at some point. Becker suggests these products to help ease the stress.

Thundershirt, for dogs and cats, is a vest that applies light pressure -- just like swaddling a baby -- to calm nervous animals. They aren't only for thunderstorms. They might also ease trips to the vet, the groomer, or the pet boarder.

Clipnosis, for a nervous cat who won't let you give her medicine or trim her nails, clips to the scruff of a cat's neck, where a mother cat picks up her kittens. "There's a neuro-pathway there, and when you put this on their neck, they'll let

you brush their teeth, check their ears, do anything," Becker says.

Adaptil and Feliway are man-made versions of scents that dogs and cats give off. You can spray them on pet carriers, in your car, or on your clothes.

You'll never smell them, but your pet might relax wherever she sniffs their scent.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine." 

Reviewed on September 21, 2013

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