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
When Alex Nocifera's 12-year-old Weimaraner, Bodi, started panting hard during a hiking trip, he became concerned. When the dog later showed no interest in her food or water, he knew something was really wrong.
Still, he didn't see the end coming. "Now that I look back, there were slight indications," Nocifera says of Bodi's last days. "I remember a few months prior to the trip she was just a bit less active," he says. He chalked her slower pace up to aging.
Often, it is only in retrospect that...
Becker, who recommends healthy holiday gifts that help meet these basic needs.
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.
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."
"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.