Healthy Dogs Gift Guide

Veterinarians share their gift picks for dogs.

From the WebMD Archives

From edible toys to doggy car seats, there are more products than ever to keep your dog entertained, active, and smelling fresh. This holiday season, pamper your pooch with one of these items tested and approved by veterinarians and WebMD pet experts Katherine Scott, DVM, DACVIM, and Mark Stickney, DVM.

Here are the vets' picks in four categories: brain boosters/play, grooming, soothing/behavioral products, and food treats. All are available online or at pet superstores.

For added fun, wrap your dog's gift and watch him try to open it!

Brain Boosters/Play

Invincibles Snake with Squeakers (made by Kyjen): Dogs love playing with squeak toys but lose interest once they've torn out the stuffing and punctured the squeaker, often in a matter of hours. This toy comes with three or six squeakers that will take a beating and keep squeaking, says Scott, a lecturer in internal medicine at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Two dogs with a reputation for being "toy destroyers" managed to break one of the squeakers, "but all of the other squeakers stayed intact, which for these two dogs was a miracle," Scott says.

Instant Dog Drinker (made by Handi-Drink): Owners who like running, walking, or hiking with their dogs should appreciate this squeeze bottle and water bowl in one, says Stickney, director of general surgery services at Texas A&M. When your dog is ready for a drink, just snap the bottle onto the tray and your dog has instant access to fresh water.

"If I've got a little water bottle I've got to squirt into the dog's mouth, a lot of it's going to spill out," Stickney says. "This allows them to drink at their own pace."

Kong Squeezz Dumbbell: A combination squeak toy and treat dispenser, the Kong Squeezz Dumbbell will give your dog a safe, fun activity to pass the time when you're away, Stickney says.

"The idea of the Kong is that the toy is made of hard rubber and you stuff a treat that the dog likes inside of it, and the dog has to really work and exercise its jaw and manipulate this toy so he can get the treats out," Stickney says.

Kong Senior: The Kong Senior is made with softer rubber, "so older pets that may be missing some teeth or aren't as vigorous chewers can still get the benefit of the Kong without wearing themselves out too much," Stickney says. "This will give them something to play with at their own pace, so they don't get left out while the younger dogs play."

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Grooming

Magic Coat Hair Remover (made by Four Paws): This sponge-shaped product lives up to its claims that it will "magically" remove hair from pet beds, furniture, and clothing, Scott says. No time to vacuum? Just wipe and watch the fur disappear.

"We all love to snuggle with our pets, but they often leave a furry mess behind on our clothing. This product allows owners to continue to snuggle without having concerns that we'll be taking our pet's fur along with us," Scott says.

Waterless Spray Shampoo (made by Top Paw): Hate to give your dog a bath? This waterless shampoo will get your dog "clean and smelling good" without making her set foot in the tub, Stickney says.

"If you've got company coming over and want your dog to smell nice, you can do this really quickly. Spray it all over them, rub it in their fur and you're done."

Extreme Deodorizing Shampoo (made by Kong): Keep this purple bottle on hand "for extreme emergencies," and you'll always have a great-smelling dog, Stickney says. The shampoo "worked great" on a couple of dogs that had been rolling around in a deer carcass, he says.

"If I've got a dog that I know is going to roll in the mud, jump in the pond, and get himself smelling bad, this will clean him right up and he'll smell great for days afterward," Stickney says.

Soothers and Other Behavioral Products

Fooey! Ultra-Bitter Spray (SynergyLabs): It may not be the most enjoyable holiday present for your dog, but this bad-tasting spray is an effective tool to stop pets from destructively chewing or licking the furniture or themselves, Scott says.

Scott tested the spray on a dog that licked her feet so excessively that she would make sores on her skin.

"We sprayed this and it definitely worked -- she didn't like the taste and stopped licking her feet nearly as often," she says. "It may not be a fun toy, but can help improve bad behaviors."

Slow-Feed Plastic Bowl (made by Petco): Some dogs scarf down their food or water so fast they make themselves sick. The slow-feed bowl features plastic ridges that force your pet to do a bit of maneuvering to get the contents.

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"The dog has to drink or eat more slowly because it's harder to get out of the bowl," Scott says. The dog that tested this bowl used to get sick a couple of times a week from drinking too quickly, and "she has not gotten sick on her water since she started to use her new bowl."

Pet Lookout Car Booster Seat (made by Outward Hound): If your dog likes to sit in the front seat and look out the car window, consider buying this booster seat to keep your pet safe, Stickney says. It fits into the passenger seat with a safety harness that attaches to your pet's collar or harness.

"This is a great way to keep them safe in the car and keep your hands on the wheel," says Stickney, whose Chihuahua-terrier gave the seat high marks. "She's always trying to either sit in my lap or climb on my shoulder, and I'm trying to hold onto her. I put her in the booster seat, put the little clip on, and she was happy as can be."

Thundershirt: The snug-fitting Thundershirt is marketed to calm anxious or hyperactive dogs by exerting gentle pressure, similar to swaddling a baby. Reports about its effectiveness are anecdotal. A Doberman pinscher  with moderate thunderstorm and noise anxiety wore the garment one rainy day, and "this did seem to help," Stickney said. "The dog was much more relaxed, and ... she was actually able to shut her eyes and sleep instead of trembling and being wrapped around the owner's leg."

Disposable Booties (made by Simple Solution):Keep your dog's paws clean on rainy days with these waterproof foot covers. They took a little maneuvering to cinch around the dog's ankles, but once they were on, "we were really impressed with how they work," Stickney says.

Stickney's dog's feet stayed dry even after walking through a puddle, and when they went back in the house, "I didn't have little wet dog footprints all over the place and on the furniture."

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Food Treats

Oral Care Dog Treats (made by Pedigree GoodBites): Dental treats claim to scrape tartar and plaque from your dog's teeth when chewed. These bite-sized treats with a crunchy outside and meaty middle seemed to do the job, Stickney says.

"The dogs we tested liked them and their breath smelled better afterward," Stickney says. "There's no substitute for regular dental cleanings from your vet and daily brushing of your dog's teeth, but this is a good treat to help maintain good oral health."

Spinz interactive chew-toy (made by Precision Pets):A toy you can eat: what more could a dog want? These twisty, bouncy chew toys with textured knobs are totally edible and will keep your pooch playing and gnawing for hours. "I like this product because it provided entertainment for the dogs as well as being a fun treat for them to eat when they were done playing with it," Scott says.

Mini's Flavor Snacks (made by Milk-Bone):Six out of seven little dogs agree: These tiny dog biscuits are a yummy treat, Stickney says. Each bite-sized treat is just 5 calories, which "makes it easy to keep track of your dog's snack intake so you don't overfeed them."

WebMD Pet Health Feature Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S on October 26, 2011

Sources

SOURCES:

Mark Stickney, DVM, director of general surgery services,Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Katherine Scott, DVM, DACVIM, lecturer in internal medicine,Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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