Make it a Healthy Holiday for Your Pet

By Sandy Robins, contributor

Maybe you’re cutting back on holiday gifts this year, but if you’re going to indulge your pets, at least give them a present that will help keep them healthy throughout the year. Investing in their health now could save you even more on vet bills later. Your pet may not thank you, but it will be grrr-ateful!

Food dispenser toys


Obesity is a problem for American pets, but remember: You are the owner. You control what they eat!
The Bob-A-Lot (pictured) is a food dispenser toy for your pup. It holds up to three cups of food, about a day’s worth of meals. It has a separate section for favorite treats, too. The anti-slip bottom is weighted so that it rolls around erratically and always bobs back upright to keep the game going for hours. It’s suitable for dogs of all sizes and ages. The opening can be adjusted to control the ease or difficulty in which the food and treats are extracted. Priced at $19.99 at StarMark.
SlimCat ball
The SlimCat ball is designed to make your chubby kitty work for its meals. The ball holds a variety of dry food shapes, distributing the kibble as it rolls around. Apart from aiding digestion by encouraging your cat to eat small portions, it will keep the cat mentally alert and hone hunting skills. The balls are available in pink, green, orange and blue. They are made of a FDA-approved plastic, are dishwasher safe and designed to roll around on all surfaces. Priced at about $5.99

Dog treadmill


This is another item to help your tubby pet slim down. It also provides exercise for pets who stay indoors for lengthy periods due to cold climates.
Used daily, the motorized DogTread will help improve your dog’s muscle definition and body tone. Regular use can also help curb destructive behavior often associated with the lack of regular exercise. The treadmill can be programmed for time and distance and can be set at different speeds, up to 5 mph. Place it next to your treadmill and you can exercise together. It’s available in three sizes for different breeds and priced from $499.99 at PetZen Products.


Pet strollers


Pet strollers are becoming a very popular mode of transport, especially for older animals or amputee pets that can’t walk long distances. Indoor cats may enjoy outings in a stroller, too.
The Jeep Wrangler and Expedition
The Jeep Wrangler is ideal for pets up to 20 pounds. The new Expedition is designed for dogs up to 150 pounds. The super-sized stroller collapses flat, making it easy to put in the trunk of the car. Even the wheels simply clip off. Most strollers come with ergonomically designed handles, shopping baskets and drink holders. The strollers are also an excellent choice for elderly pet owners looking for a little support when going for a walk. The smaller strollers cost around $95.99 and the Expedition costs $199.99 from Just Pet Strollers.


Dog puzzle board games


Playtime is essential to keep dogs physically fit and help fight obesity. Canine mental stimulation also helps to stave off boredom that can lead to behavioral problems, such as destructive chewing.
Dog puzzle games
The latest range of wooden doggie board games from Swedish designer Nina Ottosson will bring hours of interactive delight to both dogs and owners. The games all work with treats that your dog has to sniff out. Different games offer different degrees of difficulty to keep tails wagging. Popular puzzles include the Dog Tornado (pictured), Dog Trigger, Dog Turbo, Dog Twister, the Dog Box and The Brick. Priced at $49 from SmartieDog Pet Products.


First-aid kit

A pet first-aid kit is an excellent item to have in the home and is essential if you travel with your furry friends.
Pet first aid
General kits cater to both dogs and cats, although there are separate canine and feline kits available, as well as ones for hunting dogs, birds, small critters and horses. Kits come in a hard-shell case and include 30 items, including antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream for rashes and itching, as well as oral feeding syringes and plastic forceps. There’s also an information card to list special medical information and emergency veterinary numbers. Priced at $22.95 at


Digital litter box

Our cats may be living longer than ever, but along with old age and obesity, they’re also suffering from more diabetes and kidney problems.

Scoopfree Ultra
The latest automated Scoopfree Ultra litter box has a counter that allows cat owners to keep track every time the box is used. It is also designed to monitor cats with kidney and urinary problems, as frequent visits to the litter box can alert owners to a possible urinary infection, kidney disease and even diabetes.
Crystal litter in a disposable tray can last up to a month. The mechanical rake can be set to scoop once the cat is well clear of the box so your kitty won’t be upset by the noise of the raking action. There is also a ramp for easy access for elderly felines, and a removable hood for cats that prefer some privacy. Priced at $179.95 from pet boutiques and pet supermarkets nationwide.


Warming bed


The warmth of the sun is nature’s way of relieving aches and pains, and pets love to bask in its rays.
Fauna Sauna sun bed
The Fauna Sauna is a “sun bed” that provides the sun’s beneficial radiant heat indoors. Fauna Sauna uses far infrared rays, known as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, and are ideal for relieving joint pain and stiffness and even skin itching. It claims to increase immune function and speed post-surgical healing. The unit can be set up anywhere in the home where your pet can curl up and absorb the soothing heat. The Fauna Sauna products are designed for all cats, dogs and small animals. Standard units start at $795 from Fauna Sauna.


Surgical collars


It may not be a fun or playful gift, but many pets have to cope with bulky, uncomfortable, hard plastic Elizabethan-style collars, either because of surgery or obsessive licking.

Comfy Cone and Procollar
What better gift for a pet in need than a soft collar such as the Comfy Cone (pictured), which provides your pet more flexibility and comfort? Made from foam, it can be folded back during meal times to give a pet easier access to the food bowl. It’s water resistant, closes with adjustable Velcro straps and also has a reflective strip for visibility on night walks. Available in four different sizes. Prices range from $14.20 to $28.99 from All Four Paws.
The Procollar is another softer, cushier collar made from inflatable plastic laminated tube that resembles a travel pillow. Available in a variety of sizes, and priced from $12.14 from pet supermarkets nationwide.

Digital checkup


Keeping tabs on your dog’s good health can be done with one simple digital scanning procedure.

The K9 EyeScan takes digital images of your pet’s eyes to produce a complete internal evaluation of its muscular skeletal system and internal organs. It’s not meant to replace a visit to the vet’s office, but to alert you of any potential problems such as congenital heart disease, digestive problems, arthritic changes in the spine and joints, and respiratory issues. These machines are being set up at groomers nationwide, boarding facilities and boutiques, as well as veterinary offices. A scan costs $40 and takes six minutes to complete.
Visit to find a location in your area.

Updated: 6:50 p.m. ET Dec. 2, 2008

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