Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker



The weather outside is, um, delightful. The slight nip in the air in central Oklahoma, where I'm visiting, gives barely a hint that Christmas will be upon us in a matter of days. Besides decorating the tree and mailing holiday cards, it's time to start thinking about the perfect gifts for pets and pet-loving friends.

Beyond the perfect gift, it's important to consider pet welfare during the holidays because of all the hustle and bustle that surrounds this time of year. Visits from relatives, road trips to Grandma's house, cocktail parties: all offer opportunities for pets to be either naughty or nice. We have some strategies to help involve Baxter and Boots in the holidays, keep them safe, and provide them with goodies in their stockings instead of lumps of coal.

-- Kick off the season with good scents. When you're baking holiday cookies, whip up a batch of dog treats, too. You'll know exactly what's in them, and your pet will love them because they come from you. You can find lots of great recipes online.

-- Adapt holiday decor to the realities of life with pets. If you have a Christmas tree, leave lower branches bare of ornaments to prevent curious pups and kittens from pulling them off.

-- Choose unbreakable ornaments, and avoid using tinsel, which can cause intestinal blockages if swallowed.

-- If you have a puppy in the home, set a small Christmas tree on top of a chest or tabletop, out of reach of your young canine pal.

-- Instead of decorating packages with ribbon, which some pets like to chew and swallow -- with regrettable results -- make pretty bows out of wrapping paper, using scissors to curl the ends.

-- Consider setting a pet-proof table, especially if you have a new puppy or kitten in the home, or if your big galoot of a dog is a well-meaning klutz. Leave Grandma's antique Irish lace tablecloth folded away and substitute a holiday-themed vinyl or machine-washable tablecloth instead -- one that's less vulnerable to spills and tears.

-- Schedule a pet picture with Santa. Lots of pet-related businesses, shelters and even malls offer sessions. You'll treasure the memories, and often the price you pay goes to help pets in need.

-- Be sure there's something under the tree for your pet to tear up, er, unwrap. Some that we like:

-- Skipping Stones by Kurgo, brightly colored floating fetch toys that skip across water.

-- Chuckit LightPlay Max Glow Ball, specially designed to light up play when days are short and night comes early.

-- Galaxy Mojo Maker Air Wand, a feather toy with a retractable cord, comfortable handle and spiral motion to send your cat into orbit -- in a good way.

Cat lovers who are design aficionados will appreciate "Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!)" by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin. New cat owners or anyone who loves cats can find a wealth of feline facts in "The Original Cat Fancy Cat Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Cat" by Sandy Robins with Arnold Plotnick, DVM.

For dog lovers, select from "The Life and Love of Dogs" by Lewis Blackwell, a collection of hundreds of images of dogs accompanied by insightful and inspiring text, and Rebecca Frankel's "War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love," which Washington Post reviewer Jonathan Yardley calls "an exceptionally interesting and surprisingly moving book."

What are my dogs getting? Keeper is rocking a new blue leather collar with matching leash, Harper is going to Santa Fe with us for Christmas, and Gemma, well, she's tough to buy for. I'm still shopping.


Be choosy about

pets' chew toys

Q: One of my friends gave my Cavapoo an antler chew. It seems kind of hard. Is it safe for him to chew on? -- via email

A: We all know how puppies love to chew, and many dogs continue the activity into adulthood. In much the same way as some people bite their fingernails or twirl their hair, some dogs turn to chewing as an outlet for their energy or a way to reduce stress, especially when they're home alone. For other dogs, it's simply an entertaining behavior.

Dog owners are always looking for the perfect chew toy: one that will be safe for the dog to chew, that will hold his interest and that won't be destroyed too quickly. It's not always easy to find that perfect chew. A real area of concern is broken teeth, especially with dogs who chew aggressively.

Excessively hard chew toys are a common cause of broken teeth in dogs. A broken tooth is extremely painful and can sometimes become abscessed. I believe that hard plastic or nylon chews, sterilized bones, cow hooves and antlers are too hard to be safe for most dogs. Rule of paw: don't buy any chew toy that you wouldn't want to be whacked in the knee with.

Instead, I recommend buying chew toys that have some flexibility or "give" to them, even for large, powerful dogs. Give big-time chewers large toys that don't fit all the way in the mouth. It's better to replace chew toys more frequently than it is to have to spend hundreds of dollars to have your veterinarian repair or remove a broken tooth. Hard chews such as deer antlers can also cause bleeding in the mouth or internally if they splinter and blockages if swallowed, two more reasons to avoid them. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


Cat and ferret food

products are recalled

-- Natura Pet Products is recalling some dry cat and ferret food because it lacks sufficient levels of vitamins and contains excess minerals. The recalled products are EVO Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Formula dry cat and kitten food in 15.4-pound bags, UPC number 5148 541402, expiration date Feb. 19, 2016; the same food in 2.2-pound bags, UPC number 5148 541400, expiration date Feb. 20, 2016; and EVO Grain Free Ferret Food in 6.6-pound bags, UPC number 5148 542101, expiration date Feb. 19, 2016. These products were sold in California, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Canada and online. No health concerns from eating the food have been reported. Return the food to the seller for a refund. For up-to-date information on recalls, follow @AVMARecallWatch on Twitter.

-- A Japanese Chin named Esme is recovering from a groundbreaking heart surgery to repair his mitral valve and replace the chordae tendineae, also known as heartstrings. Japanese veterinary cardiologist Dr. Masami Uechi performed the surgery Nov. 19 at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. It was the first time the operation has been performed in the United States. If it is successful, it holds out hope -- albeit expensive hope -- for other dogs with mitral valve regurgitation. Breeds that are often afflicted with the condition include Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Chihuahuas and dachshunds.

-- A stray dog who fell in with a Swedish adventure team during an endurance race in Ecuador now has a new home. After they gave him a piece of meat, he decided he was onto a good thing and followed them for the remainder of the race, including swimming after them down a river until they hauled him into a kayak. After the race, athlete Mikael Lindnord adopted the dog, now named Arthur.


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.


Caption 01: Your pet can supervise while you decorate the tree and will have fun with empty boxes as gifts are unwrapped. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: An 8-year-old Japanese Chin is home and recovering well after undergoing a seven-hour surgical procedure to repair a defective heart valve. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 2