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

TOP NEW PET PRODUCTS

10 New Products -- And A Bonus Item -- To Improve Your Life With Your Dogs And Cats

The multibillion-dollar pet industry keeps coming up with ways to make our lives with animals better. Some are toys, some are veterinary products, some are home and pet-care items. I see them throughout the year as I travel to trade shows and veterinary conferences, and I try them out myself when possible or get my colleagues' input. Here are 11 new products that I think are winners.

-- KittyKaddy Double Diner and Torus Ceramic Diner. As I age -- I just turned 60 and feel stiffer -- it becomes harder to bend over. That's when devices like this, which let you fill and clean pet food and water bowls without bending over, catch your eye. A long, detachable handle allows you to pick up the bowls easily.

-- Zen Clipper. Most nail clippers either crush part of the nail when cutting or make it too easy to cut too close and hit a blood vessel or nerve. Ouch! The Zen Clipper slices the nail 360 degrees at once while preventing you from trimming too much.

-- Tidy Cats LightWeight. Do you feel like you get a workout every time you pick up a container of cat litter? The folks who originated cat litter 50 years ago have developed a new litter that is lighter and more absorbent. Now my 89-year-old mother-in-law, Valdie, feels like Popeye as she carries a jug in each hand.

-- Muffin's Halo. I have a blind 14-year-old golden retriever, Shakira, who looks a little funny running around Almost Heaven Ranch in angel wings and a halo, but the halo protects her face and eyes the same way a face guard does on a football helmet. Now I don't have to worry that she'll hurt herself running into things.

-- Ultra Fel-O-Vax. Cats are small and vaccine volumes seem big, especially as they're being injected. Ultra Fel-O-Vax has only half the volume of normal vaccines, making for a more comfortable vaccine experience. That's what I call state-of-the-art technology with state-of-the-heart comfort.

-- Galaxy Wands. Older cats seem to become kittens again when they play with these wands that mimic the movements of prey. I like the collapsible handles, which make storage easy -- assuming your cat lets you put it away.

-- Ultra Duramune and Bronchi-Shield Oral. These vaccines for dogs improve comfort level in two ways. Ultra Duramune has only half the volume of normal vaccines, so the injection doesn't last as long, and Bronchi-Shield Oral slides down the throat, preventing the gagging that often occurs during intranasal canine cough vaccines.

-- Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee. Talk about a brainteaser! This twist on a puzzle toy engages a dog's senses of sight, hearing and smell as he works to release the treats inside.

-- Apoquel. There's almost nothing worse than an itchy dog. This anti-itch medication is so powerful that the misery some dogs have endured for years is gone after the first dose. (Tip: Always read the label with your veterinarian to make sure a particular medication is appropriate for your dog.)

-- Chuckit! Max Glow Kick Fetch. Nobody wants to come in from playing just because it's dark, and that includes dogs. This ball not only glows in the dark, it has a special grooved design that makes it easy to pick up. Play on!

-- Bissell PowerGlide Pet Vacuum. Everybody needs a vacuum cleaner, but this one has special features for pet owners: It picks up more dirt and hair, swivels around your furniture (where pet hair often collects), and has a filtration system to help reduce allergens. Plus $10 from each purchase ($20 in December) goes to the Bissell Pet Foundation to help homeless pets. That's a win-win.

Q&A

Bite prevention basics

keep everyone safe

Q: I have a tiny dog who goes everywhere with me. People always want to pick him up and hold him. He likes attention, but I'm always worried that he might bite if he is startled or accidentally handled roughly. Do you have any tips on how I should respond when people ask to hold him? -- via email

A: We understand. We all have at least one small dog, so we know how irresistible they can be to others. It's OK to let people admire and pet your dog, and you can take the opportunity to let them know the best ways to handle dogs. This is an especially good lesson for kids; they'll soak it up and share it with their friends. Here are some tips to help make sure everyone stays safe:

-- Give him space. Ask people not to get in your dog's face. Explain that dogs are uncomfortable when their space is invaded that way. When people want to kiss or hug your dog, have them scratch him on the chest, behind the ears or beneath the chin instead.

-- Pickup lines. Most dogs aren't crazy about being picked up and held by strangers. They'll squirm to get free or look away from the person in the vain hope that she'll disappear. Suggest that the person pet the dog while you hold him. If a young child wants to hold the dog, have the child sit on the ground or on a sofa with the dog next to him. That way you don't have to worry that he'll drop your dog or hold him incorrectly.

-- Treat tip. When people want to give your dog a treat, first make sure it's something you approve, and then ask them to offer it with their palm up and flat. Your dog is less likely to nip any fingers that way. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

Famous Janus cat

passes at age 15

-- Frank and Louie had two faces but only nine lives, and he lost his last one on Dec. 4, reports Kim Ring for the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, Massachusetts. The unusual cat, owned by Martha Stevens, held a Guinness World Record for being the oldest of his kind. Most Janus cats -- so-called after the two-headed Roman god of beginnings and passages -- die shortly after birth, but Stevens tube-fed him until he learned to eat on his own. Frank and Louie had two noses, two mouths and two functioning eyes, plus a blind center eye, but only one brain.

-- Is your dog overweight? He might not have the right bacteria in his gut. A report published in November in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that the beagles in the study who gained weight had less diversity of bacteria in their guts than the dogs who ate restricted amounts of food to maintain optimal body condition. The lean dogs also had different types of microbes. It may be that too much of certain types of bacteria can lead to body chemistry changes that cause obesity, but more research is necessary before that can be confirmed.

-- Maine coon cats, despite their name, aren't the result of a fling between a cat and a raccoon. American originals, they were developed in New England as all-purpose farm cats and companions. The winner of the first cat show held in the United States was a Maine coon named Cosey, an apt name for these large, fluffy cats with easygoing dispositions. Maine coons are best known for their striking tabby coats, but they also come in many other colors and patterns. Not surprisingly, they are the official state cat of Maine. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

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 Vetstreet.com 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 Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

CAPTIONS AND CREDITS

Caption 01: These products help pets and their people live better. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: The sturdy Maine coon is dressed for cold weather with a neck ruff, "britches" on his legs, tufted feet and a big, bushy tail. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 3