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



Every year, I go to Global Pet Expo, the industry's largest tradeshow. Every year, I think it can't possibly have anything new and that spending on pets can't possibly continue to rise. And every year, I am wrong. At the annual show in Orlando, Fla., last month, over 3,000 new products debuted to an audience of more than 5,300 pet-product buyers from around the world. That's just astounding.

Even more astounding are the pet-related spending statistics. Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, says that last year, overall spending came in at more than $55.7 billion, up 4.5 percent from 2012. People spent the most on food, followed by veterinary care.

Something I think is really interesting is the projected growth in pet insurance. Spending is expected to grow from $650 million currently to more than $870 million by next year. Vetere attributes the continued growth in spending on pets to a recovering economy, increasing knowledge about the positive effects pets have on human health and, most important, concern for pets' well-being.

I have no doubt that the growth in spending is also related to the inventiveness of pet-product manufacturers. As my team and I made our way through the show hall, we kept our eyes out for innovative new products that help dog and cat owners solve problems and offer good value.

We're all seasoned veterinarians and pet professionals, so it's tough to impress us, but we found a number of products that met those criteria for our fifth-annual Becker's Best awards: the top 10 most interesting and useful products we see. We're sharing five with you this week and five next week. You can read more about the products and see photos of them on Let me know what you think!

-- PetSafe AutoTrainer. No, this collar-based reward system doesn't teach your dog to drive, but it does help to keep him calm and quiet while you're away. The collar unit transmits your dog's barks to a base unit through a detection system that understands only your dog's barks. If your dog doesn't bark, he's rewarded with a treat. You can set the number of treats and the frequency of rewards. ($199.99)

-- Dexas H-Duo Collapsible Companion Cup. This clever and colorful contraption is the perfect loving cup. On a hike or other outing, it allows you to carry one bottle of water with separate reservoirs for you and your dog. No more human cooties for your dog to worry about. ($19.99)

-- MagicLatch Leash Connection System. Three engineers and a dog walk into a bar. OK, that's not exactly how it happened, but that's the quartet who came up with this ingenious method for connecting leash to collar. If you have a squirmy dog or have ever tried to leash your dog while wearing gloves or holding a cup of coffee, you'll know exactly why they created it. Now, using only one hand, you can leash your dog quickly and securely, thanks to the power of magnets and securely locking jaws. ($19.99; for dogs up to 85 pounds)

-- Zen Clipper. Imagine trimming your pet's nails without running the risk of cutting the quick. Need I say more? ($19.99)

-- Motorola Scout1 Wi-Fi Pet Monitor Camera. What does your pet do while you're gone? Haven't we all secretly wanted to know? Now you can. Via an app, you can pan, tilt and zoom the camera, communicate with your pet, monitor room temperature, capture video or snapshots of your pet's routine, and even play soothing music. ($199.99)


Choice for pet care

is a personal one

Q: Our dog has been diagnosed with cancer. Her veterinarian referred us to an oncologist who says the disease is in its early stages and is very treatable with surgery and chemotherapy. We have pet insurance and can afford the treatment, but my friends think we're wrong to do so. They want to know why we'd put our dog through all that. We don't want her to suffer, but we love her and want to keep her around. Are we being selfish? -- via email

A: Eighteen years ago, our greyhound, Savanna, was diagnosed with bone cancer. The recommended treatment was amputation of her right rear leg, followed by chemotherapy. We were unsure that putting a 10 1/2-year-old dog through that was the right thing to do, but Savanna was otherwise healthy and we wanted to do all we could for her. I know a lot of people probably wondered why we would "put our dog through that," but the results spoke for themselves.

After a few weeks of a rocky recovery, Savanna was back to her old self and got around just fine on three legs, including going up and down our stairs. She lived another two and a half years, dying at 13 of old age.

I know lots of people are asked, "Why would you put a pet through that?" when their animals are facing cancer or other diseases or injuries that require surgery or other treatments that can have long or uncomfortable recovery periods. The best answer I ever heard, from an owner telling her dog's story at a conference of veterinary specialists, was "To save her life, pure and simple, and what a life she has. She has an awesome life."

Many dogs and cats come through treatment very well and enjoy a wonderful quality of life. There's nothing wrong with giving your dog the benefit of advances in veterinary medicine if you think that's the right thing to do for her. -- Kim Campbell Thornton

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Dogs remember and react

to owner's scent

-- When dogs encounter the scent of a familiar person, it activates an area of the brain associated with reward, more so than the scents of other people or of familiar dogs, say researchers at Emory University's Center for Neuropolicy. The results of a brain-imaging study of dogs responding to biological odors, led by neuroscientist Gregory Berns, appeared in the journal Behavioural Processes. "In our experiment," Berns writes, "the scent donors were not physically present. That means the canine brain responses were triggered by something distant in space and time. It shows that dogs' brains have mental representations of us that persist when we're not there."

-- If you want to impress your friends, the scientific name for that gummy mass you step in on the way to the bathroom at 2 a.m. is "trichobezoar," more commonly known as a hairball. It is made up of the excess hair your cat swallows when grooming, held together with a sticky mucus.

-- Cases of leptospirosis, a zoonotic bacterial disease, are on the rise in Florida, say veterinarians at University of Florida's Small Animal Hospital.

"In a typical year, we see almost no cases of leptospirosis in dogs at UF," says Carsten Bandt, DVM, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and critical care at the school's College of Veterinary Medicine. "We have now seen 12 cases, just within the past six months."

The disease affects multiple animal species as well as humans. Animals who spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in areas frequented by wildlife, are most at risk and should be seen by a veterinarian if they become lethargic, depressed, lose their appetite, vomit, have abdominal pain or fever, or urinate more frequently. -- Kim Campbell Thornton and Dr. Marty Becker


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.