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

Paw-liday Gift Guide

What to put under the tree for your dog or cat to unwrap: 12 perfect pet presents

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

While most of you were out shopping on Black Friday, we were deliberating over the best toys, treats and trappings for good dogs and cats. (That would be all of them, of course.) Based on our finds from walking miles and miles at Global Pet Expo earlier this year, trawling online sites, investigating pet supply store aisles and questioning pet-loving friends, we came up with 12 great gifts your pet will be happy to unwrap during this festive season.

-- Wish your little dog didn’t have to miss out on long hikes? Pack her on your back in Kurgo’s sturdy G-Train K9 Pack. Holds dogs up to 25 pounds, with side and zippered pockets for gear. $130,

-- Your feline superhero needs a luxury lair where she can plot her next foray against agents of evil, er, dogs. All the best hideaways are ecofriendly and chill, much like the felted wool Cat Cave, colored with nontoxic dyes. $70,

-- With their erratic flight and bounce, Rogz Pop-Upz present dogs with an intriguing puzzle: Where will they land? But whether you toss them on the ground or in the water, the durable toys always land right-side-up for easy grabbing. Medium, $10.99, large, $13.99,

-- Catch your cat’s attention with the beautiful handcrafted “flies” that go with the extendable Neko Flies Ultimate Rod. Cats will love the dynamic and realistic movement of their “prey,” and you will love the durability. Ultimate Rod, $40; flies, $11 to $16 each;

-- Who doesn’t love a good massage? Your dog will melt beneath the relaxing motion of the PetWell therapeutic massagers developed by certified canine rehab veterinarian Amanda Hensley. With five different designs for different purposes, including grooming and tension relief, choose the one your pet needs most or get them all. $15,

-- Catch as cat can? Give your indoor cat the opportunity of a lifetime: catching a mouse! An electronic mouse, that is. With Mousr, your cat can pit himself against a self-driving electronic mouse that operates on any household surface, zigging, zagging and righting itself as needed. Bonus: customizable, replaceable tails. Mousr has a battery life of 40 minutes and a wireless range of 32 feet. $185;

-- Toss your dog a treat, learn that he’s barking because your house is on fire (true story!) and livestream his activity during the day -- even when you’re away from home. The Furbo dog camera and treat dispenser allows you to toss treats via the free app, receive pet “selfies” or notifications that your dog is barking, or subscribe to activity alerts that can let you know if your dog is chewing on cords or displaying signs of separation anxiety such as frequent pacing or licking. Starting at $169;

-- Want to let your dog dispense his own treats? Introduce him to the Push-N-Pop, an interactive food/treat dispenser that releases kibble or treats whenever your dog nudges it. It’s a great way to keep him entertained and active during the day. $30,

-- Build your cat a custom playground with Catit modules. Interactive pieces include a fountain, food tree, track, digging tubes, grass planter and more. $15 to $30,

-- Got a digger and want to save your yard? The iDig by iFetch gives your terrier or other digging dog an outlet for his natural behavior. Load it with treats or toys and then let your pup figure out how to get at them. Get iDig Stay for at-home play by aggressive diggers or the soft iDig Go for travel or for less enthusiastic diggers. $80,

-- Get your cat in the Christmas spirit with a tree-shaped cave felted from Himalayan wool. The lanolin scent is one that cats love, and they will feel safe in the cozy den. $90,

-- Unless you live somewhere warm, your dog will probably have to wait to splash in this item, but once it’s warm enough, he’ll love the DOOG Pop-Up Pool, available in three sizes. $45 to $60,


Signs of cancer

to watch for

Q: The breed of dog I have is prone to cancer, and it scares me. Are there signs I can watch for to help catch it early?

A: That’s a smart move on your part. In the early stages, cancer is often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Among the signs to watch for are soft lumps or bumps on the skin; lameness; swelling or cysts along the mammary chain; unexplained weight gain or weight loss; bleeding or other discharge from the mouth, eyes, nose or urogenital area; blood in the urine; sores that don’t heal; difficulty chewing or swallowing; a bad smell in the mouth or anywhere else on the body; loss of energy; bleeding or broken toenails; and swollen or rapidly enlarging lymph nodes.

Many breeds, as well as mixed breeds, are prone to various types of cancer. We see cancer more commonly in dogs as they age, but it can certainly occur in younger dogs. Common cancers include squamous cell carcinoma of the nail bed (between toenail and toe), melanoma, fibrosarcoma of the mouth, osteosarcoma (bone cancer), mammary tumors, lymphosarcoma and cancer of the bladder or urethra.

Different breeds may be prone to different types of cancer. We often see mast cell tumors in boxers, histiocytic sarcoma in Bernese mountain dogs, lymphoma in golden retrievers and osteosarcoma in Rottweilers and greyhounds. Black standard poodles appear to be more likely than lighter colored poodles to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the nail bed. Two other black-coated breeds with increased risk of this type of cancer are briards and giant schnauzers, so in some instances, genes that influence development of this type of cancer may be riding the coattails of coat color genes.

Regularly running your hands over your dog’s entire body and paying attention to differences can help ensure that your pet gets an early diagnosis and treatment. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Drug in development

may help humans, dogs

-- In a pre-clinical trial, a drug called Ropesalazine helped improve cognitive function of six companion dogs experiencing severe cognitive dysfunction, according to the manufacturer, GNT Pharma in South Korea. The dogs, whose signs included disorientation, changes in their sleep/wake cycle, increased house soiling and altered interactions with family members, returned to normal cognitive function and interactions after eight weeks of daily administration of the drug. Ropesalazine is intended to prevent inflammation and free radicals that contribute to nerve cell death, amyloid plaque production and neurofibrillary tangle formation. It is being studied for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in humans and may become available for use in companion animals next year.

-- Pet ferrets in North America are at risk for genetic disorders and disease because of a lack of genetic diversity, creating a genetic bottleneck. Researchers at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Wyoming are seeking to understand genetics of domestic ferrets with the goal of treating and preventing disease more effectively. Their findings, published in the journal Evolutionary Applications, determined that North American ferret breeding programs would benefit from introduction of more genetically diverse European ferrets as well as minimizing inbreeding among the animals.

-- The Million Cat Challenge, created by veterinarians Julie Levy and Kate Hurley, set a goal to save shelter cats from unnecessary euthanasia. Their five-year campaign, from 2014 through 2018, was intended to improve the health and ensure the adoption of shelter animals. They succeeded. So far, more than 1,000 shelters together have saved more than 1,500,000 cats, using techniques that include providing alternatives to giving cats up to shelters, removing barriers to adoption, and spaying or neutering, vaccinating and returning unowned cats to their colonies instead of killing them. The final tally will be released this spring. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel 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.