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

Pet Gadgets Galore

From plush to pawsome, what we’re digging in dog and cat products

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Every March, pet product manufacturers converge on Orlando, Florida, to present their wares to buyers and media from around the world. More than 1,100 exhibitors displayed toys, beds, food and more last month at the Global Pet Expo, and we walked every single aisle -- more than once -- to make our picks of the cool, the comfortable, the innovative: the products that dog and cat owners will want to bring home to make their pets’ lives more enjoyable or their own lives easier. Here are our top nine picks.

1. Be ready for anything on a walk with the Compleash, which combines a nylon leash, a built-in 10-ounce capped water flask, and two stackable bowls that can hold food, treats or personal items such as cash, credit cards or keys. The containers are part of the leash handle, and a waste bag dispenser can be attached to the leash as well. (MSRP $24.99; sitstaygo.com)

2. Snake on a stick? The Elegant Snake cat toy by Be One Breed makes a crinkly sound when your cat pounces on it, and the handle allows you to wriggle it in a lifelike manner. Bonus: It’s filled with catnip. (MSRP $5.99; beonebreed.com)

3. Make your dog a treat master with Planet Dog’s GuRu interactive toy. Insert treats into five different openings and let your dog have at it. He’ll need to chew and squeeze the toy, which releases treats when the dog applies enough pressure to pop them out. (MSRP $18.95; planetdog.com)

4. Forever furless? That’s the dream of many dog and cat owners whose clothes and furniture seem constantly covered in hair. The Lilly Brush promises to pick up pet hair with just a few swipes across clothing, upholstery, rugs and more. No peeling off tape; just rinse and reuse. (From $12.95; lillybrush.com)

5. To help your anxious dog stay occupied while you’re running errands or busy around the house, spread peanut butter, squeeze cheese or scoop canned food on the nubbly LickiMat from Hyper Pet, freeze it to make the treat last even longer, and set it out. Your dog can get in his licks and maintain his interest for a long time. (From $5.99; hyper-pet.com)

6. Cats or dogs who scratch on furniture or at doors and windows to get out can cause a lot of damage that’s expensive to repair. Clawguard door and furniture shields protect surfaces without hurting pets. Sizes are adjustable, and covers come off easily when guests visit. (From $14.99; www.clawguard.com)

7. Have a bag of poop and no place to toss it, and you don’t want to put it in your car until you reach a spot with a trashcan? Enter the Tailgate Dumpster by Kurgo. The silicone holder attaches to metal vehicle surfaces (don’t try it on aluminum or fiberglass). Put your poop bag inside and drive away from the beach or hiking trail stink-free until you can dump your dog’s waste into a proper receptacle. (MSRP $20; kurgo.com)

8. If your aging cat is having accidents outside the litter box, it might be too difficult for her to get in and out of. The Kitty Go Here litter box, with its low entrance, is easy for cats of all ages and abilities to navigate, especially if they have arthritic joints or other health issues that inhibit their mobility. (From $15.99; kittygohere.com)

9. Travel in style with your 10-pound or smaller pet in the Madison carrier combined with the Pet-Trek 4-spinner-wheel folding trolley, both by A Pet With Paws. The eco-friendly carrier looks like leather but is made of recycled plastic bottles and has a breathable mesh back, side and top for easy entry and exit. The carrier can be pulled without tipping your pet backward, which is more comfortable and less frightening for him. (MSRP $169-$179, plus $49 for Pet-Trek; apetwithpaws.com)

Q&A

Rest, rehab, surgery

help dogs with IVDD

Q: My Lhasa apso has been diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease. What can you tell me about it, and will she need to have surgery?

A: We commonly see IVDD, as it’s called for short, in dwarf dogs such as dachshunds (who have 45 to 70 percent of all cases), poodles, Pekingese, beagles, French bulldogs and Lhasa apsos as well as in dogs such as German shepherds, Dobermans and cocker spaniels. Although the disc may rupture after a fall or jump, in most cases the “slipped disc” is a result of chronic disc degeneration.

Signs of disease -- pain, difficulty walking, muscle spasms or paralysis -- typically appear in small or short dogs when they are 3 to 6 years old. In breeds such as Labrador retrievers or German shepherds, signs usually occur at 5 to 12 years.

Genes play a role in development of the disease. Last October, researchers at the University of California, Davis announced the discovery of a genetic mutation across breeds that is responsible for dogs developing chondrodystrophic features -- the shorter legs and abnormal intervertebral discs seen in low-slung, long-bodied dogs. They found that dogs with IVDD are 50 times more likely to have this mutation. Not enough is known yet about the prevalence of the specific gene in the affected breeds to be able to breed out the condition, but it’s a start.

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. In dogs with mild signs, the veterinarian may recommend pain medication and cage rest with slow, on-leash exercise only. When dogs don’t respond to conservative management or have severe signs, surgery is usually the best option. Some veterinarians use acupuncture and rehab techniques in combination with cage rest, analgesics and controlled exercise to help manage mild cases or to benefit dogs before and after surgery. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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

THE BUZZ

Pet travel safety

focus of new program

-- Animals traveling by air may have better protections with a new standardized global certification program developed by the International Air Transport Association. Based on IATA Live Animals Regulations, developed with input from veterinarians, animal welfare experts and government agencies, the program provides training and on-site audits by independent inspectors. In a statement, Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president of airport, passenger, cargo and security, said: “Animal owners and shippers rely heavily on airlines to carry their precious cargo. As an industry, we have a duty of care to ensure that standards and best practices are in place around the world to protect the welfare of these animals.”

-- If you haven’t taken a pet first-aid class, now is a good time to sign up for one: April is Pet First-Aid Awareness Month. Knowing how to stop bleeding, clean and bind wounds, recognize signs of shock and other emergency conditions, and what to keep in a pet first-aid kit can help to save your dog or cat’s life. Courses are available from the Red Cross, humane associations and other organizations.

-- Does your dog or cat have a health problem that’s difficult to treat or about which little is known? You may want to see if there’s a veterinary clinical trial or study that needs canine or feline participants. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a health studies database (ebusiness.avma.org/aahsd/study_search.aspx) that allows pets and their owners to contribute to veterinary knowledge and maybe even get helped themselves. Current studies include a University of Pennsylvania study on the role of the microbiome in treating canine chronic enteropathy, and another on the use of noninvasive cardiac ultrasound for diagnosis and management of congestive heart failure in cats. Your veterinarian can help you decide if participation is a good choice for your pet. -- 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.