Universal Press Syndicate
Last week I wrote about the promising products that made me take notice as a practicing veterinarian. This week, my focus is on those nonmedical products that caught my attention as a pet lover and that will make taking care of your pet easier or more fun. Just as with the veterinarian breakthroughs, this week's products were gleaned from suggestions from more than 100 experts.
We have the full list of all my "Dr. Becker's Best" products on our Web site, PetConnection.com, so drop in for more information. (Prices can vary widely, so I've listed suggested retail.)
-- Food puzzles. Veterinary behaviorists say it's important to reduce or eliminate the mind-numbing boredom from just eating food out of a bowl. Boredom equals behavioral problems, and behavioral problem may mean a homeless pet. Food puzzles, such as these from Premier (www.premier.com), can help.
The Kibble Nibble appeals to dogs' natural prey and stalking drives. For the kibble or treats to dispense, dogs must roll, push and chase the toy. The Kibble Nibble holds up to 2 cups of kibble or treats. Unscrews for easy loading and quick cleanup. ($20)
The Bristle Bone is a refillable dental toy made with nylon bristles and rubber nubs that gently scrape and clean teeth as dogs chew. ($10-$15)
-- Easier nail-trims. Find the quick for a no-blood, no-pain nail trim with the Quick Finder nail clipper. The product has a light source mounted on it to shine through the nail and colors that tell you when it's safe to cut: red for no, green for go. (www.quickfinderclipper.com, $33)
-- Perfect portions, every time. Petmate's new Electronic Portion Control LeBistro measures meals just as carefully as you do, to ensure that your pet gets the right amount of food, right on time. Program it like an alarm clock, and it dispenses pre-set portions of food up to three times a day. The 5-pound capacity is ideal for those with cats and small dogs. (Petmate.com, $80-$90)
-- Promote prey play. Based on the preying and social behavior of dogs, the Flappy Dog toy simulates the excitement of catching a prey and proudly shaking it. This toy was a major hit with the Becker family dogs. (ourpets.com/products_flappy.html, $13-$17)
-- No more water slops. The DrinkBetter pet bowl encourages dogs to drink at a slower rate and makes less mess while they're doing it. The Drink Better bowl uses a floating obstacle to control the flow of water, encouraging dogs to drink slower and take only as much as they need, without soaking their ears and muzzles or slopping water around the feeding area. (contech-inc.com/products/drinkbetter, $25)
-- Get the pet hair. Eureka Boss 4D Pet Fresh vacuum comes with tools to help pet owners eliminate odors naturally and remove pet hair and dander from stairs, furniture and the floor. We've given this one a good workout, and it works. (Eureka.com, $138)
My Pet Connection co-author, Gina Spadafori, says if you're looking for a handheld, the new Dyson DC-16 kept up with the mess at her home. (Dyson.com, $150)
-- A party for pets. The Puppy Pinata is a plush toy containing treats that stimulate a dog's natural desire to search and investigate. Our dogs smelled the product through the packaging and got as excited about the pinata as a stick-swinging 6-year-old at a birthday party. (www.puppy-pinata.com, $7-$11)
-- Making balconies safer. A great idea, long overdue. Puppy Bumpers fit around the necks of puppies and small dogs to protect them from getting through baby gates and balcony railings. With so many people keeping small dogs in upper-floor apartments, this is one product that really could save a life. (puppybumpers.net, $20)
-- Food and water to go. The collapsible Zuka Bowl has colorful and fun prints and features a carabiner-type clip to attach it to a belt or bag. It'll also fit easily in a purse or in a car. (itzadog.com, $16)
With so many great products to choose from, it's hard to limit myself to just a few. But don't worry: We'll be writing about the best throughout the year.
Cat makes a fuss when owner leaves
Q: My cat, Misty, is like a little child. I am a nurse and work nights. When I put on my scrubs, she immediately starts to cry and grabs my ankles with all four paws. She does this only when I put on my scrubs, not when I dress in "street clothes." I keep a special treat to give her, but she still cries. How can I get her to stop? -- E.G., via e-mail
A: Misty has learned that when you put on scrubs, it means you're leaving the house. Many cats become anxious when they see suitcases or other signs that their people are leaving, and this may explain part of her behavior.
She also sees you putting on scrubs and begins to anticipate her treat. Her crying and grabbing your legs may be her way of demanding that treat from you. If you give Misty a special treat when you put on your scrubs and when she grabs your legs and cries, then she has good reason to continue or even increase this behavior. What gets rewarded gets repeated when it comes to pet behaviors. When our pets figure out what behavior works to get what they want or need, then you can be sure those behaviors will continue.
Try feeding Misty in another room when you put on your scrubs to give her something else to do. Your best bet is to completely ignore Misty if she does cry and grab your legs. Begin a daily routine at other times of interactive play with toys, and toss in her special treats at other times.
Be aware that any time a pet behavior that is well-ingrained no longer produces the expected results, that behavior may increase before the pet gives it up and tries a different strategy.
In other words, she may become even more demanding in the short run, but stick with it. No more treats for her leg-grabbing drama. -- Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp, AnimalBehavior.net.
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a monthly drawing for more than $1,000 in pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Dogs get help with Cushing's
Dogs with a hormonal disorder known as Cushing's syndrome have a new treatment option with FDA approval of the drug Vetoryl (trilostane), until now available only through a cumbersome importation process.
That's good news for dogs, says Dr. Helen Hamilton, a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist in Fremont, Calif. "I've been prescribing it for years," she said. "It's my drug of choice for Cushing's."
Cushing's is a disorder of the adrenals, small glands located at the top of the kidneys. They start making too much cortisol, a hormone meant to help the body cope with short-term stress. Excess cortisol causes symptoms like weight gain, lethargy, and increased thirst, hunger and urination. Left untreated, it damages the liver and immune system.
Surgery can cure some cases of canine Cushing's, but most are managed with drugs -- usually the chemotherapy drug Lysodren (mitotane), which erodes the outer layers of the adrenal glands and reduces their ability to produce cortisol. But the process can go too far, and dogs go from producing too much cortisol to producing none. They'll have to take a hormone supplement for the rest of their lives.
Trilostane instead inhibits an enzyme the glands need to produce cortisol. In most cases, excessive suppression of the hormone can be reversed simply by stopping the drug or lowering the dose, although there is still some risk of permanent damage.
"Lysodren is still valuable, and both drugs have their place," Hamilton said. "But trilostane has less risk of side effects and is a gentler drug." -- Christie Keith
Not too late for pet resolutions
With people watching their every penny, make preventing pet problems your focus in the new year. Some ideas:
-- Look before you leap. Choose a pet who fits your family and lifestyle well, and be sure you have time to handle training and behavior issues before you choose your animal companion. Make sure you understand what's necessary for your pet's nutrition, preventive health care and training, so you can set up your pet to start on the right track and stay there. Many pet problems are easier to prevent than to fix.
-- Work to keep your pet healthier and happier. Simple measures such as spaying and neutering and keeping your pet at a normal weight can prevent many serious health problems and improve your pet's quality of life. Ensuring that your pet gets enough exercise can go a long way toward helping with behavior issues and is good for the relationship you have with your animal companion.
-- Prepare for health emergencies. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian who'll answer your questions, present all options and support you in your decisions. Consider getting pet health insurance before you have a pet health crisis, or have another plan at hand in case you need to pay for a pet's accident or unexpected illness.
-- Be a responsible pet owner. Don't let your cats roam or your dogs bark constantly. Train and socialize your dogs so they can be "model citizens" wherever you take them. And pick up after your dog when walking him. All these actions help keep neighborhood relations nicer.
Don't forget that others are struggling now, too. So if you have some extra time or money, please share it for the good of animals and others who love them. -- Gina Spadafori
BY THE NUMBERS
What we like about our dogs
According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, here are the top reasons why dog lovers enjoy having a canine companion (more than one response allowed):
Source of affection 89 percent
Feel safe in home 83 percent
Beneficial to health 78 percent
Helps me relax 77 percent
Puppy teeth may need vet's help
If you have a puppy in your home now, you will be delighted to know that those sharp little baby teeth will be replaced by adult teeth by the age of 4 months -- going from 28 deciduous teeth to 42 permanent ones. But problems can occur with the changeover.
Sometimes baby teeth are retained after the adult ones come in, a situation that can cause many problems, including the misalignment of permanent teeth, incorrect development of the jaw, and infections. Check your puppy's mouth daily while adult teeth are erupting to ensure that the baby teeth aren't being retained -- a double row of teeth, especially in the front, tells you that they are.
Have your veterinarian check any suspicious developments. Baby teeth that refuse to fall out on their own may need to be removed by your veterinarian. -- Gina Spadafori
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.