Many factors go into choosing a pet bed. The most expensive isn’t always the best choice, and what your pet prefers should be at the top of the list
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
When canine Juliet was going through chemotherapy, she experienced some nausea and threw up on her bed. Owner Cristi Bennett wasn’t fazed. Juliet’s bed was waterproof and made specifically for larger, older dogs.
“The memory foam is very thick, and the covering is very tough,” Bennett says. “Nothing soaked in, and it washed up very well.”
Washability is one factor to consider when choosing a pet bed. Size, shape and fabric are important as well.
Take size. The late Gemma, my 6-pound Chihuahua-mix, turned up her nose at the small, round, furry dog bed I offered her. Instead, she sprawled across a larger padded bed. Cavalier King Charles spaniel Keeper, who, at 16 pounds, is more than twice Gemma’s size, loves squeezing himself into that little round bed, though. Harper, a smaller cavalier, prefers a flat, furry, rectangular bed with little padding.
It’s not really a surprise that dogs and cats might be picky about what they sleep on.
“People have specific preferences for different kinds of beds, even though they may all have similar arthritis issues,” says Michael Petty, DVM, a pet pain specialist at Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital in Canton, Michigan. “Dogs are no different.”
He recalls buying a dog bed with inner coil technology that he thought would be perfect for his own dog, but she refused to sleep on it. She didn’t like the “springy” feel of the bed when she stepped onto it, and once she was on it, she found it difficult to stand up.
Shape is a factor, too. “Many dogs like to den and burrow in,” says Mikkel Becker, lead trainer for Fear Free and a Pet Connection co-author. “They like beds they can dig around in and snuggle into.”
On the human side, durability and cleanability are important.
Architect Heather E. Lewis of Animal Arts Design Studios in Boulder, Colorado, has seen an explosion in the number and types of cleanable fabrics.
“We find a lot of high-performance materials, fabrics and surfaces,” she says. “Because I have dogs and kids, I really appreciate things that are cleanable.” An antimicrobial fabric can be helpful if your dog has an oily coat that tends to have an odor.
Dogs appreciate comfortable fabric, too. “Most will bypass harder materials for softer beds,” Becker says. But pay attention to the material you choose if your dog is a chewer, she warns. “Many beds aren’t protected underneath, and dogs can chew them to pieces.”
Dr. Petty recommends going to the store and letting your pet try out several there.
“This may require several trips in,” he says. “Some pet stores or brands may let you have the bed for a trial period.”
Other features to consider:
-- Bolster or no bolster? For some dogs, a bolster provides a sense of security. “One of my dogs loves a bolster; the other would prefer to hang her head off the side of her bed,” Petty says.
-- Easily removable covers or entire beds that can be machine-washed. I throw my dogs’ beds into the washer weekly.
-- Impervious to liquid. “Many older dogs have constant or intermittent incontinence issues,” Petty says. “On the other hand, you don't want them sleeping on plastic. There are technologies that minimize absorption into the fabric.”
-- Bed height and the pet’s physical condition. Raised beds on frames look attractive, but a senior pet with arthritis may not appreciate the climb onto the bed.
-- Firmness. Like people, some pets like a soft mattress, while others prefer one that’s firm.
-- Placement. Cats will likely prefer a bed that’s up high. Access to one may keep them from sleeping on your head at night. Dogs who can’t be in the bed with you will appreciate being as near to your bed as possible. At least, that’s what my dogs tell me.
pets inhale, too
Q: I’m a smoker. Is it really bad for me to smoke around my pets? It’s not like they’re inhaling.
A: But they are inhaling. Exposure to secondhand smoke -- your exhalations -- as well as thirdhand smoke from lingering particles has a direct effect on pets. Among other things, they are at increased risk for certain cancers, as well as cell damage and weight gain, according to studies by the University of Glasgow and the University of California, Riverside.
Pets are “passive smokers” in that they are not only exposed to the smoke from cigarettes and pipes, but also because they are much closer to carpets, upholstered furniture and other surfaces where carcinogenic particles cling. They are more likely to lie on or even lick those areas. As cats groom themselves, they increase the amount of smoke and carcinogenic particles that go into their body.
The University of Glasgow studies looked at how much nicotine dogs and cats had in their hair, which shows how much tobacco smoke is entering the pet’s body. Veterinary oncologist Clare Knottenbelt, who led the studies, says in an email: “I was really surprised how much tobacco smoke some pets were taking in. When we looked at cats, we found high levels of smoke exposure even in cats that spent a lot of time outdoors.”
If you can’t give up smoking altogether -- the best protection for yourself and your pets -- you should stop smoking in any areas pets frequent, including family cars and outdoors. Human studies have shown that smoking by an open window or door doesn’t help, as it is more likely to mean that smoke blows into the room.
“If you are smoking outside, you should change clothes when you come back in to avoid exposing your pet to harmful carcinogenic particles,” Dr. Knottenbelt says. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
aid cat science
-- Researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University are seeking DNA samples from healthy cats older than 10 years old to add to their Feline Biobank. By comparing DNA from healthy cats with DNA from cats with one or more common diseases, scientists can better understand the role that genes may play in these conditions. This project could one day assist veterinarians in their ability to diagnose and treat common diseases. If you would like to offer a sample from your cat, email email@example.com for more information.
-- Most often pet owners worry about contracting ringworm, a fungal infection, from their dogs or cats, but the condition is zoonotic. That means it can be transmitted by animals to humans but also by humans to animals. Wendy Krebs, DVM, a partner at Bend Equine Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, advises that people with active ringworm infections should avoid touching dogs, cats or horses, or their animals’ grooming tools, until the lesions -- the areas of infection -- have been treated for three to four days with a topical antifungal medication.
-- Welcome with open arms any stray torties who show up on your doorstep. Good fortune comes with them if they decide to stay, according to Scottish and Irish folklore. That’s just one of the beliefs associated with the multicolored cats, whose coats are usually a patchwork of black and red. In the United States, tortoiseshells are nicknamed “money cats.” And dreaming about them is said to make the dreamer lucky in love. Not quite as charming, but still lucky, is the English superstition that rubbing a wart with the tail of a tortoiseshell cat -- still attached to the cat, of course -- will cause the wart to disappear. And in Japan, ghosts and other spirits don’t haunt homes with tortoiseshell cats. -- 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, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets 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.