By Dr. Laura Hady
The holidays are upon us and as we shop for others, we may want to celebrate the bonds we have with our pets. Being a pet owner and a veterinarian has given me some insight into affordable gifts that can be used for the fun, safety, health, and comfort of our critters. Here are a few that regularly make the top of my list.
- Leashes and harnesses. Although these seem boring, there are a plethora of attractive and customizable leashes and harnesses available that make great gifts. I prefer a 6-foot flat leash attached to a harness for walks. I also like leashes, dog collars, and harnesses that are reflective for better protection at dusk, dawn, and in the dark. These come in a variety of colors and can be personalized with a pet’s name.
- Dog and cat beds. Egg crate foam beds are wonderful for pet comfort because they keep pressure off of the joints. I like dog beds that are waterproof to prevent stains when accidents occur. Dogs enjoy beds that have a raised edge for them to lean against, and cats love nesting and tunnel beds, where they can cuddle up and hide.
- Gift certificates. Gift certificates for services such as grooming, training, or even animal massage can be wonderful for your friends and family who have pets, or as a gift from you to your dog or cat. Local groomers can estimate a price for a bath, clip, brush, and nail trim, which will keep pets looking great and make them more comfortable. There may be additional costs depending on the type of coat and length of time taken for the pet’s spa day. Basic obedience and agility training by a certified dog trainer is a gift that can last a lifetime and create a closer bond between a person and his/her animal pet or between a child and their new pet. Massage is also an excellent modality to give pets relief from sore muscles or joints.
- Pet treats. Why not bake or purchase unique healthful treats for your animal or for a friend’s pet? My dogs love cookies made with pumpkin, carrots, and apples. More can be found at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/pets/g23026561/homemade-dog-treats. Try to stay away from treats that incorporate rawhide and hard bones, or those with high fat content or spices, as these may not agree with a pet’s gastrointestinal tract.
- Sweaters and jackets. While not every animal needs extra protection from the elements, jackets and sweaters are practical for short-haired animals facing the cold, wind, rain, or snow. There are even cooling jackets available for hiking in the warmer months. Local artist Frances Zeller hand makes a wide selection of quality custom jackets and collars for dogs.
- Toys. I enjoy giving pet owners gifts of puzzle games and the book “Brain Games for Dogs” by Claire Arrowsmith. It has wonderful ideas for ways to stimulate pets’ minds while also building the human-animal bond. Avoid toys that a dog can tear up, choke on, or swallow. No one wants to spend part of the holiday getting a toy surgically removed with an endoscope. Also, avoid chew toys that could get stuck in the mouth or jaw. If your dog or cat likes to play with balls, make sure to put them away when you are not supervising the play.
Finally, consider donating money or gently worn pet items, such as clothing, towels, leashes, beds, and collars, to a nonprofit animal rescue or animal welfare organization in your area. Or, create a fundraiser for your favorite organization to help it through the critical winter months when rescue needs are high and funds may be low.
I know that whatever gift you give or receive this holiday will mean so much to others and our furry friends throughout the year.