NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 13, 2013

Paw Prints: Merry gifts for furry friends

Paw Prints, Heidi Bassler
veterinarian

---- — ’Tis the season for shopping and sharing. Fido and Fluffy give you their unconditional love all year and want to be remembered this holiday season, too.

Here’s a list of gift ideas for your four-legged friends.

1. New bed. A fresh bed is so comfortable. Everyone’s mattress gets flattened and less soft with time; Fido’s and Fluffy’s is no different. If your pet is older, consider an orthopedic pet bed. These provide extra support and cushioning for achy joints.

2. Fresh water daily. This is so simple that it may sound like a silly gift idea. But pets really do appreciate fresh water. Fido and Fluffy cannot help themselves to tap water, so they rely on you to provide their favorite beverage every day. Ample fresh water is especially important for pets with underlying kidney disease, as they are more prone to dehydration if they do not drink a lot.

3. Quality food. Our pets want tasty, nutritious food, and they rely on you to make good choices for them. We all try to feed our pets well. However, the myriad of available pet foods can be mind-boggling. How do you pick a good one? Here are a few tips: Choose a brand that has its own manufacturing plant and doesn’t contract this ever-so-important step to a generic company. Make sure the company has board-certified veterinary nutritionists on staff. These specialists are veterinarians with substantial training in pet nutrition, and also who have successfully passed rigorous exams in this field. These veterinary nutritionists oversee the pet food recipes and manufacturing process to ensure the food is nutritious for your pet. Also, the food bag should state that it has passed AAFCO feeding trials. Otherwise, your Fido and Fluffy are the guinea pigs in the event there is a problem with the food.

4. Dental care. Fido and Fluffy love to be close to you. Foul breath is not a fair reason to turn them away. All pets deserve a pain-free mouth with fresh breath. Pets are prone to the same toothaches and periodontal disease that we are. Have your pet’s teeth professionally examined by a veterinarian, then start a daily routine at home to keep his mouth healthy.

5. Healthy, safe snacks. Everyone likes to give their little loved ones treats. Fido and Fluffy often struggle with their weight. Many treats are rich and can cause tummy upsets. Most fruits and vegetables are good options for dogs. Pieces of apple, baby carrots and even broccoli florets are favorites for many pooches. Grapes, raisins and onions are no-nos. If your dog is a carb lover, try air-popped popcorn or plain Cheerios cereal. Kitties often find a spoonful of plain canned pumpkin to be quite the treat.

6. Parasite control. No one wants bugs in them or on them. Your pets are no different. Fleas itch, and ticks spread nasty disease. Inside your pet, gut parasites can cause intestinal discomfort, and heartworms are life-threatening. Common parasites are easy to keep away with monthly medication. Ask your veterinarian for help in choosing the right products for your pet.

7. Grooming. A gift certificate for a day at the pet spa is a terrific idea. Fido and Fluffy feel like royalty when their coats are in tiptop shape. Be sure to keep up with mat removal and brushing out loose hair. A gentle hypoallergenic bath invigorates them and makes them feel extra-special. A good groomer will keep your furry friend’s nails trimmed. This will help prevent them from getting caught and torn.

8. More exercise. Make this your New Year’s resolution. Fido and Fluffy are terrific personal trainers. They will learn your new routine and prompt you to continue even if you begin to slack later in the year. Every dog loves to go for walks. If your pooch is too old and achy, talk to your veterinarian about how you can make him more comfortable so that he has a better quality of life. Even indoor cats appreciate physical exercise. Have some fun with cat toys, and encourage your kitty to play chase. Big pieces of cat furniture are often favorites, too. Your feline will stretch and climb and then watch you from his new lookout tower.

9. Outdoor gear. Many dogs need a cozy jacket during cold weather. If your Fido is acclimated to indoor temperatures, he’d appreciate a snazzy coat to keep the chills away. While you’re shopping for doggy gear, keep your eyes open for a reflective leash and collar. These can literally be lifesavers if your pooch is near traffic after dark.

10. Time with you. Remember that your pet’s world revolves around you. Nothing makes your furry friend happier than having extra hugs and snuggle time.

Happy holidays!

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Dr. Heidi Bassler practices at Bassler Veterinary Hospital (www.BasslerVet.com) at Crossroads Plaza in Salisbury. She hosts a radio show, “Your Pet’s Health,” every Sunday morning at 8:30 on WNBP 106.1 FM and 1450 AM. Do you have questions for Dr. Bassler? Send them to heidibasslerdvm@comcast.net.