Honest Kitchen’s Pet Holiday Gift Guide 2015

Should you get your pet any gifts this holiday season?

Personally, I am more of a fan of taking the money one would spend on gifts that a pet may not truly need and instead investing it in veterinary care or training.

According to the PetFinder, 63% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners surveyed give presents to pets for Christmas and $5 billion is spent on holiday presents for pets.  If you are planning to purchase any presents for your pets this holiday season, I suggest choosing those that provide value in yielding health benefits or making pets safer in your home or during travel.

Examination and diagnostic testing with your pet’s veterinarian

When did your pet last have an examination by a veterinarian?  I suggest my patients have an examination at least every 12 months.  Sick and geriatric patients and those taking medications should be examined every 6 months or more frequently.

As ailments can pop up at any point, it’s helpful to have a baseline of internal organ function which must be done prior to certain medications (pain medication, chemotherapy, etc.) being prescribed or pursuing anesthetic procedures (dental, skin mass removal, etc.).  Diagnostic tests like blood, urine, and fecal evaluations done every 12 months or more frequently can detect abnormalities in their early stages so that treatment can be pursued before ailments become severe.

Instead of buying that Louis Vuitton collar and leash you have your eye on, instead invest in the veterinary exam and diagnostic testing.

Dental health evaluation and cleaning

According to Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), “more than 80 percent of pets in the U.S. experience gum disease by age three.” The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) reports 4 out of 5 pets live with dental disease.  In addition to providing daily home dental care, owners should consider giving their pets the gift of a dental cleaning this winter holiday.

The most thorough dental cleaning is performed under general anesthesia, which allows for scaling under the gumline, thorough teeth polishing, x-rays (which reveal the attachment or lack thereof between the teeth and underlying bone), and as-needed dental extractions.  If your pet has only mild periodontal disease and no significant health problems and is cooperative for mild restraint, he may be a candidate for teeth cleaning without anesthesia (non-anesthetic dental) provided it’s done by a veterinarian or certified veterinary technician.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so many veterinarians run promotions on dental cleanings to motivate owners to get their pets’ teeth cleaned under anesthesia.  Spend less on pet gifts this Christmas and save for a dental visit in February.

The whisker fatigue-relieving Dr. Catsby bowl

Every so often, a novel product that can truly benefit a pet’s quality of life enters the market.  Most cat owners have likely observed their feline friend’s habit of leaving food at the edge of the bowl, scooping food out with a paw before eating it off of the ground, or skipping meals despite seemingly-hungrily hovering around the bowl.

Why do cats exhibit these behaviors?  It’s called whisker fatigue, where the pressure of a cat’s whiskers touching the sides of the bowl causes discomfort that leads to avoidance of the circumstance that creates an undesirable sensation.

This is where Dr. Catsby’s Bowl for Whisker Relief comes in, as it’s “wide but shallow shape provides easy to access to food without pulling back your cat’s whiskers” and causing discomfort.   Plus, the design is very aesthetically pleasing, the price is right (at $19.99), and the stainless steel finish helps deter bacterial growth and permits dishwasher cleaning.

ActivPhy joint support nutraceutical

Nutraceuticals are food-derived substances having a medicinal effect. Nutraceuticals that promote joint health are termed chondroprotectants (i.e., cartilage protectors).

My preferred chondroprotectant nutraceutical is ActivPhy, which contains glucosamine, MSM, vitamins (C, E, etc.), minerals (Calcium, Manganese, etc.), antioxidants (Selenium, Alpha Lipoic Acid, etc.), anti-inflammatory substances (turmeric, omega fatty acids, etc.), and other beneficial ingredients.  What really sets it apart from other available products is the inclusion of phycyocyanin, a blue-green algae extract scientifically proven to reduce production of the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme associated with canine arthritis.

Inhibition of COX-2 is commonly achieved by giving a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).  High and frequent dosing with NSAIDs can potentially cause mild to severe side effects, including vomit, diarrhea, decreased appetite, kidney and liver damage, and alterations in the blood clotting cascade.

In my canine patients, regularly using ActivPhy not only improves comfort and mobility but also permits smaller and fewer doses of NSAIDs and other pain-relieving drugs to maintain comfortable mobility and a good quality of life.  ActivPhy comes in large and small dog sizes, so there’s an option available to fit into any pooch’s stocking.

Vacci Check antibody titer test

Does your canine companion receive a distemper combination (often termed DAPP, DA2PP, or DHPP) vaccination booster whenever you receive a reminder that the “vaccine is due”?

Preventing our dogs from developing Distemper (CDV), Infectious Hepatitis (ICH), and Parvovirus (CPV) via vaccination is a crucial part of veterinary wellness plans, but the immunity created by previous vaccinations is often still sufficiently protective at the recommended booster time.

VacciCheck is an antibody titer test, which means your dog’s blood can be tested to determine the level of immune system proteins (antibodies) produced by CDV, ICH, and CPV vaccinations.

According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), “if the dog is already immune to these three core diseases, re-vaccinating will not add any extra immunity. The WSAVA supports the use of titer testing.”

Giving a single or multiple vaccinations in one setting could cause a Vaccine Associated Adverse Event (VAAE), which may be mild to life-threatening.  Performing VacciCheck helps reduce the potential for VAAEs, which is the smarter approach to your dog’s health than simply giving a vaccination without first determining a dog’s need for a booster via antibody titering.

Talk to your veterinarian about using VacciCheck to evaluate the immunity of your newly-rescued puppy or your senior dog who received DAPP vaccinations throughout his lifetime and now has chronic ailments (e.g., periodontal disease, arthritis, liver/kidney/thyroid disease, cancer, etc.) that is more at risk for VAAEs.

Honest Kitchen Quickies

I’m always striving to educate my clients the negative effects associated with providing too many calories to their pets.  Approximately 98 million pets (54% of dogs and cats) living in the United States are overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).  Obesity is completely preventable and has a variety of potentially irreversible health consequences, so feeding healthy, low-calorie treats can help to prevent your pet from packing on unwanted pounds.

Honest Kitchen Quickies are made of human-grade, dehydrated haddock and only have 1.1 calories each.  Where you would otherwise give your dog a few calorie-laden strips of faux-bacon treats chock full of feed-grade ingredients, sugar, artificial colors, and even cancer-causing preservatives (BHA, etc.), you can instead give a few single-ingredient Quickies and not exceed his daily caloric needs.  Quickies also make great treats for cats instead of the grain and meat-meal laden options you’ll find at the pet store or supermarket.  The cat version of Quickies are Honest Kitchen’s Smittens.

Each Quickie can also be used to promote your canine or feline companion to be better trained and stimulated to engage in exercise.  Have your pet sit, stay, and then pursue the Quickie that’s been tossed to the other side of the room.  Doing this ten times only provides 11 calories, reinforces good behaviors, and may even raise his metabolism.

The tubular shape of the Quickies’ dispenser also serves as a great attention getter for a cat or dog simply by shaking the contents and generating an intriguing jingle.  Quickies (and Smittens) would make a healthy stocking stuffer for any cat or dog this holiday season.

Don’t give a pet as a holiday gift

Finally, don’t give a pet for a holiday gift!  According to Dog Channel’s Dogs Surrendered for Reasons Unrelated to Pet, “86% of the surrendered animals were turned over due to owner-specific reasons”, which means that the owner elected to give up an animal for a non-pet specific (health, behavior, etc.) reason.  10% of the dogs were unwanted or incompatible with the household, 8% of owners had inability to care for the pet, and 6% had financial or home insurance policy restrictions.  When a pet is given as a holiday gift, it’s often a surprise and the parties ultimately responsible for providing ongoing care aren’t involved in the decision- making process and aren’t ready to undertake the long-term commitment that is pet ownership.

Keep the giving to one of the previously mentioned services or items listed above instead of giving the gift of a pet this holiday season.

For full disclosure, I work as a veterinary consultant for The Honest Kitchen, Spectrum Labs (makers of VacciCheck), and Chuck Latham Associates, Inc. (makers of ActivPhy), as my holistic veterinary practice has synergy with their perspectives and products.

Meet the Author: Patrick Mahaney

Dr. Patrick Mahaney VMD, CVA, CVJ is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist providing services to Los Angeles-based clients both on a house call and in-clinic basis. Dr. Mahaney’s unique approach integrating eastern and western medical perspectives has evolved into a concierge house call practice, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW), Inc. Additionally, Dr. Mahaney offers holistic treatment for canine and feline cancer patients at the Veterinary Cancer Group (Culver City, CA).

How to Keep Your Pet Safe in Cold Weather
Holiday Fare for Pets