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A visit from a dog, cat or other pet can make a bad day disappear. That’s especially true if you are a resident in a nursing home or a patient in a hospital. The experience of visiting with a therapy pet can soothe frazzled nerves, revive dormant memories and bring smiles and laughter in places where those things are often in short supply.

We are so fortunate that our dogs and cats are living longer than ever before and have access to the highest levels of veterinary care. At some point, though, just as with people, nothing more can be done. That doesn’t always mean that euthanasia must be the next step.

I’m always on the lookout for great new products that can make life with pets easier and better. When I find them, I want to share them with you, and I ran across some doozies in July at SuperZoo, a pet retailer trade show in Las Vegas. I asked some of my colleagues about their favorites as well. Some are brand new and some are tried and true. Here’s a sampling of what we like best.

We are big fans of adopting from animal shelters. We each have two dogs acquired from shelters or rescue groups. They are all the absolute best – not that we’re biased or anything.

They aren’t at the level of cats and dogs yet, but reptiles are scaling upward in popularity.

“Did you know?” That’s always a great conversation starter, especially when it’s about our pet pals.

We can stream movies at any time of day or night, order books or small kitchen appliances for next-day delivery, or send off for a dozen pairs of shoes for in-home try-on, free returns guaranteed. The Internet allows us to acquire all kinds of goods at a speed undreamed of less than a decade ago. So why not pets?

It’s summertime, and that means it’s time to get in the water. And what water-loving dog owner doesn’t throw tennis balls for Jake to fetch from the pool, take him to the beach or have him as first mate while power-boating, sailing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding?

Melissa Duffy was driving away from her home in Carlsbad when she glanced in the rearview mirror and saw that the horizon was black with smoke. It was the Poinsettia fire, one of 11 fires raging in San Diego County just two weeks ago.

When you think something’s wrong with your dog or cat, the first thing you do is Google the symptoms. Am I right? I bet I am.

Last month, the folks at Banfield Pet Hospital, who care for more than 2.7 million pets nationwide, including 470,000 cats, released their 2014 State of Pet Health report. It included a startling statistic: a 48 percent increase in the prevalence of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection in cats seen at Banfield’s more than 850 hospitals.

About three years ago, my wife and I “happened” upon some chickens. We read up on chicken husbandry, built a coop and drove over to bring home our new flock in cat carriers. Here’s the upside and downside to chicken ownership.

How much do you know about dogs? Take this quiz and find out. The answers are at the end. Feel free to consult your dog if you’re not sure of the answers.

Are there straitjackets for dogs? That’s what I’ve been wondering lately as we struggle to medicate the ears of Keeper, one of our cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Every year, I go to Global Pet Expo, the industry’s largest trade show. Every year, I think it can’t possibly have anything new and that spending on pets can’t possibly continue to rise. And every year, I am wrong.

Standing on her hind legs, paws posed prettily in front of her, with a pleading expression that could melt the hardest heart, our dog Harper has been the focus of many photographs as we dine outdoors in Laguna Beach. Passers-by ask in awe, “How can you resist that face?” My husband and I just laugh.

If you have a pet, spring gardening can bring a great deal of frustration. The owner of a Labrador retriever, who wishes to remain unnamed, planted 100 gladiola bulbs. When she was done, she went into the house to clean up – while her dog dug up all 100 bulbs.

During each of my animals’ illnesses, they were cared for by the best veterinarians, but once I got them home from the hospital, I sure could have used “The Feel Better Book for Cats & Dogs.”

Does your shelter have a kitten nursery? It’s one of the trends in the shelter community’s efforts to save more animals, especially those who typically aren’t considered adoptable.

If you got a puppy during the holidays, you’re probably starting to wonder when you should have your young pal spayed (removal of ovaries and uterus) or neutered (removal of testes).

A few months ago, I wrote about our foster cavalier, Kibo. Since then, Kibo – now Keeper – has become a permanent part of our family, and I’m happy to say that he’s adjusting nicely.

Have you ever wondered what show dogs do in their down time? Well, they’re not lolling around on the sofa and eating doggie bonbons. They’re out there making therapy visits, helping kids learn to read, keeping an eye on their owners’ health and doing brain research.

Paw maintenance is one of the most important aspects of grooming your dog. That includes trimming the nails regularly, trimming the hair between the toes or on the bottom of the feet, and protecting the pads from injuries such as burns and bruises. It’s also one of the more neglected areas of grooming.

Can your ferret play basketball? Your rabbit race through weave poles? Your pot-bellied pig complete an obedience routine? Well, why not?

With the Midwest and Eastern U.S. experiencing deep freezes this winter, plenty of dogs and their people will either be reveling in the snow or huddling by the fireplace trying to stay warm.

Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes and, increasingly, pet food and treat recalls. There were 33 in 2013. On average, that’s one every 11 days.

Got your New Year’s resolutions ready yet? Yeah, we don’t either. A good place to start, though, is with your pet. Helping your cat or dog change his life for the better has benefits for both of you.

Would you let someone else choose a dog for you? I have done so twice, and both times I hit the proverbial jackpot.

Signs that your cat or dog has a painful mouth are sometimes obvious, sometimes not-so-obvious. Learn about some of the conditions that might be causing the problem.

One of my most memorable holiday cases was the Labrador retriever puppy (what else!) who had swallowed an entire string of Christmas tree lights. When he was brought in, gagging, I opened his mouth and could still see the plug, far in the back.

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