New products can help you give your friends better care

The multibillion-dollar pet industry keeps coming up with ways to make our lives with animals better.

Some are toys, some are veterinary products, some are home and pet-care items.

I see them throughout the year as I travel to trade shows and veterinary conferences, and I try them out myself when possible or get my colleagues’ input.

Here are 11 new products that I think are winners.

▪  KittyKaddy Double Diner and Torus Ceramic Diner. As I age – I just turned 60 and feel stiffer – it becomes harder to bend over. That’s when devices like this, which let you fill and clean pet food and water bowls without bending over, catch your eye. A long, detachable handle allows you to pick up the bowls easily.

▪  Zen Clipper. Most nail clippers either crush part of the nail when cutting or make it too easy to cut too close and hit a blood vessel or nerve. Ouch! The Zen Clipper slices the nail 360 degrees at once while preventing you from trimming too much.

▪ Tidy Cats LightWeight. Do you feel like you get a workout every time you pick up a container of cat litter? The folks who originated cat litter 50 years ago have developed a new litter that is lighter and more absorbent. Now my 89-year-old mother-in-law, Valdie, feels like Popeye as she carries a jug in each hand.

▪  Muffin’s Halo. I have a blind 14-year-old golden retriever, Shakira, who looks a little funny running around Almost Heaven Ranch in angel wings and a halo, but the halo protects her face and eyes the same way a face guard does on a football helmet. Now I don’t have to worry that she’ll hurt herself running into things.

▪  Ultra Fel-O-Vax. Cats are small and vaccine volumes seem big, especially as they’re being injected. Ultra Fel-O-Vax has only half the volume of normal vaccines, making for a more comfortable vaccine experience. That’s what I call state-of-the-art technology with state-of-the-heart comfort.

▪ Galaxy Wands. Older cats seem to become kittens again when they play with these wands that mimic the movements of prey. I like the collapsible handles, which make storage easy – assuming your cat lets you put it away.

▪ Ultra Duramune and Bronchi-Shield Oral. These vaccines for dogs improve comfort level in two ways. Ultra Duramune has only half the volume of normal vaccines, so the injection doesn’t last as long, and Bronchi-Shield Oral slides down the throat, preventing the gagging that often occurs during intranasal canine cough vaccines.

▪  Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee. Talk about a brainteaser! This twist on a puzzle toy engages a dog’s senses of sight, hearing and smell as he works to release the treats inside.

▪  Apoquel. There’s almost nothing worse than an itchy dog. This anti-itch medication is so powerful that the misery some dogs have endured for years is gone after the first dose. (Tip: Always read the label with your veterinarian to make sure a particular medication is appropriate for your dog.)

▪ Chuckit! Max Glow Kick Fetch. Nobody wants to come in from playing just because it’s dark, and that includes dogs. This ball not only glows in the dark, it has a special grooved design that makes it easy to pick up. Play on!

▪ Bissell PowerGlide Pet Vacuum. Everybody needs a vacuum cleaner, but this one has special features for pet owners: It picks up more dirt and hair, swivels around your furniture (where pet hair often collects), and has a filtration system to help reduce allergens. Plus $10 from each purchase ($20 in December) goes to the Bissell Pet Foundation to help homeless pets. That’s a win-win.

The buzz

Frank and Louie had two faces but only nine lives, and he lost his last one on Dec. 4, reports Kim Ring for the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The unusual cat, owned by Martha Stevens, held a Guinness World Record for being the oldest of his kind. Most Janus cats – so-called after the two-headed Roman god of beginnings and passages – die shortly after birth, but Stevens tube-fed him until he learned to eat on his own. Frank and Louie had two noses, two mouths and two functioning eyes, plus a blind center eye, but only one brain.

▪  Is your dog overweight? He might not have the right bacteria in his gut.

A report published in November in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that the beagles in the study who gained weight had less diversity of bacteria in their guts than the dogs who ate restricted amounts of food to maintain optimal body condition. The lean dogs also had different types of microbes. It may be that too much of certain types of bacteria can lead to body chemistry changes that cause obesity, but more research is necessary before that can be confirmed.

▪  Maine coon cats, despite their name, aren’t the result of a fling between a cat and a raccoon.

American originals, they were developed in New England as all-purpose farm cats and companions. The winner of the first cat show held in the United States was a Maine coon named Cosey, an apt name for these large, fluffy cats with easygoing dispositions. Maine coons are best known for their striking tabby coats, but they also come in many other colors and patterns. Not surprisingly, they are the official state cat of Maine.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian

Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.