WSU veterinarians make list of top five pet gifts

A dog with a chew toy
Most WSU veterinarians agree, exercise in general may be the best and cheapest gift of all.

Veterinarians at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital have compiled a list of the top five gifts to improve pet health this holiday season.

“This time of year, we always take the opportunity to give to our pets. Why not give them something that keeps on giving year round?” said Dr. Jessica Bell, a small animal veterinarian at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

#1. Annual Check‑Up

There is no better gift for your pet than an annual wellness exam.

Veterinarian Jessica Bunch, WSU’s Integrative Veterinary Medicine service coordinator, said while many pet owners put off routine check‑ups, screening for disease and other complications annually is the best way to ensure your pet is in good health.

“It’s not a ball or a bone, but it could be what keeps your animal in good spirits and keeps them around longer,” said Dr. Bunch.

For senior pets, Bunch recommends a wellness exam every six months.

#2. Tough Exercise Toys and Swag

Most WSU veterinarians agree, exercise in general may be the best and cheapest gift of all.

So, if you purchase a toy for your pet, get something that will encourage physical activity.

“Every pet owner knows their animal best, but a durable ball like the Kong brand or a frisbee is usually safe,” Dr. Bell said. “Or anything with catnip for our feline friends.”

It’s important to read toy reviews and try to avoid toys that can break down or be ripped apart.

“The last thing you want is part of your gift to become ingested and result in an emergency trip to the veterinarian,” Dr. Bell said.

#3. Brain Games

Food-dispensing toys keep pets entertained and inspire mental stimulation and weight management. Dr. Bunch said by using food-dispensing toys pets also learn they need to earn their treat.

Toys like the Kong™ are well known, but interactive toys like the Pickle Pocket™, Kibble Nibble™ and Tug‑a‑Jug™ are now flooding the market.

Snuffle mats are another interactive tool that owners can give their dogs.

The mat forces dogs to use their nose to find their food, thereby serving as an interactive sniffing device; It’s designed to mimic how dogs once hunted in grass and fields.

Bunch said snuffle mats also slow how fast a dog consumes their food, which limits choking and vomiting.

#4. Pet Insurance

For many veterinarians, one of the top gifts an owner can get their pet this holiday is health insurance.

“It may not sound like a fun gift, but, especially during these difficult times, it’s a gift that could save the owner a lot of money on major pet medical costs during their life,” said Bunch.

Dr. Bunch said the monthly premium is highly variable depending on breed and location, but there are dozens of quality pet insurance providers.

Bunch said she’s witnessed the benefits of pet insurance first-hand.

She said for many providers, once a pet has a pre‑existing condition, they will no longer qualify for insurance for that condition, but they will qualify for any new conditions or injuries.

#5. A New Bed

Just like in humans, a little padding for a pet makes a world of a difference and a good night’s sleep is critical to physical and mental health.

Bell said it is important cats and dogs have their own bed so they can be comfortable in the home.

Bell said beds are especially significant for elderly pets that may have osteoarthritis.

By keeping pets off the floor, Bell said it limits calluses and makes for an overall happier animal.

Bunch said animal owners can find a variety of beds, including orthopedic and heated beds which can especially be beneficial for arthritic pets.

She reminds owners it’s best to choose a bed that can be cleaned easily.

Media contacts:

  • Josh Babcock, College of Veterinary Medicine Communications, 509‑339‑3423,

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