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Playing Santa to your pet.

PLAYING SANTA TO YOUR PET

Whether they've been naughty or nice, pets have a way of showing up on our Christmas shopping lists. But don't expect more affection just because you stuff an expensive gift into his, her, or its Christmas stocking this year. You may be barking up the wrong tree.

The best gifts are from the heart. A kind word, a gentle pat, and a few extra treats will satisfy the ordinary pooch or pussycat. On the other hand, some pet gifts reflect the fantasies of their owners: a $479.99 leather-trimmed ranch-mink coat with matching cap (sold recently to a lucky pooch here in Amarillo, Texas); "Zsa Zsa' collars embellished with rows of flashy rhinestones; and lacy, ribbon-bedecked gingham panties.

The best-dressed cat this Christmas might sport Pet Decker's jaunty little bow tie (they're back in style again). Don't forget the latest in pet perfumes --Kennel No. 5 and Four Paws Cologne.

Last Christmas, two Manxes in my neighborhood received a three-story kitty condo equipped with scratching post and sleeping and hiding perches. The condo, covered in blue carpet, was thoughtfully treated with catnip.

Dogs may find equal pleasure in a solar-powered doghouse made to order for energy-conscious pet owners. Dogs in high-class neighborhoods may prefer custom houses from Animal Manors of New York City. Stock plans include the French Chateau, the English Manor, and the Swiss Chalet.

For pet owners who prefer more practical gifts, however, I recommend the following:

Identification tags--engraved with the pet's name, address, and telephone number.

A home dental kit--available from your veterinarian or pet store. The C.E.T. Kit from Veterinarian Prescriptions of Harbor City, California, contains enzymatic toothpaste (regular or malt flavored), a toothbrush, and the pamphlet Pets Have Teeth Too with instructions on cleaning methods.

A pet pedicure kit--contains a file and nail clipper specially designed for dog and cat claws.

A pet Port--an inexpensive pet carrier, similar to cardboard carriers, but made from washable, sturdy corrugated polyethylene.

Reflector leash and collar--advisable for dogs that like to walk in the evening or early morning.

Punching ball filled with catnip-- especially recommended for over-pudgy cats; it will provide hours of much-needed exercise.

Homemade treats--nothing says "loving' like doggie biscuits from your own oven:

1/2 package dry yeast

1/8 cup warm water

1 cup chicken stock

1 3/4 cups unbleached flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup dry milk

1 large egg (room temp.)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 tablespoon milk

Dissolve yeast in water. Pour mixture and chicken stock into dry ingredients. Add egg. Mixture should be the consistency of stiff dough. Roll dough out to 1/4 thickness. Cut out in shape of bone for fox terriers, sheep for collies, and ducks for Labrador retrievers. Brush with egg and milk; place on greased cookie sheet and bake in 300|F. oven 45 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cookies in oven overnight. Store in tightly closed container in refrigerator. Recipe may be doubled.

For pet owners who like to buy for the future, I recommend a gift certificate for an obedience class, or a health-insurance policy.

If your pet already has everything a dog or cat could want, try donating money or a piece of equipment in your pet's name to your local humane shelter or such organizations as:

Dogs for the Deaf, which rescues abandoned dogs from shelters and trains them to respond to needs of hearing-impaired individuals. Write to Dogs for the Deaf, 13260 Highway 238, Jacksonville, OR 97530.

Alternatives to Animals Research Fund (AARF) at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis.

You may even want to start a petvisitation program at your local nursing home or donate a book about pet care to your child's school library.

Creative ideas for pet gifts are limitless --so this year give a gift that contributes to the well-being and happiness of your pet or someone else's.

Questions for the Vet

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I have never offered my cats catnip, but I read a lot about it. Should they have catnip? Where can I buy it?

Ellen Avelon Memphis, Tennessee

Dear Ellen,

Catnip or catmint is the plant Nepeta Cataria, mildly intoxicating to about half of all cats. You can grow fresh catnip and dry it or buy small bags of dried catnip at your local pet store. Many people make toys stuffed with catnip for their cats. This might be a good Christmas project.

H.E.W.

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

We have a dachshund that has suffered many bouts of disc disease. After the paralysis of the last episode, we took the dog to a specialist for back surgery. Unfortunately, the damage was too severe to correct with surgery, and Pepper drags her back legs. We have learned to live with the situation by constant care. We bathe her frequently and have learned to express her bladder and give enemas when needed. However, she has rubbing sores on the top of her feet from dragging them. Y veterinarian has suggested a cart, similar to a wheelchair for dogs. Do you think it is worth the money and effort for a ten-year-old dog?

Ellen Bowman Washington, D.C.

Dear Ellen,

Pepper is very lucky to have such caring and concerned people as owners. I believe that the cart or modified canine wheelchair would be a worthwhile investment. It should be custommade for Pepper; therefore, I believe that your veterinarian is best qualified to work with you on fitting Pepper for the cart and ordering it. You might request a free brochure from K-9 Carts, 532 Newtown Road, Berwyn, Pennsylvania 19312. Louis McCoy, senior surgical technician at the Henry Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of the ASPCA in New York, makes custombuilt McCoy Wheelchairs for paraplegic pets.

H.E.W

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

My dog Duke has been blind for several years from cataracts. We recently moved to a new home, and he is having a terrible time finding his way around. I am now at the point of tying him to the back porch or having him put to sleep. What are your suggestions?

Douglas Wheeler Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Dear Douglas,

I suggest that you have a veterinary ophthalmologist at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Louisiana State University, check Duke's eyes to determine if the blindness is treatable. Cataract surgery for dogs is now a reality. If blindness is permanent, you might make Duke a "White Cane.' Write for a reprint of an article, ""White Canes' for Blind Dogs,' that appeared in Modern Veterinary Practice, March 1987, c/o American Veterinary Publications, 5782 Thornwood Drive, Goleta, California 93117. The author of this article designed two semirigid plastic "canes' mounted to a dog's leather collar. The canes extend past the dog's nose on either side of the head, and the dog feels slight pressure against its collar and hears a sound when it walks into a barrier.

H.E.W.

Photo: When Fido sees the gifts tagged for him on Christmas morning, will he bark for joy or try to hide under the bed?
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Author:Whiteley, H. Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Dec 1, 1987
Words:1184
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