Paws for Thought: Dear Santa Paws

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Janice Mitchell is a veterinarian with Island Animal Hospital and Little Current Veterinary Services, and she’s a beekeeper too!

Dear Santa Paws:

by Dr. Janice Mitchell

This past year our pets have seen their humans going through some new and strange rituals and sensing within their people high levels of anxiety. With their usual steadfast reliability, they continue to be by our sides, loyal, loving, providing joy and tapping off excess fear and stress like furry pressure relief valves. Pets are a medicine with no bad side effects. They can be deployed immediately and at literally no cost other than the ability to coerce extra treats out of us, or to take a healthy stroll with us. Thus, during these holidays, when we are reminded of all our loved ones and wish to bestow gifts on those who are near to our hearts, it is apt, of course, to think of ways we can bring a little joy and laughter into our four-legged companions. I thought a Holiday Gifts for Pets list was in order. 

To start off, I called our wonderful local pet store, Kat’s Pet Supply in Mindemoya, and queried as to what the current popular toys are. For cats, I was told that the classic “cat teasers” are invariably a hit. There are all kinds of versions but basically, it’s a toy attached to a nylon line on a wand. This toy, especially with the younger feline crowd, can turn living room tiger into a Siegfried and Roy show tiger—jumping, twisting, and sometimes cartwheeling to catch the ‘prey’ on the line. So much fun for kitty, so good for exercise, and lots of laughter for the human in charge of the wand. 

With regards to the canines, the crew at Kat’s informed me that the whole Kong line of chew toys is also a hit. The Kong toy, shaped like a snowman, has been around for four decades and is durable, safe to chew and slightly interactive as you can stuff the core of this hardy rubber toy. My favourite is to tie in another favourite treat for dogs, freeze dried liver Benny Bully’s, and use these to create a plug in the Kong. This keeps your pup busy for a while trying to free up those little delectable yummies. While in the Kong kingdom, I like their Zoom Groom brushes for both feline and canine. They are chubby bristled soft rubber brushes that give both species a wonderful massage as you brush, especially for the older pets that can’t move as much and a therapeutic massage will feel good for their weary muscles. 

Now, from the veterinary trenches, personally reviewed toys by my own pets or through staff pets include the chew toys and of course, toys that like to “make them move it.”

For the chewing category, as you may know, the more chewing on safe toys and treats, the healthier a dog’s and cat’s mouth will be. For dogs, Greenies seem to get a two paws up. These chlorophyll coloured soft edible treats that are shaped like a toothbrush are available in many sizes and it is important to match these up with the size of your dogs’ mouth. I always recommend to go with a larger size so that your dog has less of a chance of trying to swallow a big piece of Greenie whole. Cats like Greenies too, however the kitty version is obviously much smaller, similar to the large kibble size of the dental diets that exist on the market. Tartar Busters are also another great chewing aid for your dog. These oven-baked cow knee caps provide good scrubbing action on your dog’s molars as they try to gnaw and get a grip on a roughly round object. Again, select an appropriate size for your dog’s mouth and always monitor chew sessions in case of over-exuberance and thus swallowing larger pieces that won’t digest very well.

Any toy that stimulates your pet to move is always a prized gift. The more we all move our bodies, the better. This list would be very long indeed, but for the purpose of keeping the Expositor editors content, this vet narrowed the list down to some tried and true products. The Treat Launcher was nominated by one of our staff members. There are numerous models out there and essentially they are a hand held unit that, through spring action, catapults a treat in any direction you point. Make your pet run for its treats. I would do the same if someone tossed chocolate balls in my direction! Along the same lines, but a non -edible version, is the ChuckIt! ball and launcher. With its grip handle you’ll use the Chuckit! launcher dog toy to throw the ball two to three times further than you can alone. The rubber ball is the best ball for the game of fetch. The Chuckit! ball bounces higher, flies farther, and floats higher than most other balls. For kitty cats, as my own will contest, a laser toy is always good fun. Cats seem obsessed with trying to catch the animated red dot on the floor or wall. Two caveats with this one: don’t shine the laser light into their eyes, and let them catch the red dot occasionally otherwise they can get frustrated and give up. 

The Outward Hound Agility Kit for both indoors and outdoors is another physically and mentally stimulating game for you and your dog. My mother’s Havanese, Molly, received the indoor one last year for Christmas and she loves it!  t involves a little training with liver treats and a lot of laughs as these non-professional dogs may not weave the poles, or jump the hurdle, or even run through the tunnel as well as the President’s Choice Superdogs do. But the key point is, you are playing with them and that is what makes them happy! This year, Santa Paws is going to bring a Wobble Wag Giggle Ball which is a ball that makes fun giggly noises when pushed around, shaken around, or picked up by the easy grips, and no batteries are required!

Finally, keep holidays healthy for pets. During the holidays, pets are tempted to eat everything from people food to pine needles, brightly coloured glass bulbs and tinsel. Anchor the tree. Hang pet-safe ornaments at the bottom. Place netting around the base to prevent pets from drinking the water. And keep pets away from these items: alcohol, yeast dough, macadamia nuts, chocolate, coffee grounds and small bones. 

Merry Christmas, from my pack to your pack. Speaking of pack, I was asked to submit these Letters to Santa if I may:

Santa, I really have

had a great year

of love and exercise

and always good cheer

But alas, I must say

I’m stumped by this fox

who sneaks by my win


despite my barking lots

So what I would like

in my stocking this year

is some kind of back-up

to chase him from here

Love Willa, mixed collie, 

age 11 years


Merry Christmas Santa

What’s top of my list?

I want lots of kibble

I know you get my gist

You see, you and I

are two of a kind

once winter arrives

food is top of our minds

So please fill my dish

with endless kibble

I’ll buzz with pleasure

and not leave a dribble

Love Miss Bee, tortoise


age – a secret


How are you Santa

I’m so excited!

I meant to write sooner

I get so distracted.

There are new things to 


and new people, woo hoo!

I just love to play

and say ‘Hi’…don’t you?!

…oh right, so my list

now what was I saying

…wait, there goes the 


gotta go, time for 


Love Molly, Havanese

age 2 years