Christmas is just around the corner and in our house (Perry Jameson), even the pets get presents. When looking for what to give our furry family members as a Christmas gift, I put the same amount of thought into it as I do the rest of the family.

I hope to find something they will enjoy, something that will promote their health (if possible), and something that is safe.

Here are some things that I consider while Christmas shopping:

1. Safety

Since pets put everything into their mouths, this has to be considered with every gift. The biggest concern here is a stomach or intestinal obstruction. I try to avoid anything with small pieces such as buttons or squeakers that can easily be chewed off or out.

I also try to make sure it is sewn together well as pieces of cloth are one of the major items we have to surgically remove from obstructed dogs.

Safety also should be considered when buying edible stocking stuffers, too.

Chicken jerky treats made in China have been associated with kidney problems in dogs; therefore, we recommend treats made in the USA and with as few ingredients as possible. Fewer ingredients means that the product has less additives and is more natural.

2. Healthy

Anything that promotes a healthy lifestyle is a great gift. These are gifts that get them moving and active such as a Chuckit.

An added bonus with these toys is that they usually promote your interaction with your pet.

3. Mental stimulation

These days, there are more and more pet toys that make your pet think. Most involve food hidden within a device that requires your pet to figure out a way to get to the food.

These "toys" usually take time to solve and are great for pets left at home alone during the day.

4. Functional gifts

This is a great time of year to replace some of your pets' things. Santa would put a new toothbrush and toothpaste in mine and my sister's stockings every year, and I think he would do the same for our pets.

Santa leaves new, clean, fresh-smelling dog beds for Flipper and Ariel every year. This is a great gift because after a year of use, the cushion is no longer soft.

Collars, leashes and name tags are also great to replace as they, too, are often worn out from a year of use. The tags can become hard to read (or may need to be updated) and this is the perfect time to do it.

Flipper goes crazy when he sees his leash, so a new one will be in his stocking.

Gift ideas

To give you some other gift ideas, here is a list of what I am getting my seven pets.

For Ariel, our 14-year-old Labrador, I plan to get a Kong toy and a jar of peanut butter. She can no longer chase balls or go on long walks due to her arthritis. She needs something to engage her but doesn't involve a lot of getting up and down. Like most Labs, she is food motivated. Kongs are made of a hollow tough plastic and food can be placed inside. Ariel will work on the Kong for hours to get every last ounce of peanut butter out.

For Flipper, our 5-year-old hound mix who acts like he is 6 months old, I plan to get something I saw at Pet Fest, a Lure Course. This is a game where a plastic grocery bag is attached to a cord and rapidly (up to 50 mph) moved in either a circle or along a line. With his natural chasing instinct, I know he will not be able to resist trying to catch it. He will also get something called a Chuckit. This is a wand that holds a tennis ball allowing you to throw (chuck) the ball further and with less effort than you can by hand.

Mojo, our Bengal cat that came through our dog door and adopted us, will get a cat food puzzle. He is extremely smart and food driven, so this is the perfect gift for him. This toy requires the cat to move it in a certain way for the food to fall out. This will keep him occupied for hours (we hope)and use up some of his energy.

Big Winky is our long-haired cat who, I am ashamed to say, weighs about 3 pounds more than she should. For her, I am getting a laser light for her to chase. This will promote her to be active and hopefully lose some of that extra weight.

Polly, Inky and Olly are my three shy cats. They are getting a piece of cat furniture that they can hide in or climb up on away from the dogs. Cats like to have an area to escape to where they feel safe. This is especially important during the holidays when the house has been decorated and we typically have lots of visitors.

Finally, all of the cats will get some dried catnip in their stockings. We typically choose the loose leaves versus toys filled with catnip because we don't want them to eat it by accident. They go crazy for a little bit placed on the floor, falling and rolling in it.

Hopefully, these ideas will help you get started with your shopping and make this holiday a safe and happy one for you and your pets.

Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. To send questions, go to and click the "ask the pet docs" icon.