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New products for pampered pets

The sheer variety and quality of pet products on display at the 2006 Global Pet Expo in San Diego bring home just how much a part of the family dogs and cats have become. Nothing is too good for our pets.
/ Source: contributor

If it’s available for you or your kids, you can count on seeing a version of it soon for your pet. Teeth-whitening treats? Check. Bedding and toys made with organic fabric? Check. Soothing balm for dry paws? Check.

Not that that’s a bad thing. If nothing else, the sheer variety and quality of pet products on display over the weekend at the 2006 Global Pet Expo in San Diego bring home just how much a part of the family dogs and cats have become. Nothing is too good for our pets.

While some items are a bit over the top — edible greeting cards for dogs come to mind — pet product manufacturers have made a real effort to expand their sales with items that are appealing to cats and dogs, as well as convenient for their people.

Here are some of the newest offerings that will be available soon for pampered pets everywhere:

Cool rides
If the typical nylon or vinyl pet carrier just isn't your style, check out the K9 high-fashion carriers from Nine West pet accessories. Besides practical features such as vented ends that also unzip and an external pocket for carrying treats, the carriers have fabric accents and clever touches such as bone-shaped zipper pulls. To complete the ensemble, your dog can wear a matching sweater and collar.

Komfort Pets

When comfort is key, Komfort Pets has new climate-controlled pet carriers that provide cooling or heating via a 12-volt system that plugs into a car cigarette lighter or house current. A built-in battery provides temporary back-up in case of power failure.

These carriers are great for cats and dogs — especially flat-faced breeds such as Persians and Pugs — that ride frequently in the car and need a cool place to rest while their owner runs into the grocery store or stops for a meal during a road trip. Comes in four sizes; some models have wheels and retractable handles.

A patio for Princess
The Let Meow’t gets props for the name alone. The window-mounted cat patio gives kitties a breath of fresh air without exposing them to the dangers of the outdoors.

Special treats
The Leo is a new treat-release toy that can be customized to offer your dog any level of challenge. An open end at the top makes it easy to stuff the Leo with kibble or treats. You could purchase just one, but cross-cuts in the side and bottom allow you to connect more than one Leo to make circle, square, T-shape or other configurations. As your dog rolls, chews or shakes the Leo, the treats move from one section to another. A Leo, made by Canine Genius, can keep your dog busy all day as he tries to get at the treats inside.

The SnackShotz Treat Launcher by Dogmatic lets you exercise your pet from the comfort of your recliner. Load the launcher with the accompanying disc-like dog treats (the only ones that will work in it), pull the trigger, and watch your dog chase after them.

Dogmatic also makes WoofyPOP, real microwave popcorn that comes in such dog-approved flavors as bacon, filet mignon, chicken, cheese, pepperoni and peanut butter. Popcorn is a good treat for dogs (and people) because it’s high in fiber and low in fat. Look for WoofyPOP at Bed Bath and Beyond, PetSmart and other national retailers.

To help keep Fido's teeth clean, 3M Dental Treats, formulated to be low in calories, reduce plaque and digest easily if pieces are swallowed. With their Y-shape, the treats aren’t easily swallowed, thus encouraging dogs to chew on them longer. Made by 3M Petcare, they come in sizes small, medium and large.

Jakks Pacific

Another option: White Bites, toothpaste-infused dog treats to clean teeth and freshen breath.

The toothpaste contains baking soda to help with whitening, says Jakks Pacific spokesperson Genna Rosenberg. "You’ve got the combination of the baking soda and the abrasion," she says. "Those things help break down tartar and clean teeth."

White Bites will be available this summer nationwide at mass market, specialty stores and pet retailers, in small, medium and large sizes.

A chew-it-yourself toothbrush
Also in the dental hygiene department, there's the Easy Brush from Farnam, which is billed as a chew-it-yourself toothbrush for dogs. Bone-shaped, it has bristles on both sides of each end. Put some dog toothpaste on the bristles and give it to your dog.

All three of my dogs figured it out right away and were quite disappointed when it was removed after the recommended two minutes, to prevent gum irritation.

Farnam would do well to produce a slightly smaller brush for tiny dogs such as Chihuahuas and Yorkies, but aside from that, it’s a good choice for people who wouldn’t otherwise brush their dogs’ teeth. Comes in two sizes, small and large, and includes toothpaste.

Kim Campbell Thornton, MSNBC's Creature Comforts columnist, is an award-winning author who has written many articles and more than a dozen books about dogs and cats. She belongs to the Dog Writers Association of America and is past president of the Cat Writers Association. She shares her home in California with three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and one African ringneck parakeet.