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Christmas presents for dogs

'What I'd buy my dog for Christmas…'

How better to celebrate the joy that your pets bring you, than by giving them a festive treat? To help you find the perfect present, we've asked two experts for their top recommendations on fun, safe and enjoyable gifts for your furry friend. Plus, an animal nutritionist weighs in on the best edible end-of-year indulgences.

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An age-appropriate chew toy

Petplan vet Brian Faulkner's choice:
Orbee-Tuff Old Soul Ball, £12.50 from activehound.co.uk

It's important to continue playing with your dog as he ages – it can help keep him physically healthy, and will also ensure he stays engaged and young at heart,' says Brian. 'The Orbee-Tuff Old Soul Ball is my first choice for an older canine, as it's specially designed to address the issues dogs experience as they grow older (and still keep them excited about playtime!).

The ball features contrasting colours, which are much easier for dogs with reduced vision to spot. As snout strength, weakened jaw muscles and brittle teeth are common in dogs as they age, the toy is made from a pliable compound and offers a satisfying chew that's easy on the gums and snout. The manufacturers have also infused mint into the ball's materials to help your pet sniff it out, which is especially good for older dogs as they do tend to lose a little "smell power".

Overall it's a great chew toy and has the added bonus of helping to keep your dog's teeth and gums healthy.'

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The ideal ball for a gentle game of fetch

Clinical animal behaviourist Inga MacKellar's choice:
Kong Senior, £5.05 from vetuk.co.uk

'Slowing down and suffering from aches and pains, are normal signs of your dog ageing – but because of this many owners worry about playing vigorous games with their pet,' Inga says. 'However, older dogs still like to have something to do; which is why I think the strangely shaped Kong Senior ball makes an ideal gift. In fact, while Kongs have been available for many years, they're still one of my favourite dog toys today.

The Kong Senior is made from a softer rubber than the traditional Kong, but still provides an erratic bounce that most dogs love for chasing around the house or outside. Its shape is also perfect for gently throwing to your dog during calmer games of fetch.

To encourage less active pets, treats such as dog food pastes can be stored inside its hollow interior (happily, the Kong can easily be washed!). It scores top marks with me as the perfect doggy gift.'

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Edible festive treats

Clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler advises on those extra indulgences:

'We often add a few treats to our diets during the holidays, and the same normally goes for our pets,' says clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler. 'However, older dogs can have health problems and this limits the type of foods they should be fed. For example, if your dog has kidney or heart disease he should only have snacks that fit in with the diet recommended by your vet, such as low-protein and low-salt treats.

Overall, treats shouldn't make up more than 10% of your dog's daily calories. To put this into perspective, a 20kg dog should have less than 80 calories a day in treats. I'd also recommend lower-calorie treats for overweight dogs. Try giving your pet small amounts (no more than a handful) of unbuttered air-popped popcorn, or fruit and vegetables like sliced apples, carrots or broccoli. Play toys or food-dispensing balls are also a great option for tubby pets, especially as most dogs love interacting with their owners for treats.

Finally, while the festive season can make it difficult to monitor all the foods that your pet has access to, you should always make sure products that are toxic to dogs are kept out of reach. This includes chocolate and ingredients such as xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic. Personally, I'd also advise steering clear of dried pigs' ears or similar chews, as these can be contaminated with bacteria and could cause your dog to become ill.'

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