Pet Connection: A book that covers every conceivable care situation a pet owner might encounter

03/18/2014 12:00 AM

03/14/2014 5:41 PM

In more than 30 years of pet ownership, I’ve nursed a lot of animals: a diabetic cat, a greyhound with bone cancer, an old cat with kidney disease, dogs with congestive heart failure, a puppy with a scratched cornea and more. Everything I know, I learned the hard way.

During each of their illnesses, my animals were cared for by the best veterinarians, but once I got them home from the hospital, I sure could have used “The Feel Better Book for Cats & Dogs” (CreateSpace, $16, 284 pages).

Written by certified veterinary technician Randi E. Golub, this independently published paperback covers every conceivable care situation a pet owner might encounter, from how to give medications and administer subcutaneous fluids to caring for senior pets and making end-of-life decisions.

“As a cat mom myself, I know it is often frightening and confusing when pets are ill,” Golub says. “People want to do the very best for them but often feel helpless and occasionally frustrated. I want to give my readers tips on how to get medication into a pet with a minimum of stress for everyone, how to keep ill pets clean and comfortable, and how to get them to eat. I also wanted to offer support to people who are dealing with an ill or elderly pet, as this can be an emotional and exhausting time for a caretaker.”

Golub jumps right into her advice with a chapter on getting organized. She recommends using a chart to track such things as medications, appetite and pain level and suggests useful supplies to have on hand. The following chapters include instructions on such topics as tube feeding, collecting fecal and urine samples, assisting a cat or dog giving birth, neonatal puppy and kitten care, first aid, hospice care and more – all offered in an easy-to-understand format.

Most important, there’s advice on when to call a veterinarian. “I advise people to use this book to help with minor medical concerns and always seek veterinary help when a pet has been ill for more than a day or two,” she says.

As someone who writes frequently about dog behavior and training, and who fields a lot of questions from confused or frustrated dog owners, I have often wished there was an accessible compilation of all the latest information about canine cognition and how to use it to better understand our dogs.

Now there is.

The members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, led by editors Debra F. Horwitz, D.V.M., John Ciribassi, D.V.M., and pet journalist Steve Dale, have written “Decoding Your Dog” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 384 pages), a manual on dog ownership from acquisition to old age. Chapters address how dogs learn, housetraining, building and managing relationships between kids and dogs, the importance of giving a dog a job, dealing with a dog who’s reluctant to have his nails trimmed or teeth brushed, and more.

The authors use anecdotes to illustrate their advice, separate myth from fact, and provide a recap at the end of each chapter. Specialized terms are defined throughout. The techniques rely solely on positive training methods, and the text thoroughly debunks the misguided ideas that dogs do things out of spite and show guilt after wrongdoing.

I asked Horwitz the most important takeaway for readers. “Our companion dogs are not out to ‘dominate us,’ they don’t misbehave to spite us, but rather they may not understand how we want them to behave, or they are anxious and frightened,” she says.

The buzz

Want your cat to lose weight? Feed four small meals per day instead of leaving food out all the time. A study published last month in the Journal of Animal Science found that cats who eat multiple times daily are more active than cats who eat only once or twice a day. The activity levels of the cats studied increased in anticipation of the meals. If you’re not home during the day to feed your cat, consider purchasing a timed feeder with two compartments that will open at different times.

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