Choosing a vet

Boy in Veterinarian's Office

Boy in Veterinarian's Office, Norman Rockwell.

Next on my list of things to do before bringing a dog home: Finding a local veterinarian. This one is also somewhat intimidating to me. I’m planning on asking friends with dogs who they’d recommend in the area, but beyond that, I’m curious what you think about how to go about this process.

What kinds of questions should I ask a prospective vet? What are some things to watch out for? How will I know to evaluate them if I don’t have a dog yet? Does anyone go to a vet who practices holistic or homeopathic medicine?

Still so many questions! And I’m, as always, grateful for your advice!

Pup links!

A young Beatrix Potter and her spaniel. LIFE Magazine.

A collection of dog-related links from around the Web this week:

Set Your New Dog Up for Success: Prevent Accidents and Fights. A great post by Lindsay about two important elements of bringing a new dog home: Setting and establishing house-training rules and preventing and mitigating any potential dog conflict. (That Mutt)

Are Too Many Vaccinations Bad for Adult Dogs? A thoughtful and informative discussion about the controversy over vaccinating our dogs. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, too, and it was nice to read such a balanced and fair article on the topic. (That Mutt)

Pet Fostering Is Tax Deductible! This is great news for those who foster animals. It’s something I’m seriously considering after we have a few years of dog parenting under our belts, and this new tax break is just an extra incentive! (Pawesome)

7 Ways to Make Your Pet’s Visit to the Veterinarian Easier. Simple and helpful tips to reduce the stress of a vet visit. (Paw Nation)

Ryan Gosling and His Dog Have an Announcement to Make. An important PSA from the most popular actor (at least on the Internet meme scene). (Pawesome)

Miss Kate. It is a beautiful thing to watch a border collie work. (BCxFour)

Georgia Fiennes: Dog Paintings. Lovely and whimsical (but not tacky) dog paintings from artist Georgia Fiennes. (Miles to Style)

Review: The Well Dog Book

The Well Dog Book, by Terri McGinnis

Continuing in my vein of reading dog health books, I found a copy of the second edition (1992) of The Well Dog Book, by Terri McGinnis, DVM. It’s a bit old, but I reasoned that the field of caring for dogs hasn’t changed all that much.

I think I was wrong.

While the book is primarily about canine medicine and preventative care, I was utterly appalled at Dr. McGinnis’ recommended training techniques. Since the book was initially written in the 1980s, it is not surprising that she follows the now outdated dominance philosophy with regard to dog psychology. What was surprising to me is her strong statements that physical punishment is always necessary to establish “dominance” and “pack leadership.” The book even includes these horrible diagrams about how to push a dog’s head to the ground when it disobeys and how to pick you dog up by the scruff of its neck and give it a good shake. I was, clearly, mortified.

After reading that chapter, I’ll admit that it was difficult to take the rest of the book seriously. I don’t doubt that Dr. McGinnis is probably a reliable veterinarian. I imagine I’ll be returning to this book if I have any basic medical questions about our future dog, but I certainly won’t be looking to it for any behavioral advice.

Review: Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats

Dr. Pitcairn's Guide to Complete Natural Health for Dogs and Cats

I got a used copy of the older edition of this reference book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. The more I learn about dog food and even what humans eat in general, the more I want to just eat happy, pesticide-free plants.

Despite the lack of any medical degree, my mother has always espoused a general mistrust of traditional Western medicine, and I suppose I have a little bit of that in me. That said, I found Dr. Pitcairn’s book quite interesting.

Some of his recommendations sounded pretty kooky–the discussion of the unquantifiable and unknowable “life force” that permeates all things, which we must channel for our own benefit–but overall, I think this book provided a helpful overview of the alternative medicine techniques and therapies for dogs and cats.

The emphasis of the book is grounded strongly in preventative medicine. Pitcairn advises that the first thing we must do is create a healthy, non-toxic environment for our animals to live in (ourselves included!). This means keeping all chemicals at bay, when at all possible; shying away from plastics; any synthetic products that do not come directly from the earth, and so forth.

The second big emphasis on the book is understandably on diet. The more we learn about health, the more we understand the indelible link between what we eat and how our bodies perform. This is just as true for dogs as it is for us. Feeding your dog a bag of generic kibble may be cheap and convenient, but you’d just be filling your pet with animal byproducts, unnatural chemicals, and known toxins. This leads to the breakdown of a dog’s entire system, Pitcairn asserts. He pushes for a raw food diet, which is a serious commitment, but also gives advice for those who can’t or won’t make that kind of time.

I don’t know if there are any veterinarians in my area who practice alternative or homeopathic medicine, but I’m definitely interested in looking further into this topic.

Do you practice any alternative medicine or home remedies with your dog? Does your vet? What have you learned?

Pup links!

An Aussie and his castle. Source: blacksheepcardigans.com

A lot of great dog-related links from around the Web this week!

Dogs of Darjeeling. This is the best pup link I’ve seen yet: My sister’s amazing and beautiful photographs of the dogs she saw while she was living in and around Darjeeling, India. So striking! The photos make me remember that, regardless of where in the world you are, dogs are still dogs. It’s perhaps a silly thing to think, but I an enamored with this collection of her photography. Check it out. (Como Say What?)

Why You’re NOT Doing a Good Deed When You “Rescue” that Pet Store Puppy. This is an article I wish so many people would read. It’s such an ethically murky situation, I know, but this is a perspective that needs to be amplified. (Dogster)

Why Dog Women Get More Respect than Cat Ladies. An interesting article on Slate this week about why it’s easier to be taken seriously if you’re a crazy dog lady instead of a crazy cat lady. Not fair, of course, but a curious cultural phenomenon, perhaps. (Slate)

New York Times Goes Dog-Crazy. A brief look at the dog-centric memoirs that are cropping up in the pages of the Times. (Daily Intel)

How Much Money Should I Spend on My Dog’s Vet Care? And how much is too much? A well-expressed opinion from Lindsey Stordahl about how we navigate the difficult decisions between veterinary care, finances, and our dogs. (That Mutt)

26 Reasons Why Owning a Puppy Is the Same as Raising a Toddler. A funny list, but it certainly emphasizes what a serious commitment we undertake when we bring a puppy into our lives. (A Peek Inside the Fishbowl)

Diary by Kingsley: I Made a Video. One of the blogosphere’s most famous bulldogs, Kingsley, has a video playing with his new sister, human baby Eleanor. (Rockstar Diaries)

Hello, I Feel Like I Know You. Sweet and colorful portraits of dogs and their humans by artist Paule Trudel Bellmare. (Under the Blanket)

Don’t Like Your New Dog’s Name? Karen London gives some practical tips on changing your adopted dog’s name. I feel pretty sure that I will want to rename our future dog, and so this is a helpful thing to think about. What about you? Did you change your dog’s name? (The Bark)

Inspiring Photos of Pets with Disabilities. A charming collection of portraits of dogs with disabilities. There is joy and life in their eyes. (Flavorwire)

Review: If Only They Could Speak

If Only They Could Speak, Nicholas Dodman

I know. Another Nicholas Dodman book! This is because I just like reading stories of dogs with behavioral problems, I guess. (And there’s a beautiful Aussie on the cover…)

You could also say that Dodman is kind of like the modern James Herriott: The good-natured, occasionally cheeky veterinarian who saves troubled animals and gets thrilling stories for dinner parties in exchange. He seems amiable and energetic and likes being able to save the day. What I appreciate about Dodman, though, is when he admits to mistakes–or when he occasionally gives his human clients the benefit of the doubt.

His stories also help me empathize with the veterinary profession, especially those who are called in with behavioral problems. So much of their work is rehabilitating the people and convincing them to do what is right for their pets. That would certainly be a thankless task. Re-training a dog isn’t a big deal; re-training a person? Nightmare.

Materially, this book is barely distinguishable from The Dog Who Loved Too Much and Dogs Behaving Badly–except the stories are different. The one divergence is that this book includes cat stories. I don’t know much at all about cats, but I’m trying to learn more about them, and so this book was a helpful–if brief–foray into the mystical, shrouded world of feline behavior.

I like Dodman. Even though I don’t necessarily learn anything new, I’ll probably keep reading his books as they keep coming out–because they’re entertaining and often eye-opening glimpses into the busy, fascinating world of a behavioral veterinarian.

Review: The Dog Who Loved Too Much

The Dog Who Loved Too Much, by Nicholas Dodman

The Dog Who Loved Too Much is the precursor to famed veterinarian Nicholas Dodman’s other book, Dogs Behaving Badly, which I read a few months ago. Overall, the books contain essentially the same information, except that Dogs Behaving Badly is alphabetized by chapter according to behavioral problems.

That said, this book was still interesting to me. I tend to be very behavior/training-heavy in my reading interests, and so it’s nice to get the medical perspective on these issues. While serving as an accomplished and respected vet, Dodman is also a behaviorist on a basic level. He wants to get to the root of each dogs’ problem rather than just throw a handful of expensive pills at them.

I always enjoy reading the bizarre stories he tells about the dogs he’s treated. Dodman alone has convinced me never to consider a bull terrier (not that I would any way). My heart broke over his extended chapter on treating bull terriers, who are commonly plagued by a variety of genetic, behavioral, and psychological disorders (including chronic tail chasing, among others). People are totally responsible for this. It’s a cruel way to practice eugenics. Bull terriers deserve better, but their warped genetic heritage has decreed that they will be perpetually plagued by these disorders.

Books like this start to give me some anecdotal fear, though. German shepherds are almost always featured in these stories about dogs behaving badly. This is probably because they are still one of the most popular dog breeds in America. But then I start to get worried that German shepherds are an inherently problematic breed. I know this isn’t fundamentally true and that every dog, purebred or not, can have a host of psychological problems, but I still get worried. I was also astonished at the sheer number of messed-up English springer spaniels that Dodman has seen. From Dodman’s stories, GSDs and springers seem to be the most common problematic breeds. This is from a purely anecdotal perspective, though, and so I try not to get too anxious about it. Although I am against breed stereotyping, I do wonder what most veterinarians would say if you asked them which breed tended to have the most issues…

Overall, it’s an interesting book and Dodman is a commendable writer and researcher. I think I would recommend Dogs Behaving Badly first, though, since its categorized chapters could be a more helpful behavioral guide.

Review: Dogs Behaving Badly

Dogs Behaving Badly, by Nicholas Dodman

This book was my first foray into a medical perspective on dogs and I found it very helpful and insightful. I imagine I’d reference it myself if my dog was displaying any of the undesirable behavior traits listed in this book.

Dodman is a well-known and widely respected canine authority who leads the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine’s program in animal behavior. I’d love to be able to take a few classes from him sometime, if it were only possible!

I liked Dodman’s use of anecdotes throughout his A-to-Z chapters. The unusual stories from his practice helped illuminate some of his medical explanations for common canine problems.

I didn’t really dislike anything about this book, although it probably wasn’t so helpful to me now, since I don’t have a dog that’s actually exhibiting any of these symptoms or behaviors. I imagine I’d probably pick it up again once I actually get a dog and can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. I’d recommend this book as a friendly and easy-to-understand guide to behavioral issues in dogs. I hope I’ll be able to recall some of Dodman’s suggestions when the time comes to actually deal with my future dog’s issues.