If you’ve just gotten a dog, the sheer volume of information out there is daunting: books, DVDs, and websites about choosing a dog, raising a puppy, training methods, behavior problems, grooming, nutrition, dog sports . . . Where to start, where to start?
The e-book Head to Tail Wellness: A Veterinarian’s Guide to Raising a Healthy Dog (101 Publishing, 52 pages, $3.99) is a fine place to begin. The author, Constance Breese DVM, has been a practicing vet on the Vineyard for some 25 years. She’s also my next-door neighbor — I looked after her family’s dog and bunny for several days during Christmas break.
Sensibly enough, Head to Tail Wellness starts with “The Basics”: food and exercise. Dr. Breese points out what to look for in a dog food and also advises changing things up from time to time: “When a dog owner proudly states during her dog’s annual exam that she feeds her pet the same thing every day, I cringe. Imagine eating a nutritious, delicious bowl of granola every day for years; you would survive, certainly, but you probably would not have optimum health.”
I consulted the resident expert about this. He heartily agrees. He likes the occasional egg, chunk of meat, carrot, and whatever falls off the counter when I’m chopping and mixing. (The other day he helped a small cast-iron skillet fall off the counter so he could lick the sausage fat out of it.)
Dr. Breese then guides the reader through choosing a vet and basic wellness care: spaying or neutering, microchipping, vaccinations, fecal testing for internal parasites, and topical treatment for fleas, mites, and the omnipresent Vineyard ticks.
Chapter 4 explores the dog’s life stages, from puppyhood to old age. Research the ailments to which your dog may be prone by virtue of his/her breed or type, the vet advises. Emergencies — the scariest part of dog ownership — are covered in chapter 5: How do you know that your dog is in trouble, and what will your vet need to know when you call or appear at the clinic. Chapter 6 deals with home health care. Its advice on stocking a first-aid kit is invaluable.
Covered in the last three chapters are the end of a dog’s life and the decision to euthanize; common substances that can be particularly toxic to dogs, from chocolate to antifreeze; and canine mental health. In the resources section you’ll find hot links to further information on dog food and nutrition, canine diseases, grief counseling, preparing for a vet visit, and more. I’d like to see a link or two to training resources — training isn’t generally within the veterinarian’s purview, but it can certainly enhance canine health, both physical and mental, especially if you run into behavior problems.
Head to Tail Wellness is available from Amazon.com and formatted for the Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for PC or Mac or other device and read it on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. I used Calibre (the absolutely wonderful e-book management program) to convert it to ePub format and sideload it to my Nook. It’s not DRM-protected, thank heavens.