Pet Connection

Summer Reading List

We share 7 of our favorite new dog and cat books

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Reading is a year-round activity, but summer is an extra-special reading time, with lazy family vacations and extended periods of daylight making it seem as if we have more time. And who better to read about than our best friends: dogs and cats. Whether your vacation reading leans toward mystery, history, photography or nonfiction, we've rounded up some new favorites that will have you turning the pages with fervor.

-- Two cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and Tee Tucker the corgi are your guides to life in Crozet, Virginia, where they live with too-curious farmer Mary Minor Haristeen. In "Tail Gait," the latest installment of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries written by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, past and present blend to tell the tale of a Revolutionary War-era mystery and a modern-day murder, with Mary Minor and her pets in the thick of things. A perfect cozy read for a beach or mountain getaway.

-- Judy was an English pointer, the mascot of a Royal Navy gunboat in the Pacific as the world geared up for World War II in 1939. Frank Williams was a POW in a Japanese internment camp on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where the two met and became best friends. Robert Weintraub's "No Better Friend" is the story of their friendship and survival through battle, captivity, starvation and shipwreck. Readers and reviewers call it spellbinding, gripping and heartwarming.

-- You've come a long way, kitty! That's the message in Arden Moore's "Fit Cat: Tips and Tricks to Give Your Pet a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life." In chapters on health, nutrition, grooming, behavior and more, Moore shares top cat tips on coping with cat burglars, teaching tricks and building a cat habitat, to name just a few of the areas covered. One tip from the book: Treat your cat to a hit of catnip just before bedtime to induce a case of the zoomies and wear him out so you'll both sleep soundly.

-- Teaching tricks to your dog (young or old) is a fun way to spend some time this summer. In the recently released "Idiot's Guides: Dog Tricks," mother-daughter team Deb Eldredge, DVM, and Kate Eldredge show step by step how to teach your dog more than 80 basic and advanced tricks and skills, including the fun -- playing basketball -- and the useful -- putting away his toys. They explain how to use rewards, cues and body language to communicate with your dog, and color photos illustrate each step. Dr. Eldredge's dog Doc demonstrates basketball and putting down the toilet seat. "I think it is admirable that a male dog learned to put the seat down," she says.

-- Canine Instagram star Momo and his chronicler and best buddy, Andrew Knapp, take to the road in "Find Momo Coast to Coast." The border collie and his photographer visit landmarks and attractions such as Grand Central Station, the White House and the French Quarter in New Orleans on their 15,000-mile journey through the United States and Canada. Part game, part photography book, it will test not only your geographic knowledge, but also your ability to find the black-and-white dog hiding in each photo.

-- Do you miss the Zen of coloring? Pull out your crayons, watercolor pencils, markers or gel pens and take a trip back in time to the pleasure of coloring books with "Cool Cats" from the Really COOL Colouring series or "Creative Cats Coloring Book" from the Creative Haven series. Don't be surprised to feel stress melt away as you let your creativity run wild. Bonus: No one cares if you color outside the lines.


Treatments available

for oral melanoma

Q: My golden retriever had a swelling in his mouth, and it has been diagnosed as melanoma. I understand there is a vaccine for the disease. What can you tell me about this type of cancer and its treatment? -- via Facebook

A: Melanoma is a common oral tumor in dogs. We see it more often in males than females, and certain breeds seem to be affected more often, including goldens, chow chows, cocker spaniels, Gordon setters and Scottish terriers.

This type of tumor invades the bone of the jaw and is likely to spread elsewhere in the body, especially to the lungs and lymph nodes. Surgery and radiation therapy can help to manage localized tumors, but once melanoma starts to spread (metastasize), it tends to be resistant to chemotherapy.

A DNA-based vaccine has been developed that may help control oral melanomas in some dogs. It's approved by the Department of Agriculture for treatment of "locally controlled" stage 2 or 3 oral malignant melanoma in dogs. That means the tumor and any metastasis to the lymph nodes has been reduced to undetectable levels through surgery and radiation treatment before the vaccine is administered. Dogs with locally controlled melanoma who receive the vaccine can have good survival times.

However, according to my colleague Michael Childress, DVM, an internal medicine specialist at Purdue University, a recent study documented no significant improvement in survival for dogs treated with the vaccine, called Oncept, compared to dogs who did not receive the vaccine. He does note, though, that this study had certain limitations. In his observations, the vaccine "seems to afford significant benefit for some dogs, but limited benefit for many others." It may be, he adds, that certain tumor-related factors affect response to the vaccine, but these are as yet unknown.

Oncept has a good safety record. Common side effects tend to be reactions or hematomas at the injection site. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


What's that smell?

Water releases dog odor

-- We all know how wet dogs smell, but what causes the odor? The American Chemical Society explains that when water hits your dog's skin or fur, it mixes with the yeast, bacteria and oils on it, breaking down the chemical bonds and releasing that oh-so-distinctive houndy smell. When they are liberated, the organic, volatile molecules spring into the air and travel straight to your nose, causing it to wrinkle with dismay. So giving your dog a bath may cause him to stink temporarily, but once he's dry, you can happily bury your nose in his fur.

-- Exotic pets have special needs. For instance, did you know that guinea pigs are prone to heatstroke? It's important to keep them in temperature-controlled areas. Chinchillas are highly active and need plenty of room to run and jump. Chinchillas are nocturnal, so they also appreciate a nice hidey-hole where they can sleep during the day. In both species, signs of illness include loss of appetite, less poop in their cage, increased respiratory rate, sneezing, a runny nose or eyes, tooth grinding, drooling and lumps or swollen areas.

-- One of the reasons dogs are so good at understanding us is because they have learned to follow our gaze as we look at food or something else that could be of interest to the dog, such as toys. Interestingly, dogs who receive training in activities such as agility or obedience are less likely to follow a person's gaze, possibly because during training they learn to look at the person for cues and to ignore distractions. In a recent study published in the journal Animal Behaviour, scientists found that dogs who had a higher amount of formal training over their life span showed a lower gaze-following response compared to dogs with little or no training. -- Kim Campbell Thornton


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.


Caption 01: Hobbes, a 5-year-old Parson Russell terrier, demonstrates balancing a biscuit on his nose. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: Moisture as well as warm, humid air can intensify a dog's personal aroma. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1

More like Pet Connection