Pet Connection

Summer Reads

While away a few hours this summer with some of our favorite new books about animals

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

-- Animal lover and natural storyteller Mark Goldstein brings to life his career as a veterinarian, zoo director and animal welfare advocate in his new book, “Lions and Tigers and Hamsters: What Animals Large and Small Taught Me About Life, Love and Humanity” (HCI Books). In it, he shares the stories of a rhino with Academy Award-level acting talent; Oscar, a shaggy little dog adopted by an order of nuns who demonstrated sincere love, abiding loyalty and genuine thoughtfulness; and Carol the cat, whose relationship with her person, Charles, taught Dr. Goldstein a valuable lesson.

Our favorite takeaway from the book: Goldstein’s principle of never withholding possible solutions for a pet’s treatment out of fear that people might be offended, couldn’t afford them or might not believe in them. By giving people every appropriate option, he was able more often than not to return pets to a happy, healthy life. “For the rest of my career, in my mind, thinking about Charles always reminded me to practice medicine the way I did with Charles and his cats: not to judge a book by its cover, since clairvoyance was not taught in vet school, and to honor the power of the human-animal bond,” he writes.

-- In “Unleashing Your Dog” (New World Library), ethologist Marc Bekoff and bioethicist Jessica Pierce help readers “walk in the paws” of dogs, explaining the science of how dogs experience the world and how that translates to their lives with humans. With that as a foundation, Bekoff and Pierce share practical suggestions on how people can let dogs exercise their senses and bodies and enjoy life to the fullest. The result is an enhanced relationship between the two species, helping them live together in mutually respectful ways.

-- If you’re a genetics or science geek, you’ll be fascinated by “Once a Wolf: The Science Behind Our Dogs’ Astonishing Genetic Evolution” (Liveright). The how and when of wolves evolving into dogs has been a matter of much speculation for decades, and sometimes it seems as if the answer changes from year to year or even month to month based on new findings.

In an accessible way, Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes looks at the journey to dogdom through the prisms of modern technology and human evolution -- from prehistoric canine-human relationships to the development of “pure” breeds -- and addresses the most important question of all: why we love our dogs so much. In the preface, he writes, “Many theories seek to explain what it was that propelled Homo sapiens from a scarce, medium-sized primate to the position of complete domination we enjoy today. The ability to control fire, the evolution of language and the invention of agriculture are three prominent examples. I would add a fourth: the transformation of the wolf into the multi-purpose helpmate and companion that is the dog. We owe our survival to the dog. And they owe theirs to us.”

-- For a look at how real dogs perform their ancestral tasks -- as well as new ones -- in partnership with humans, “Working Dogs of the Eastern Sierra” (Whistling Rabbit Press) by Jennifer K. Crittenden tells the stories of dogs who herd cattle, rescue people buried in avalanches, detect human remains, make therapy visits and more.

-- If you’ve ever lost a dog, even for only an hour or two, you know how frightening it is to realize that your best friend is missing. In her memoir “Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, Search, and the Power of Reunion” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), search and detection trainer and missing dog expert Susannah Charleson explores the emotions of bereft dog lovers, shares stories of lost and found dogs and offers tactics for finding lost pets.

-- Cat lovers, don’t feel left out. Matthew Inman (of The Oatmeal webcomic fame) clearly recognizes the superiority of felines in “Why My Cat Is More Impressive Than Your Baby” (Andrews McMeel Publishing), a comic and irreverent take on living with cats (and other animals), including tips on how to sleep comfortably next to your cat (just kidding -- that’s not really possible) and 10 ways to befriend a misanthropic cat.


Stress, crowding

spread cat virus

Q: My cat has been diagnosed with feline herpesvirus. What is it, and can she transmit it to me?

A: First, the short answer, to put your mind at ease: Every species has its own version of herpesvirus. Feline herpesvirus can’t be transmitted to humans, and human herpesvirus can’t be transmitted to cats.

Feline herpesvirus is widespread in cats, highly contagious and causes upper respiratory infections or eye problems such as conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers. Some cats experience both.

Usually kittens acquire FHV from their mother. Cats in crowded shelters or catteries are also at risk. The disease spreads through direct contact with saliva or eye or nose secretions from an infected cat or contaminated objects. When cats sneeze, the virus becomes aerosolized, spreading through the air.

Vaccination helps reduce the severity of FHV, but it won’t necessarily prevent it. Often the virus lies dormant until the cat experiences a stressful situation that overpowers the immune system, causing signs to manifest.

Typically, cases resolve on their own, but severe cases or ones that don’t improve are treated with antivirals and sometimes antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections. If eyes are affected, your veterinarian may refer you to a specialist. Eye infections that are severe or not improving should be treated without delay because they can cause permanent damage to the eye, says veterinary ophthalmologist Cindy Mar, DVM.

Even after they recover, the virus persists in the cat’s body, waiting for another stressful situation or immune suppression from medications such as corticosteroids to allow it to reappear. In homes, shelters or other situations with multiple cats, it’s a good idea to isolate the sick cat, provide separate food and water bowls and other items, and disinfect the environment thoroughly. You can find other ways to help your cat de-stress at -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Cancer trial

seeking dogs

-- The Vaccination Against Canine Cancer Study is looking for a few good dogs to participate in what will be the largest canine cancer clinical trial to date. The purpose of the trial is to evaluate a vaccine to prevent cancer in dogs. Qualifying dogs will be healthy, 6 to 10 years old, weigh at least 12 pounds and live within 150 miles of Colorado State University in Fort Collins; the University of California, Davis; or the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Participating dogs will receive either a series of vaccines or placebos and will be checked two to three times annually for five years. For more information, go to

-- Puppy-dog eyes aren’t just cute; they evolved with a purpose: facial communication with humans. That’s according to a study published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom found that a muscle responsible for raising the inner eyebrow is uniformly present in dogs but not in wolves. That ability may trigger a nurturing response in humans. Eye contact between dogs and humans enables dogs to seek help from humans when they’re unable to solve a problem and know when humans are communicating with them. The mutual gaze, combined with that beseeching expression, is a hallmark of the unique dog-human relationship.

-- Does your cat love water? Contrary to popular belief, many cats enjoy playing in the wet stuff. If you have one of the following breeds, you might be familiar with feline water play: Abyssinian, American bobtail, Bengal, Japanese bobtail, Maine coon, Manx, Norwegian forest cat, Savannah, Turkish Angora and Turkish van. Water-loving cats who have access to a catio or other safe outdoor area will enjoy having a child’s wading pool to splash in. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets 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.

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