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Book Review
Just What the Doctor Ordered
by Race Foster & Marty Smith

Review by: Kate Connick, June 2003

Race Foster, DVM & Marty Smith, DVM are the "Doctors Foster and Smith" behind the highly successful mail order and internet pet supply company of the same name. Their mail order catalog is a bit different and fun to peruse because of the brief articles about pet care that they include. Similarly, their Pet Education website hosts a collection of easily understood, informative articles.

In this spirit of bringing usable, practical information to the regular pet owner, Drs. Foster and Smith have published a few reference books. Just What the Doctor Ordered: A Complete Guide to Drugs & Medications for Your Dog is one of them.

This book contains both general and specific information about a variety of drugs and medications used in veterinary medicine. The content is comprehensive and very well organized, with bold and italic text used to good effect. The index and table of contents are both quite clear. If you know what you're looking for, this is an easy book to thumb through to find information.

One appendix gives an outline of standard drug dosages and demystifies common, drug-related abbreviations. Another lists commonly encountered drug interactions and contraindications. A glossary of terms is also included.

The book's content is divided into four sections. The introductory section includes comments on how to administer medications, while the final section about nutritional supplements includes comments about specialized prescription diets. Drugs and medications are the focus of the remaining two sections and bulk of the book. Common chemotherapeutic medications (including antibiotics, steroids, and parasite-killing drugs) and pharmacotheraputic drugs (organized by bodily system affected) are presented.

The overall effect is comprehensive in scope, albeit oversimplified in presentation. This book serves as a palatable primer - not the final authority on the subject matter - and it does it well. I particularly like that the book is not simply an alphabetical encyclopedia of drugs but is organized by drug function and offers basic information about the disorders that the drugs target.

Intended to further a pet owner's understanding, much of the text is very practical in nature. The authors demonstrate sensitivity for the consumer by addressing expenses, for example. In discussing parasite control, they note, "worming products formulated and labeled for large animals can be used in dogs... they are often much less expensive and can be purchased without a prescription." The authors then address the primary, liability-related reason for not doing this, but for the owner of a large number of dogs, I would imagine that this is very relevant information.

A few problems are inherent in a book of this nature, however. The information becomes dated very quickly as new drugs are developed and gain popularity. Although the authors discuss NSAIDS (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) at length, there is no mention of the now-ubiquitous Rimadyl nor Deramaxx in this 1996 book. Their discussion of Cushing's disease does not mention Anipryl. And they don't even have a section addressing psychotropic medications like Anipryl for canine cognitive dysfunction or Clomicalm for separation anxiety. Similarly, their discussion of prescription diets fails to acknowledge N/D for canine cancer patients.

This is not to suggest that the book has no value, but the value is limited by its age. The brief descriptions of the various disorders and how drugs affect them is informative, and most of the drugs referenced are still in common use. It wouldn't hurt to read a used or library copy of this book, but an updated edition is really needed to make the book a potent addition to one's bookshelf.

Note: This book is out of print. You'll have to buy it used or find it at your local library.

Just What the Doctor Ordered by Race Foster & Marty Smith.
Published by Howell Book House, 1996. ISBN: 0876057873

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