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Book Review
The Merck Veterinary Manual
by Clarence M. Fraser, et. al., editors

Review by: Kate Connick, May 2003

The Merck Veterinary Manual is one of those reference books that I can't imagine being without. Not specifically a dog book by any means, it is a handbook of animal diseases and disorders, ranging from the ordinary (e.g., tick infestation) to the obscure (e.g., swollen head syndrome in chickens). It also includes useful basic information in other, related areas like pharmacology and toxicology.

Several hundred veterinarians, researchers, and scholars contribute to each edition of the nearly two-thousand page book. Organized primarily by organ system, this handbook is comprehensive and informative. I can't think of any other reference that makes so much information so easily accessible.

Very clearly organized, there is a minimalist table of contents in the beginning of the book, with a detailed table of contents at the start of each, tabbed chapter. Additionally, a thorough index contributes to ease of use.

Typical information presented for each condition includes a few general remarks, as well as comments on etiology, clinical findings, diagnosis, and treatment. The overall effect is authoritative and informative, yet still very concise.

This isn't a book that will answer every question you might have, but if you need a quick overview of a condition, this book is ideal. For example, what is Wobbler's? "A malformation of the lower cervical vertebrae that results in varying degrees of spinal cord compression." The rest of the single paragraph devoted to this disorder gives the scoop on diagnosis, symptoms, causes, affected breeds, and prognosis. Information may be sketchy at times, but that's the short and sweet nature of a handbook. It provides just enough information for the layperson get the gist of a condition.

So what's not to like? Some readers may find the absence of illustrations, the extremely lightweight page-paper, and the very small text to be wearying. One is unlikely to kick back and read cover-to-cover for amusement. This book is best used as an encyclopedic reference manual, and it excels in that regard.

The writing style is less casual than the typical home reference marketed to the average pet owner. A reader who is uncomfortable or unfamiliar with veterinary jargon may find it difficult to digest sentences like this: "Inappropriate perfusion of the kidneys leads to azotemia, sodium retention, oliguria, systemic arterial hypertension, and polydipsia..." Nonetheless, although written in a relatively sophisticated manner, the text is generally readable and to the point.

I can't think of a better book for quick information on veterinary disorders. The book is updated every few years, and there is now an online version available, as well. I still have the 1991, 7th edition (upon which this review is based), but the most recent edition is the 8th, published in 1998. As with any book of this nature, it behooves the reader to rely on the most current edition.

Although I like this book, admittedly the breadth of its content and somewhat technical terminology may be beyond what the typical pet owner wants or needs in a simple home reference about dog health and care. Frankly, if your dog just threw up and you don't know what to do, this book won't be in the least bit helpful.


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The Merck Veterinary Manual, 7th ed.,
edited by Clarence M. Fraser, et. al.
Published by Merck & Co., 1991. ISBN: 911910557

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