Veterinary School for Everyone: Caring for Cats and Dogs


Pets can be a wonderful source of joy, companionship, and fulfillment. And pet owners often enjoy secondary health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiac disease, increased amounts of exercise, and lowered blood pressure. That probably explains why 62 percent of American households have at least one pet. But these bundles of joy can also come with bundles of challenges—unlike humans, they can’t communicate when they are unhappy or ill. In order to take the best possible care of our pets, we turn to veterinarians to help us.

In Veterinary School for Everyone: Caring for Cats and Dogs, Dr. Justine Lee, emergency veterinary expert and board-certified specialist, guides you through the ins and outs of responsible pet ownership. You will be armed with the tools and knowledge that you will need for providing your household pets with proper nutrition and care; avoiding common pet maladies; and creating a healthy, happy environment. In 24-illuminating lectures, covering every facet of animal ownership from picking your perfect pet to parasites, preventatives, and poisons, Dr. Lee provides you or any potential pet owner with insights into what to expect, as well as tips for creating safe environments, which will help your pets live as comfortably, and as healthy a life, as possible. As Dr. Lee notes, “My hope is that by taking this course with me here, you’ll never have to meet me in the animal emergency room!”

Errrr? The Animal ER?

Just like humans, animals have their own emergency services. Usually these are clinics that are open 24/7 and provide you with access to veterinary professionals at any time, or have them available on call. But what are the reasons you might end up in an animal ER? Well, they can range from life-threatening conditions to simply not understanding what may be wrong with your pet based on small changes in behavior.

No matter how practical we think we’ll be when it comes to our pets, they can’t tell us what is wrong; so, the fear they may be suffering often pushes all logic aside. At the first sign of poisoning, pet owners often panic and run to the emergency vet clinics. This can be traumatizing to the pet and scary for the human, not to mention often costly. But as pet owners, it’s often impossible to know if our pet has a major or minor emergency, and we rarely know what we need to do to treat a pet emergency of any size. Therefore, when Fido starts to violently vomit, we end up at a 24/7 vet clinic, paying emergency fees, only to find out Fido has an upset stomach that could have waited for your vet the next day.

One of the most valuable sets of lessons in Veterinary School for Everyone: Caring for Cats and Dogs outlines the situations when a trip to the ER might be necessary or when you can treat your animal at home instead—as well as tips on how to help them. By understanding the most common maladies, and knowing what you can do, you can be better equipped to give your pet the right treatment at the right time.

Dr. Lee says the most common reasons people visit the animal ER are:

  1. Gastrointestinal problems
  2. Organ failure
  3. Poisoning situations
  4. Different presentations of cancer
  5. Trauma
  6. Urinary problems
  7. Allergic reactions or skin problems
  8. Seizures
  9. Difficulty breathing
  10. Limping or walking problems

Dr. Lee provides insightful information about each of these ailments in order to help you better understand, treat, and manage your expectations if you see an ER vet. Conditions like poisoning are incredibly frequent—the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center helps almost 250,000 animals a year. But in many cases, the situation can easily be avoided by understanding what foods, household items, and plants are most frequently the culprit. To that end, Dr. Lee spends an additional set of lessons outlining the ways you can pet-proof your home, to help you reduce the risk of one of the most common reasons for visiting an animal ER.

While providing you with the ways to recognize and treat some common ailments your pet may face, Dr. Lee also notes that when you are in doubt, always visit the ER– even if you find out that it’s minor. One of the biggest mistakes pet owners make is to wait too long to seek veterinary attention, which can drastically increase the risk to both your pet and your wallet.

Best Buds on a Budget

When it comes to pets, there’s nothing worse than facing the decision of a life-saving surgery for your furry friend or having to take out a second mortgage. Veterinary services can be very expensive. Even pets in perfect health can be costly—food, toys, leashes, grooming supplies, vitamins, crates, beds, medical care, litter and poop-bags—it all adds up.

Dr. Lee takes you through the realities of what proper pet care can potentially cost you. She breaks down the myths about expensive and trendy dog diets and gives you the scoop on the proper care for cats—specifically when it comes to their litter boxes. You’ll understand what vaccines are essential for your pets to have, not only to save you money later in life, but also to potentially save your pet’s life.

Further, she provides an extremely practical look at the optional, smaller investments you can make early on for your pet—such as preventatives, regular dental care, and pet insurance, which will help you avoid much more expensive conditions later. She helps potential dog owners to plan for the future, by offering an overview of the most common conditions by breed. You can then know what to expect as your dog ages and what you may need to budget for.

Beyond the Common Conditions

No matter how well we plan, pet proof, and provide all the right nutrition and care, there are certain ailments that just happen. Dr. Lee takes a very gentle dive into topics such as cancer, geriatric animals, and euthanasia, to help you understand, manage, and respond to conditions out of your control.

With a sensitive and empathetic approach, Dr. Lee leads you through how to assess quality of life and what to be aware of when it comes to signs of pain or deterioration in your pet. She expands on what happens when a pet is euthanized, as well as common questions that many people are not willing to ask, such as:

  • How do I know when it’s time?
  • Can I be present and hold my pet during euthanasia?
  • Can euthanasia be done at my home?
  • What happens to my pet after the procedure?
  • Is there such a thing as a living will for pets?

Dr. Lee’s overall advice is the same as what you would hear from your own vet: Veterinarians cannot make this decision for you. But they can—and should—counsel you on the medical aspects of what is always a difficult decision. They should help you assess your pet’s quality of life and give you a ballpark estimate for potential procedures as well as what the life expectancy might be with and without them. Regardless of this information, it is a highly emotional and subjective decision. Becoming familiar with the procedure, reasons, and pros and cons before you are put in the position of making that choice can help you make the right decision when the time comes.

Dogs and cats bring us much joy, and they reward us with loyalty, companionship, and a constantly wagging tail or the relaxation of their purr. The least we can do is to ensure that they are properly cared for, so we can help them live as comfortable, and healthy a life, as possible.

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