Veterinarian’s book offers help for neurotic pets

September 26, 2016

A dog who ate wine glasses, a parrot who plucked feathers and a cat who became anorexic after the other cat in his household died are just some of the real-life animals featured in a new book, "Pets on the Couch" (Simon and Schuster, $26), by Nicholas Dodman.

The subtitle says it all: "Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry."

The troubled pets were lucky to be patients at the Animal Behavior Clinic, which was founded by the veterinarian in 1986 at Tufts University, near Boston. He’s also a veterinary behaviorist and a researcher.

This book pushes his concept of "One Medicine, the profound recognition that humans and other animals share the same neurochemistry, and that our minds and emotions work in similar ways," according to the news release from the publisher.

"I have an ulterior motive for writing the book," Dodman said in a telephone interview. "It’s to educate people to the fact that animals have feelings and emotions similar to our own."

The concept has been a tough sell in scientific circles. He believes animals experience love, jealousy, fear, anxiety and depression. And he thinks some psychological and behavior problems can be treated with the same drugs given to people, including Prozac.

Unfortunately, he said, only a dozen of the approximately 30 veterinary schools in North America regularly teach students about clinical animal behavior.

Dodman noted that drugs are never his first course of action and are prescribed in only a small portion of the cases he treats. With new patients, he spends at least an hour and 20 minutes with the owner, discussing solutions that include diet, exercise and behavior modification. He said his aim is to save lives because bad behavior is a leading cause of euthanization.

"Pets on the Couch" is filled with wonderful stories about his patients, his own pets and his mother. The dedication page says: "For my mother, Gwen Dodman, who showed me how to love and care for all animals." The stories about her interactions with wild birds are amazing and touching.

Reading some of his other books, especially "The Well Adjusted Dog" and my personal favorite, "Puppy’s First Steps," may keep you and your dog off the psychiatric couch. Many of the tips in the puppy book also apply to adult dogs.

Dodman loves cats, too. They’re included in "Pets on the Couch" and have their own book, "The Cat Who Cried for Help."

 

 





 


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