The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health

Guide to vet care

The Merck Veterinary Manual has long been the standard guide found in most veterinarian’s back offices. Vets are required to serve the needs of many animals, not just one, and so this venerable book is their operating manual for lesser known species. It also serves as a reminder for uncommon ailments in the common species of pets. Recently Merck/Merial has published a one-volume paper-bound home edition of the Vet Manual. It is less technical, but still remarkably deep, and by far the best pan-species health guide for pets. It is often even better than many single pet health guides.

Besides the expected dogs, cats, and horses, it covers the health needs of rabbits, rodents, ferrets, birds, reptiles, and exotics such as pot-bellied pigs and sugar gliders. At 1,300 pages, it’s an old-fashioned book, but intelligently designed, and easy to browse and study.

This book won’t eliminate visits to the vet, but it will reduce their number, and make you smarter when you do visit. The real value of a pan-animal tome like this is when you take charge of an unfamiliar animal. It also gave us confidence to adopt pets we hitherto knew little about.

-- KK 03/28/08



Ear mange mites cause inflammation of the ear canal and skin disease in cats.


Hunched posture or fluffed fur in a hamster may be signs of illness.

Scale rot (ulcerative or necrotic dermatitis) is seen in snakes and lizards. Humidity and unclean environments appear to be the main factors that cause this condition. Moist, unclean bedding allows bacteria and fungi to multiply. When coupled with exposure to animal droppings, this can cause small skin sores. Secondary infection with other bacteria may result in septicemia and death if untreated. Reddening of the skin, death of the skin tissue, slow-healing sores on the skin, and a skin discharge are common.


Bacteria often cause shell disease in turtles and scale rot in lizards and snakes.

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