Fluid, Electrolyte, and Acid–base Disorders in Small Animal Practice, Stephen P. DiBartola, Published by Elsevier Saunders, 2011, hardback, 744 pages, Price £74.99, ISBN-13: 978–1437706543

Fluid therapy is considered by many to be the major life-saving advance of the last century, and yet, the majority of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses have a very limited understanding of the factors underlying its use. While most of us utilise fluid therapy on a daily basis in our patients, this is often done without a clear idea of why we have selected a particular fluid and how we have determined how much of it to give.

‘Fluid, Electrolyte and Acid–base Disorders in Small Animal Practice’ has, for many years, been the gold standard textbook used to explain these concepts. The Fourth Edition brings together some 39 contributing authors, and follows a similar layout to the preceding editions, but has been revised and updated. It is split into 5 sections: Applied Physiology, Electrolyte Disorders, Acid–base Disorders, Fluid Therapy and Special Therapy. Although one can easily ‘dip into’ each of these sections without necessarily reading the preceding ones, the section on Applied Physiology essentially underpins all the basic science underlying the use of fluid therapy and management of electrolyte and acid–base disturbances, and should really be considered essential reading before tackling the subsequent sections. The titles of most of the other sections covered are relatively self-explanatory, while ‘Special Therapy’ deals with areas such as blood transfusion, enteral and parenteral nutrition, and peritoneal and hemodialysis. The book is well illustrated throughout with both black and white photographs, and line diagrams.

In a book of this size it is inevitable that some errors will creep in. For instance, the use of the subscript ‘a’ to indicate ‘Alveolar’ in the description of the Alveolar-arterial Oxygen Gradient in the chapter on Respiratory Acid–base Disorders, and the use of the same subscript to represent ‘arterial’, will cause confusion for some readers. Similarly, the chapter on Perioperative Management of Fluid Therapy loses some focus by referring to Hetastarch throughout, when the author is actually discussing a variety of hydroxyethyl starches under this incorrect ‘umbrella’ term.

These minor criticisms aside, the book provides a huge amount of in-depth information and will remain ‘the bible’ of textbooks on fluid, electrolyte and acid–base disorders for small animal practice. It is not likely a textbook that one will sit down and read through in its entirety but, more likely, one that will be used as a reference for seeking out explanations of important or complex concepts relating to the subject area. As such, I am not convinced it is a book that would be widely used by small animal veterinary surgeons in general practice, but more for candidates studying for specialist board examinations in Anaesthesia, Emergency and Critical Care, and Internal Medicine. It is also a useful textbook for those teaching fluid therapy to veterinary nurses or undergraduate veterinary students, as it provides clear explanations of some difficult areas.

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Is it worth buying this 4th edition if you already own the previous one? Probably not, as there is unlikely to be sufficient new material for most people to justify the additional cost. For those who do not have access to one of the older editions and have more than a passing interest in fluid therapy, there is certainly sufficient information contained in this 4th edition to justify its purchase.

Derek Flaherty is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Anaesthesia Service in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow. He is an RCVS and European Specialist in Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia.