Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline, Larry P. Tilley and Francis W.K. Smith, Jr., Published Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, 5th edition, hardback, 1600 pages, Price £58.99, ISBN: 978–0813807638. Also available as an e-book and mobile version. Companion website (accessible to purchasers of any version) includes client handouts, images and videos.

With this latest edition in the Five-Minute Veterinary Consult series, the authors are attempting to consolidate a successful lineage, in which the successive Canine and Feline editions are clearly the patriarchs of this particular family, intermittently spawning various niche offspring. The vast list of specialist contributors (over 300) is impressive and, although the majority hail from North America, there are notable contributors who practice in the UK, Northern Europe and Australia.

Those unfamiliar with the format may initially be daunted by the sheer volume of information contained within, but the authors strives to make relevant material as accessible as possible and repeated use aids familiarity. Owners of the first three editions are likely to notice a significant difference in format and content. The differences from the fourth edition are more subtle, although the authors’ stated aim to revise the text tri-annually, with the majority of articles updated within the year prior to publication, is laudable and ensures the text is as current as possible.

Conditions, presenting complaints and diagnostic findings (e.g. hyperglycemia (sic)) are presented in a single alphabetical sequence, flanked by a detailed index and lists of contents alphabetically and subdivided by subject area. Overall, the breadth of the work is impressive, with over eight hundred articles ranging from Atopic Dermatitis to Unruly Behaviors (sic). Each topic is presented as a review, with a brief introduction (in which the subheadings of Pathophysiology and Causes are particularly informative), followed by notes on diagnosis and management. This works best for the most specific conditions, but is less suited to presentations such as ‘Anorexia’ or ‘Weight loss and cachexia’. Some topics have separate entries for the condition in cats and dogs, some attempt to combine the two species (with varying success), whilst some entries, such as those on joint luxation and lameness, make no mention of cats whatsoever!

The onus is on the reader to have a particular condition in mind before opening the book. However, the ‘Differential Diagnosis’ subsection is uniformly useful and complemented by the ‘See Also’ section that directs readers to related topics elsewhere. Notes on follow-up and monitoring are also valuable.

A somewhat slavish adherence to format does have the downside that often several subheadings are irrelevant or inapplicable to the topic in question, or result in unnecessary repetition, and not every author has been bold enough to dispense with this. Diagrams, algorithms and tables make only rare appearances, so the density of text will not suit visual thinkers. The foibles of nomenclature and alphabetisation mean that the order of related topics is not always intuitive – atrioventricular block (third degree) is followed by AV block (first degree) and then AV block (second degree). Similarly, the topic of ‘Myelopathy-Paresis/Paralysis-Cats’ is 102 pages away from ‘Paralysis’ and sadly neither article mentions the other.

The sections on treatment and medication are principally directed at a US audience, although ‘alternative’ treatments are frequently mentioned. The non-US practitioner will need to bear this in mind and consult alternative sources as necessary. UK readers will also need to bear in mind that some geographical conditions (e.g. Angiostrongylus vasorum) are not discussed in detail.

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Each topic ends with a list of suggested reading and, not infrequently, related online resources. The much-heralded online material accompanying this edition is rather disappointing and currently an opportunity missed. There are indeed over three hundred client handouts, downloadable as Word® documents and fully customisable. However, in general these articles struggle to present topics clearly and concisely in layperson's terms. The online ‘figures’ include diagrams and images of varying quality and usefulness, grouped by subject area even though the text is not. These figures are not referred to within the articles themselves, so will only be discovered by those with time on their hands.

In summary this book certainly merits a place on the shelf in every small animal practice. The prime target audience is clearly the busy general practitioner, but students, veterinary nurses, and even specialists requiring a concise summary of conditions outside of their area of expertise, will not fail to find items of interest within what is, in all but name, an encyclopaedia of canine and feline disease.

Stephen Greenhalgh

Stephen Greenhalgh is a clinician at the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital, the Royal Veterinary College's first opinion teaching hospital. He has a particular interest in Internal Medicine.