They are called “Preventives” for a reason…

I want to open up a discussion about Flea prevention. All too often I run into clients that don’t use any flea prevention at all, or they only use it during certain months of the year (most often spring/summer), or they’ll use it when they “see signs of fleas.”  That latter one really makes my head spin.

Some of the common excuses I get for not using flea prevention are:

  1. My pet never goes outdoors.
  2. I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet.
  3. My pet is allergic to or sensitive to it.

Let me address each of these, one at a time.

My pet never goes outdoors.

This excuse is most commonly used with cat owners, but I have heard it from my fair share of dog owners too.  If your dog or cat never sets a paw outside of the confines of your home, she is still not immune to fleas.  Unless you live in the middle of the desert or frozen tundra, there are fleas everywhere in the environment.  Those fleas will do whatever it takes to get to your pet too.  They will hitchhike on your pant leg as you walk from your car into the house after work.  They will hide in your folded pant cuff while you’re out mowing the lawn or gardening, just waiting for you to take them to their next blood meal (ie: your dog or cat, or ferret, or hamster/gerbil/guinea pig).  They will come into your house on a mouse, or just crawl through the tiniest little crack in your doorway or floor or wall.  The fleas will find a way into your home.

10 times out of 10 when an anti-flea prevention pet owner comes to us with a skin irritation complaint, fleas are the primary culprit.  They always seem surprised when we comb off flea “dirt” (flea excrement) from their cat that doesn’t have fleas.  Or if we happen to find a live flea on their dog, it must have picked it up on its way into the veterinary office.

Easy way to tell if it’s just dirt or if it’s “flea dirt:” Place on a white paper towel and get it wet. If it turns brown or red, it is “flea dirt.” If it stays the same color, it’s just dirt.

I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet.

I don’t want to put unnecessary chemicals on my pet, on me or around my house ever!  The key word there was unnecessary.  I will use necessary, safe chemicals around me, on me and, if needed, in me if it’s better than the alternative.

Think about this people.  Start with what you consume on a daily basis.  Do you eat processed foods?  Do you wear lotions, sunscreens, perfumes, anti-perspirants/deodorants?  Do you wash and condition your hair?  Do you use hair products for styling?  Do you launder your clothes?  Do you wear insect repellent?  Do you take medications for any reason, over-the-counter or prescription?

If you answered yes to any of the above, why wouldn’t you do the same for your pet if it could improve their overall wellbeing and health?  Prior to the introduction of topical flea preventives, flea dips were commonplace.  Flea dips consisted of dousing your pet in a pyrethrin.  Pyrethrins have been deemed safe for the environment because they degrade rapidly, but they can be toxic to humans and other mammals.  Pyrethrin toxicity occurs most quickly through respiration, but can also happen more slowly through skin absorption.  Geez.  If you are the person bathing your pet in a pyrethrin, both you and your pet are going to be victim to the aerosolizing of the pyrethrin as you hose your dog or cat down.  The skin absorption is going to be a given for your pet, and a possibility for you, unless you’re wearing gloves during the bathing.

Frontline Top Spot was one of the first true flea preventives on the market.  It’s active ingredient is fipronil.  Fipronil has been proven safe in the environment and to mammals for decades prior to it’s evolution into topical flea preventives for pets.  It has been used in agriculture for decades, and if you’ve ever had your home treated by an exterminator for termites or fleas, I guarantee you they used fipronil!

Now, let me ask you this.  You don’t want to put chemicals on or in your pet, but you are okay with your pet contracting a blood-borne parasite, intestinal parasites (tapeworms), and/or having to live with constant and chronic skin disease?  And then there is the potential for your pet to transmit disease to YOU.  Have you ever heard of Bubonic Plague?  It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is spread by fleas.  So please think again about flea prevention if this is your excuse for not using it.

My pet is allergic or sensitive to it.

Sure, this is definitely something that could happen.  If you use a topical product, there is the possibility that your pet might have a skin sensitivity to the carrier or the chemical itself.  Then try something different.  Try an oral preventive if you pet is sensitive to topicals in general. The number one carrier used in topical products is isopropyl alcohol.  Some people are sensitive to isopropyl alcohol, but it doesn’t mean it is a dangerous product.  If your pet reacts poorly to an oral preventive, then use a topical.  There are several different preventives on the market, oral and topical and some injectable.  Keep trying until you find the product that your pet tolerates well!

Bottom Line.

Fleas are disgusting!  They are annoying pests to us, but especially to our pets.  Imagine living with thousands of little bitey bugs covering your body, biting you for a blood meal several times every second, causing the most uncomfortable itch you could ever imagine from head to toe.  Every damn day.

If you are using something that is over the counter (Hartz, Sargents, Pet Armor, Flea Shampoo, etc.) and your pet is still suffering from a flea infestation and/or flea allergy dermatitis, talk to your vet about appropriate flea prevention, please.  Owning pets does not come without cost.  Either pay for flea prevention that works, or continue to pay your veterinarian for regular exam fees, skin cytologies, steroids, antibiotics, and other skin care medications (tell me again about how you don’t want to put chemicals on or in your pet?).  The former is the best option, and the safest and most comfortable option for your pet.

I love my dogs and my cats.  I would never EVER think about using anything on them that I thought would be even the least bit harmful.  I have seen what “homeopathic flea remedies” look like.  They don’t work.  I have witnessed the agony of a cat nearly hairless with moist dermatitis from head to toe that would go into a seizure if you touched it because it itched that bad.  I have experienced it all folks.  Lemon doesn’t work.  If it did the lemon industry would be making bank.  Diatomaceous earth doesn’t work.  If it did we’d see a lot more of it on the market being advertised as such.  Essential oils (tea tree oil, lavender, etc.) don’t work!  They might help by deterring some fleas from jumping onto your pet, but most fleas aren’t phased by it.

And now the floor is open.  Share your opinion(s) on the matter in the comments.  This is how we all learn and grow.  If you agree or disagree, have something to add or comment about, please share!

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We’ve finally found our niche, Part III … Embracing the Rural Life & wanting to make the ESVA our permanent Home

If you need to catch up, check out Part I and Part II before proceeding. Or just read on and if you get lost, I warned you…

Now Chris and I are both working full time. He was working at Wallops Flight Facility and I got a job at Atlantic Animal Hospital. He had a 30 minute (23 mile) commute, I had a 10 minute (4 miles out, 3 miles back) commute. His job paid a LOT more than mine and his hours were more flexible than mine so I couldn’t feel but so bad for him and his commute. Though he did realize it was a good thing that he could make a 23 mile drive in under 30 minutes. In California a 23 mile drive would’ve taken at least 45 minutes to an hour no matter where we were going.

I was home long enough with the dogs and cats before I started working to get them well acclimated to their new home and surroundings. Chompers and C.J. were both the most trustworthy dogs on the planet, so I never had to worry about them getting into anything they shouldn’t. I just worried about them chasing critters outdoors, especially at night, and that only happened when we were home with them.

PRODUCT PLUG: Noxgear Lighthound Vest has been a GODSEND for us since moving to the Eastern Shore of Virginia!

Esme sporting her Noxgear Lighthound vest during an evening stroll.

After being at the animal hospital for a few weeks, I had a conversation about the ticks in the area. My dogs were on Frontline Plus but I would still find numerous ticks on them, some were dying but several were engorged, enjoying a nice blood meal. One of my coworkers had suggested we get some chickens on the property. The chickens love to eat bugs, including ticks. Someone else had suggested we get guinea birds. Chris and I discussed it for a few weeks and decided on giving chickens a try. Before we even had a coop built I brought home a dozen little baby Silkies.

It took only a weekend to erect a small chicken coop. I came up with the design and Chris helped me build it. I thought I did pretty good considering I am not a carpenter.

Our first Chicken Coop. It was small, raised and completely enclosed. It served its purpose for a few years before we realized a few design flaws!

A few weeks after we brought home the biddies, they were ready to go to the coop. We confined them in the coop for about 2 weeks, then started letting them out to explore the yard during the days when we were home.

By early Spring the chickens were well acclimated to their home. We would let them out to free range when we were home, and they would return to their coop every evening. I had zero experience with raising chickens prior to bringing these home. I have to tell you, it was pretty easy to raise them from hatchlings to free rangers! I was not familiar with this particular breed of chicken either and thought they were the cutest things ever. They are a small, bantam type chicken with fluffy plumage. We called them our poodle chickens.

Our silkies were very friendly and personable, and loved a snack of stale bread or left-over French fries.

By late spring we started to notice that we were no longer finding ticks on our dogs or us. Then there was a little added bonus that started to appear in the coop…eggs!  And they were the best-tasting eggs we’ve ever had.  When we had extras we’d share with our friends and neighbors.  If we were going to be making a trip to the midwest to visit family, we were sure to bring eggs with us.  Chickens.  Who’d-a thunk it when we were leaving California…

In the years that followed, we both completely embraced the rural lifestyle of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  We have met some very amazing, interesting, and wonderful people during our time here.  We had come to truly accept this as our home.  We felt at home.  We wanted it to be our permanent home.

Then things started to get a little rocky for Chris at Wallops.  His project was losing funding and he wasn’t sure whether or not his position would still exist when it was time for contract negotiations.  Every year he managed to still have employment!  Until the summer of 2017.  The project was no longer getting any funding.  At least not enough to keep him on it.  He got laid off.

…To be Continued…  Stay tuned!  And thanks for following along!

The DNA Results are In…

Actually, I knew the results before I posted.  But you all realized that if you read my original post.

C.J.

Since he was about 5 months of age, which is approximately how old he was when he came into our lives, C.J. has been classified as a Lab Mix. He looked like he might have some semblance of a bully in him too, and probably several other breed mixes. Labrador retriever was the primary, stand-out phenotype. Chompers, C.J.’s namesake, was half lab and C.J. looked like a spitting image of Chompers so we figured it must be so.

C.J. has been living a lie for the last 13 years of his life…

Here are C.J.’s Royal Canin GHA results:

CJ’s Genetic Health Analysis Report

A Labrador Retriever mix he is NOT!  There’s probably a tiny bit in there somewhere according to his “mixed breed” analysis.  C.J. is the poster child of what a Mutt is.  He is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, and peppered with about a dozen other breeds.  The miniature poodle part though?  That gets me rolling!  It explains all of his “princess” moments.

How awesome is that report?  This Genetic Health Analysis screens for over 140 different hereditary conditions.  Not only do I now know that C.J. is a Pitweiler Choodle, but he also has tested clear of over 140 hereditary conditions.  That’s something that sets this pet owner’s mind at ease.

Esme

Then there’s Esme.  She was the reason I wanted to give the Royal Canin GHA a try.  Namely because she was so young, I was curious to find out what she really was because she had some really peculiar behaviors.  I suspected she had some bully in her due to her appearance and her personality, but she had something else that I just couldn’t figure out.

Well, you already know how good my intuition about dog breeds is knowing C.J.’s results. Lab mix.  Pshaw.

Esme is very stand-offish with most of the new people she meets.  She is fearful of others, and there’s no correlation to her fearful behavior (sex, nationality, age).  However, if she is allowed time to get to know someone, she then adores them whole-heartedly.  She is also the epitome of a snuggler.  She loves to be held in your lap, loves to lay next to and half-way on you when you’re laying down, and will curl up next to you while you’re chilling on the couch watching television or reading a book.  She has the appetite of a starving bear and will eat anything and everything she can get into her mouth, even if it’s not intended for ingestion.  And her tracking ability is amazing.  I really need to see if she’d be interested in Nosework because she can definitely sniff out any critter that has passed through our yard.

She was adopted to me as a Pointer mix.  I could buy that easily by appearance alone, but especially after getting to know her.  She has the personality of a pointer, always has to be busy doing something!  She gets bored easily and has all the energy in the world.  She also has pointed a few times.  Most pointers I’ve ever met have been very friendly and personable.  Esme, not so much.  Don’t get me wrong, she is friendly and personable, but she lacks trust in strangers.  She needs to spend a little time getting to know you before she’ll trust you.  But once you’ve earned her trust, she’s all yours.

So, what the heck is she?  Here are Esme’s Royal Canin GHA results:

Esme’s Genetic Health Analysis Report

So, there you have it.  Esme is mostly American Staffordshire Terrier (a pit bull) with a side of Wild Dog.  I’m beginning to understand her more and more!  Her trust issues?  Now it makes sense.  Her snuggaliciousness?  That’s all pit bull!

SIDE NOTE:  Pit Bull is a generic term for any of the bull terrier breeds.  It’s an umbrella term for a Staffordshire Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, etc.  The term “Pit Bull” comes from the fact that many of these breeds were used as pit fighting dogs.  Funny thing is, most of them were bred to be nannies.  Hence the cuddling.  They were bred to protect the young while the adults tended to the daily activities of the household.

Again, a neat thing about the Royal Canin Genetic Health Analysis is that it screens for 140+ genetic mutations/diseases.  Esme’s test came back with one copy of the craniomandibular osteopathy mutation.  I have learned that this is a dominant disorder, so only one copy is required to develop symptoms which means Esme could develop this disease.  Not all dogs with the mutation show clinical signs, but at least now my vet and I know what to watch out for.

How to get your dog tested

Check with your veterinarian to see if they offer the Royal Canin Genetic Health Analysis. The test requires a small blood sample and is reasonably priced compared to other DNA tests for dogs, and you get so much more than just what your dogs’ primary breeds are!  Even if you have a purebred dog, it’s worth it to have it screened for the 140+ genetic mutations.

If you have a:

  1. mixed breed dog
  2. dog that came to you as a stray
  3. rescue dog

I think you should seriously consider testing them.  Even if they appear to be a particular breed or breed mix, you might be surprised!  C.J. looked so much like a Labrador Retriever mix that I was certain he had to have some in him as a dominant breed.  His results just go to show that looks can be deceiving.  Just do it!  It’s kind of fun!

CJ and Esme … Guess the Breed(s)

A few months ago I decided to have both CJ & Esme DNA tested. I did it not just to learn their breed history, but also because this particular test screened for 140+ hereditary conditions. Royal Canin’s Genetic Health Analysis is a great addition to any dog’s health record.

If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you may have already seen the results. If you haven’t seen the results, dare to venture a guess as to the top 2 breeds of CJ and Esme! I’ll let you all know what the results were in about 14 days. Let’s hope I don’t go on another blogging hiatus for months and months if the suspense is going to kill you. Here are some photos to go on in the meantime. First, CJ.

 

CJ LOVES the water!

 

CJ’s most favorite activity is fetching his aerobie. Aerobie is life for him. Even in his old age.

 

CJ and his aerobies. His most favorite toy on the planet!

Then Esme.

Esme’s first day in our home.  Esme on the left, CJ on the right.

 

Esme enjoys walks and exploring. She has a great nose and has tracked a fox or two in the back yard.

 

Here is Esme after being with us for a month. Still working on leash manners!

 

“Just look at these tonsils!” Esme has a big yawn, is a lover and wants to be friends with every dog she meets!!! People she’s a bit leary of.

Feel free to comment to ask about personality, habits, etc. CJ is very much a fetcher. Esme does not fetch. Esme is a cuddler! CJ not so much. CJ loves people and tolerates other animals. Esme likes other animals, especially other dogs, but is weird about certain people. CJ is smart! Esme is cute. CJ eats edible things! Esme eats things she shouldn’t. CJ is 13 years old and weighs about 54 pounds. Esme is about a year and a half and weighs 44 pounds.

A REPOST … Because it’s that important to me.

Dog owners far and wide, PLEASE get rid of your retractable leashes! I abhor the device and feel it needs to be banned. I do NOT understand why so many favor it, other than pure laziness.

Retractable leashes are dangerous for pets and their handlers. They teach your dog horrible leash manners, primarily pulling. They also have a huge potential to cause injury to both the dog and the handler.  In addition, when you visit us at the vet’s office, you put your dog, our staff and other pet owners at risk.

Read my previous post here.

If you use a retractable leash and have a rebuttal please contact me.  I would love to discuss other leash training options with you.

What Should I Feed my Dog?

The topic of dog food is making headlines again.

Recently the FDA named 16 dog food brands that may be linked to an increased incidence of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.  The FDA has been looking into a potential link among certain pet foods and DCM in dogs for about a year now (that I know of).  The naming of dog food brands is huge, but I’m not yet 100% convinced on the data.

In case you’re wondering, here are the foods that were named in the report:

I am a dog lover and I want to do whatever is best for my dogs.  Where I get my information is key.  First and foremost, I never EVER rely on “Google.”  I always look for trusted sources, which include Universities with veterinary teaching hospitals that conduct regular research, trusted veterinary websites like AVMA and VIN, and most importantly I trust my veterinarian.

I’ve been in the small animal care field for over 25 years now and it still makes me cringe when I see the top answers for dog ear problems being ear mites.  Let me set the record straight.  Dogs do NOT get ear mites!!!  UNLESS they are in a house full of cats that have ear mites.  Even then, the ear mites will not survive in the dog (unless the dog is a tiny toy poodle with ear canals as small as a cat’s, OR it’s a cat hoarding situation with a dog in the midst).  The average dog owner should NOT get over-the-counter ear mite treatment to tend to their dog’s ears.  Seek professional advice.  You think a visit to the vet is expensive?  It’s more expensive when you treat via Dr. Google and we have to fix the greater problem you created by trusting something that knows NOTHING about animal health, husbandry or medicine.  This is just one instance of where Googling a pet problem can go wrong in a hurry.  End of that soapbox…

Back to the dog food debacle.  OK, so breeds that aren’t typically predisposed to DCM are now being diagnosed with it.  Is it the food?  Sure, there could be a link (this is why we ask you at every vet visit what you’re feeding your pet), but it could also be coincidence.  The Grain Free movement has exploded over the last 10 years so more pet owners are feeding grain free than ever before.  Am I for it?  Not one bit.  Do I understand it?  Sure.  And it all boils down to my previous soapbox.  

The average person will trust someone on the internet more than they will a trained and studied professional, all in the interest of what?  Money?  People are paying through the nose for the latest diet craze!  Trust?  How can you trust someone you don’t even know?  I don’t trust half of the people I do know, and definitely trust no one on the cyber web.  Lack of trust?  If you don’t trust your health care professional, find one you DO trust.  

And then there are those who will prefer their Breeder’s or Groomer’s advice over a veterinarian’s.  My analogy for this relationship in human terms would be like a hooker trusting her pimp more than her Doctor on how to treat an STD; or someone trusting their hairdresser more than their doctor on how to treat their depression.  Unless your Breeder or Groomer is a veterinarian, or a retired veterinarian, or a licensed veterinary technician, why on earth would you think they know more about animal health and wellness than your vet?  Did they study immunology and have a full understanding as to how the immune system works when it comes to vaccines or disease?  Why would a breeder treat all puppies with an antibiotic for protozoal parasites, increasing the future likelihood of antibiotic resistant parasites, if they were raising the animals in an ideal environment?  I could go on, but I hope you get my drift.

News Flash:  Veterinary health professionals care more about your pet than most human health care professionals care about YOU.  

Again, back to the dog food.  I wrote a post a while back about my opinion on dog food when Beneful was being blamed for everything.  You can read about that here.  My philosophy is the same as it was then.  If you find a dog food that your dog tolerates well, is readily available, and fits your budget, rock on with it.  If your dog doesn’t have a grain sensitivity or allergy, there’s no reason to go grain free.  

I truly believe those who pay attention to what they are feeding their dogs are the only ones reporting when something happens to their dogs.  I also feel those people are relying on sources other than their veterinary professionals about what is best to feed their dog.  They are researching unreliable sources on the interweb, taking advice from a friend or a breeder or a groomer, with all good intention.  Additionally, I think there are more cases of DCM going undiagnosed by those pet owners who don’t have or are unwilling to put forth the funds for a diagnosis.   It’s nothing scientific, but even from my experience as a veterinary professional, a lot of my clients don’t even remember what they’re feeding their dogs.  I often get the response, “oh, it’s one of those expensive, grain free diets.”  Expensive is relative, and grain free means nothing to me.  

Dog owners, pay attention to what exact food you are feeding your dog.  Is your dog doing well on it?  It’s eating well, not having any bowel issues, maintaining a healthy weight, skin and coat.  If your dog behaves abnormal in any way and you have to make a visit to the vet, take note of the exact diet your dog is being fed.  Diet often provides valuable information. 

 

We have a (relatively) NEW FAMILY MEMBER!

Many of you already know about her, but if you don’t follow me regularly…meet Esme!

We welcomed Esme into our home on December 5, 2018.  She is a former Rescue Dogs Rock alum (fka “Esmeralda”) that was being fostered by a friend of mine locally.  We weren’t really looking for another dog but, long story short, ever since I first learned about her I couldn’t stop thinking about her!  So after 2 months of no adoption interest we set up a meet-n-greet for Esme and C.J.  I would never bring another dog into the home if C.J. did not approve, so he was the decision maker.  You already know how this story ends…

The day Esme came to visit, she was rather timid but was quite interested in C.J.  She wanted to go wherever he went in the yard.  C.J. checked her out and she let him.  Then we tried to get her into the house.  She wouldn’t go in.  I called C.J. in and Esme then followed.  While we were standing in the kitchen talking about Esme and where she came from, what feats she’s made, her habits and such, C.J. came into the room and left his most prized possession (his aerobie) at her feet.  My heart melted and I knew he approved.  The next step was waiting for our adoption application to be approved.  What really took about 2 weeks felt like months!

Once we were approved on paper, we had to wait for a home check to finalize the adoption.  The rescue is located in New York City and most of the volunteers for the organization are located in or near NYC.  Not too many to be found here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia!  Thankfully they were able to find someone in Salisbury, MD that could come to our home for the home check.  Because of work schedules and the distance though, we still had to wait for days (which felt like weeks).  The waiting game was excruciating for me!  I’ve never had to go through this before.  Being in the profession I am, and have been for 25+ years, if I decided I wanted to take on a dog, I took it in that day!  If it was on a hold for any reason (ie:  found dog on an adoption hold for 10 days giving the owner time to claim), I would “foster” it until the hold was expired.

After 25 years (well, it sure felt like it) we finally got the word that we were approved!  Once the go-ahead was given we planned her arrival for the next day.

I have done rescue and fostering in the past and I know how difficult it can be to leave a foster with their new, forever home.  Dana, my friend who was fostering her, experienced this when she brought Esme to us after the adoption was finalized.  Esme was her first foster.  I felt for her and empathized with her, but also encouraged her to continue fostering.  The reward is worth it; knowing that you were a caring, nurturing transition for this pet and the primary catalyst in finding the pet his or her forever loving home.

Dana is currently fostering her 3rd RDR!  Keep it up Dana, the dogs are forever grateful to you, as are the adopters.

This is a picture of Esme & C.J. the day she came home to us…

Esme’s first day in our home

It’s been an adventure ever since…

Stay tuned for more “Adventures with Esme”… In the meantime look for her on IG with the tag #shewearspants