Gia Pets

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Archive for health

Is there such a thing as “super fleas”?

Three weeks after treatment with Walmart’s version of Frontline, branded PetArmor, we’re invaded by fleas.  Seriously invaded to the point that it is possible that I’m going to get crazy trying to now flea treat the entire house.  They are everywhere, despite no carpets, despite trying to wash and treat the dogs’ bedding.

Fleas greet us when we come home with a Conga line.

I know they have to be “Super Fleas”, but everyone keeps telling me that becoming a bit delusional.  I say it’s post traumatic stress disorder from coping with the dancing bugs from the Super Flea convention.  The dogs are scratching and chewing, one has chewed holes into herself.  I’m grossed out, and yet the fleas seem to be multiplying faster than I can apply toxic stuff to our tile floors, around furniture, and anywhere else I suspect fleas are hiding.

They are winning.

So…tomorrow, they get flea treated again.  Hopefully, this will buy them some relief as I try to eliminate the flocks of fleas from our mutual abode.  Weeks like this, I miss Arizona, where fleas were seldom seen.  The Gulf Coast seems to have a neon sign out for all of the fleeing hoards of fleas from colder climates to seek their refuge here in our balmy winter weather we’ve had this year.

It’s also meaning that the big guns are going to come out.  We’re going to the feed store to get something with some serious bug killing power, even if it means vacating the house for an entire day before returning and airing it out.  We can’t live like this.  It’s miserable for man and beast.  Fortunately, we also have a weekend of plans coming up, making it easy to be out of the house for that entire day with minimal extra effort.

It still means spring cleaning, essentially.  Sweep, removing anything that can be removed, washing rugs, dog beds, etc., and spraying each and every nook and cranny carefully, as we back our way out.  With closed doors and about eight hours to dry and commit genocide on our invading hoard…we’ll return, open windows, and let it air out for a day or two.

In mild climates with plenty of vegetation and humidity, fleas can quickly become a serious problem, and that’s without your pet ever leaving the comfort and safety of your own yard.  No one ever as a “flea free” zone outdoors–everything from squirrels to birds can leave them behind to hop onto your pet as it passes by.  They are remarkably spry at their hopping too, as well as taking up temporary refuge on everything from cement walkways to blades of grass or tree bark before choosing their next meal.

That means staying on top of the problem, especially with pets allergic to the flea bites.  This is a common allergy, and many pets will quickly chew on themselves until they have open sores.

The days of the “flea and tick dip” are gone.  Dipping your pet into insecticide isn’t nice for them or you, and everyone is thankful that it isn’t a necessary or advisable treatment anymore.  Powders are also not particularly effective, and having a pet walking around and covered in a toxic powder isn’t exactly being environmentally or health friendly for anyone.

Your best bets for flea treatment come from your veterinarian.  Frontline, PetArmor, Advantage, etc. are monthly over-the-counter flea preventatives.  They are directly applied to the pet’s skin, beneath the hair, and absorbed into their bodies.  While some people have concerns about the use of such chemicals in this manner, the potential risks from the chemical exposure, when compared to the obvious risks of flea infestations, are much smaller.  (In addition to their blood sucking habits, they also transmit intestinal parasites.)

Available at your veterinarian, there is a monthly pill that is another option, known as “Comfortis”.  It’s also expensive, available by prescription only, but not much higher than the Frontline treatment, and seems to be more effective than the topical treatments in heavily infested areas.  To get rid of the fleas when you do have an infestation, “Capstar” is also available from your veterinarian, and is a 24 hour pill to kill the fleas currently calling your pet home.  Many veterinarians will recommend administering the Capstar when applying the topical to an infested pet for immediate relief from the fleas.

For non toxic control of fleas, some people like flea traps.  There are a number of variations of the trap, but most use some entrapment method, whether water or sticky papers, along with a light.  The light attracts the fleas, and they then become trapped in the water or on the sticky paper, allowing the owner to dispose of them.

What is YOUR biggest issues with flea control?  Have any answers?

Post a comment and let me know!

A strange fascination

Today, I saw an entirely new side of my dog.  She discovered a baby toy.

That’s right.  It was a baby toy, I’m not sure what it was called, but when you drop a ball through the tubes, lights flash and tones play, depending on where it comes out.  The same lights and sounds play when it is activated by movement.

This toy is designed for very young babies, but it is rather large, probably about 12″ in diameter.  For Red Dog at 65 lbs., it’s substantially sized, even if it’s not “dog proof”.  (It’s made of hard plastic.)  She was fascinated by it, and quite mystified by how it worked.  It outweighed the “cookie” concept even.  She wanted that toy, and she wanted it to light up and play music.

For thirty minutes, she laid enthralled or followed it around the room.  If we moved it out of her sight, she had to find it.  She almost didn’t want to leave because of the fascinating toy she had just discovered.

I’ve never seen her fascinated by a toy to that degree.  She is old–few toys catch her interest at all, let alone catch and hold it for so long.  I’m not sure what she thought of it, but she did learn that touching it with her nose or paw would activate it.

Now the question is…why has this particular toy fascinated her?  What intrigues her about the toy?  Is it the lights or the sounds?  I know the sound fascinates her, if I hid the toy and it made a sound, she would be practically beside herself trying to find the toy.

In a puppy, this play behavior and intense curiosity is nearly the norm.  But, this is an aging dog, she is going on ten, and hasn’t shown interest in toys since she was about four years old.  Why the sudden interest in this particular toy?

For a human baby, this toy is supposed to intrigue and fascinate with the sounds and lights.  I haven’t seen the human baby that it was bought for playing with it, but I can see where it would interest most babies.  I don’t understand why it has brought out the puppyish curiosity in an aging dog though, and if I could figure it out…I might know a lot more about canine psychology.  In the meantime, though, what does this information do for our relationship?

It makes me realize that even though she is old and set in her ways, she still craves mental stimulation and new experiences, just like humans do.  It goes hand in hand with her curiosity about other unfamiliar things encountered on our excursions, and her intense desire to participate and be with me when I am doing things…just in case something interesting happens.  It reminds me that just like sticking an older human in a room with nothing to do…it isn’t healthy.  We need to remember to provide even our aging pets with things to keep their minds active and interested, be it new experiences or repeating those that they love.

In the meantime, we will have to pay another visit and see if her interest in this toy continues.

Weekend warrior canines

Our dogs live with us, and share our lives.  Often this includes the bad habits as well.  Obesity and lack of exercise are serious concerns with our pets as well.  And, just like us, they lounge in front of the television too many days, only to head out on the weekend for more exercise than usual.

It isn’t good for us, and leads to injuries and mishaps.  It does the same thing for our dogs.  We can’t expect a dog that has spent the previous month lounging around in the house and back yard to be fit for a 20 mile run alongside your bicycle just because you have the time and inclination to go do it on that weekend.

So how do we cope with this?

Just like ourselves, the dog in your life needs regular exercise to stay in shape so those weekend runs alongside your bike (or wherever you are going) aren’t going to cause problems that land you in the veterinarian’s office with a dog in pain (or worse…dealing with a dog suffering from heat stroke or a heart attack!)  Being diligent in walking is the low-tech option.  Walking five miles a day goes a long ways towards maintaining good habits, but what if  you don’t have the time or can’t hire a dog walker?

There is the option of the treadmill.  Not all dogs take to it well, and it usually requires some training to get them up and moving on the treadmill.  They are not going to see it as particularly logical, by the way!  There is also the expense of purchasing a treadmill, which can often be found used from someone who’s New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the way side.  Obviously, a used machine can be far less expensive than buying a new one.

The bicycle can also be used to speed up the exercise process for those pressed for time, as well as provide the distance and speed larger dogs need to stay fit.  This requires forethought and training–a dog can easily cause a potentially serious accident if it should pull in the wrong direction at the wrong time with any force.  There are also gizmos that can be purchased to attach to the bicycle, eliminating the rider holding a leash in his or her hand and riding.  These usually attach to either the rear axle or the seat post, and provide a safer attachment for the dog, as these locations are less likely to result in a dangerous swerve of the bicycle.  When exercising dogs via bicycle, the route must also be carefully considered.  Loose dogs and heavy traffic can cause serious hazards for the bicycle rider & accompanying dog.

Some people also use a motor vehicle to exercise their dogs.  ATVs, mopeds, and even standard cars and trucks have all been seen on occasion on a quiet road, motoring along slowly to keep the dog at a steady trot for the designated exercise distance.  This requires careful monitoring of the dog during the exercise period however, as a trip, slip, exhaustion, or health problem may not be noticed as easily by a driver and result in serious injury or death to the dog.  Other owners have expressed concerns about the effects of exhaust on the dog’s lungs as well.

Swimming is another exercise option, and its just as good for the dogs as it is for their owners.  Just make sure the chosen swimming location is actually safe!  (Some rivers are notoriously dangerous for any swimmer, as well as hazards in other locations.)  Not all dogs are thrilled with the swimming either, but it is an exercise form that doesn’t add undue strain to joints and muscles.  Don’t over exercise in water–dogs also can drown when they become too tired to continue swimming, just like people.

Above all, be reasonable.  Checking with your veterinarian before embarking on an exercise program is also a very good idea, just like checking with your doctor would be a good idea for you as well.  Often your veterinarian will have some very good ideas about how and where to get the best exercise for your pet.

Be safe, but have fun!

Paying attention on a budget

What are the best ways to ensure your pet’s health?

Pay attention!  Animals are essentially hard-wired to hide health problems, but for the observant pet owner, there are small hints that things may be going wrong.  Changes in behavior, especially in terms of eating habits, can signify serious problems.  Sleeping more can indicate other health problems.

Nutritional problems, as well as allergies/food intolerances show up often in the coat & skin.  Any sudden change is obviously a cue to pay attention.  Weight gains & losses can also be related to nutrition.  One useful tool in monitoring changes is to use photographs.

In this day & age of digital photography, it’s very easy to take many photographs.  Taking a monthly photograph at approximately the same distance & location and comparing them side by side can be a very useful tool.  Store them in a single file in your computer, labeled with the date, and it will be easier to track any changes.

Take note of changes, and to make it easier to let your veterinarian know, write them down and take the list of concerns & observations with you to the vet’s office for the appointment.  Just like when we visit the doctor, it is easy to forget details that you meant to mention (and that may be important clues for the veterinarian) while in the office.  A list makes up for that tendency.

Paying attention helps save money by catching problems early, before they become huge problems.  Often, minor issues such as the kinds related to the foods you are feeding your pet can be remedied before a veterinarian visit is required, but don’t wait too long!  If it is more than merely a food issue, it can escalate before you know it.

Comparing the photos regularly helps you know when that veterinarian visit is necessary, and can even help your veterinarian literally see what you are talking about–a great help in the diagnostic process.  It can quickly show changes in coat condition,weight, stance, and even be used to assess the seriousness of tumors and other growths that appear on our dogs, often minor disfigurements that appear with age.  Face it, our pets can’t talk and are hard wired to hide health problems, both of which make it much more difficult to diagnose problems.

Skipping veterinarian visits is not uncommon when our budgets are strained, it’s hard to justify a doctor visit for your pet when you can’t afford them for yourself either.  Don’t cut corners by avoiding vaccinations and annual exams on your pet!  These vaccinations can save your pet’s life and save you a lot of money compared to battling diseases such as distemper, parvo, etc.  Shop around for these vaccination and exam packages–there can often be a vast difference in prices even between clinics in the same general area.  It’s okay to price shop!

Doing the best we can for our pets is important, even when we are short on money.  Shopping around for vaccination packages is an excellent way to cut a corner without “doing without.”  Paying attention so that our visits to the veterinarian accomplish the most possible is another way to get the most out of our tight dollars, as accurate information can save you both time and money.

For your photographic record, try to position your pet in approximately the same position in the same location and get a profile view.  If there are areas of concern, taking a close up on a regular basis helps compare these particular spots too.  Making a habit of a top view regularly is also a good idea, and can show weight gain/loss dramatically.  Date each photo, and review them each month after you take your new set of photographs, but don’t look at them too frequently!  Examining them often will make it more difficult to truly see the changes over time.

Enjoy your pet!