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Fleas and ticks

I live in the South, the land that fleas and ticks call heaven.  For pet owners, it can be akin to hell.  I didn’t always live here–most of my life I spent in the arid Southwest, where fleas are easily controlled with minimal effort.  Not so here.

In addition, my older dog, who was born and raised in the Southwest, is highly allergic to flea bites.  A single bite has her in fits of frantic chewing, resulting in bald patches and sores.  It’s hardly attractive, and certainly indicates her level of misery.

So we’ve spent a fortune over the years controlling the nasty things.  Most of my hard earned dollars have gone to Frontline, and then, a couple of years ago, we began to see insistent fleas remaining behind, despite religious application of the Frontline Plus.  We alternated with Advantix and Advantage, and still…there were some persistence of the fleas, although in reduced numbers.  I’d catch sight of them, and I swore they gave me the finger.

With Comfortis, we did have 100% control, but…at what cost?  After recalls of other products in the past, I’m a bit leery of an oral solution to a topical infestation.  In addition, Comfortis is expensive and requires a veterinary prescription.  After the initial supply of Comfortis was gone, we went back to the over-the-counter use of Frontline Plus, often needing to apply it every 3 weeks rather than monthly, at least during the summer when fleas are planning their own summer vacations on my dogs and cats.

Recently, on a foray to purchase more flea remedy, we discovered a product called “Pet Armor Plus” at our local Walmart and Sam’s Club.  It appears to contain identical ingredients to Frontline Plus.  It’s also less than 50% of the cost of Frontline Plus, and when you’ve just ended up with a third dog who wandered up and refused to leave…and have two cats who arrived the same way, our monthly flea treatment expense was formidable.  We also don’t like fleas and their potential to carry disease.

We gambled, and since we were shopping specifically for the two small dogs’ flea treatment (Red Dog, our big girl, still had a dose left) we bought a box of three doses for the two of them to share (at 7 & 20 lbs, they required the same size dose.)

A week later…they are still flea free, despite regular contact with our neighbors’ dogs, who happen to be hosting the National Democratic Republic of Fleas annual summer convention.  On these dogs, treated only with the traditional spray, powder, and shampoo routine, you can literally stand and watch the fleas moving through their coats, building cities and highways along their routes.

Okay, I realize that the Fipronil used in the product is regarded as a potential carcinogen, and as a hazardous chemical, it may also have other health issues.  However, I regard the continual infestation of fleas as having a far more immediate and potentially equally dangerous side effects, ranging from infection from open sores to diseases and round worms.  The itch from the flea bites is intense…I know, I’ve had enough of the bites myself!  Continual use of anti-allergy medication isn’t exactly healthy either.

It’s a trade off.  Yes, it puts their long term health at risk.  But without it, their short term quality of life suffers, and there are mid term health hazards to consider too.  It would be great if we could treat their space and be done, but in the South, that doesn’t work.  Everything has fleas, they move around, and everything living in nature are regarded as a potential ride into new territory.  In addition, we like taking our pets with us on excursions, and those areas are obviously NOT treated for fleas…and we’re infested all over again.

So far, I’m pleased with Pet Armor Plus.  It seems to be working as well as Frontline Plus.  The price could be lower and make me happier, but it isn’t.  We won’t see further reductions in price until more generic versions of Frontline hit the market.

From the veterinary industry, we’re being cautioned about potential reactions and told that it is not really the same.  We’ve heard this before, and we all suspect it is because it affects the veterinary clinics’ bottom line.  Yes, reactions can occur and they can be dangerous, but guess what?  That’s true with Frontline too.  Allergic reactions are unpredictable in some cases.  I’ve had severe allergic reactions to commonly consumed foods and medications, requiring emergency medical intervention.  Does that mean that these items are hazardous and should be avoided by everyone?  Of course not!  It is an individual reaction.  One of these veterinarian based statements I read claimed the inert ingredients were the source of the reactions and other hazards of this generic version.  I find that difficult to swallow–inert ingredients are inert ones, and while an allergic reaction could occur, there should be no “other hazards” resulting from these inert ingredients because they are INERT.

Another complaint is that the Pet Armor Plus is manufactured in India.  Okay, so I prefer American products myself, but…we don’t make much here anymore, and often the quality is sub-standard when we do.  If the quality is high, so is the price tag.  That’s why we’ve seen so many jobs lost in the manufacturing industry already.  India is better than China, as far as being the manufacturing country is concerned in my eyes.  We’ve seen too many contaminated items coming out of China in the past decade.  I’m not sure where Frontline Plus is manufactured either.

In these trying times, with budgets strained to the breaking point, many people have had to give up their pets, unable to care for them.  Veterinary visits are often too expensive, and avoiding the annual visit is not uncommon either.  Pet owners are struggling to make ends meet too, and a less expensive solution to the flea issue is important.  So far, I’ve got no reason to discontinue the use of Pet Armor Plus and revert to my rotation through the three big name flea products with their big prices too.  We’ll see how this month plays out.

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Dogs and bike trailers

Once upon a time, bike trailers were nearly unheard of.  Trailers specialized for pets were even more unheard of.  Today, there are many options on the market…IF you have a toy to small-medium sized dog.  But what about the big dog…especially as age begins to reduce their ability to run for miles alongside their person?

Last weekend, Red Dog and I embarked on an ambitious bike ride.  Much to my surprise, despite our slow pace (I never moved her beyond a trot) Red gave out just before the five mile mark.  She was exhausted, and I had to stop for her own well  being.  To continue to ask her to follow along would have been beyond cruel–I was risking her life.  She was too hot, too tired, and beginning to limp as age, lack of conditioning, and the asphalt surface all began to take its toll on her joints and muscles.  She then took a four hour (nearly continuous) nap as we waited for the rescue vehicle to pick us up at the park where we’d opted for our stop.

I had realized that the full 18.8 miles of the ride were likely to be too much, but the trailer I had ordered had not yet arrived.  My plan was to go slow, rest often, and see how she did.  I didn’t rest long enough apparently, because I was definitely surprised when she began stumbling and steadily going slower and slower as she breathed heavier and heavier.  It was still cool, and she was refusing a drink…but the definite warning sign was her disinterest in a PEOPLE cracker…Red never turns down crackers.  I actually dismounted and walked alongside her for a good half mile as we slowly made our way the last mile to the rest station.

It’s a sad day when you are forced to admit your dog is getting older and is no longer that young, energetic (and foolish) dog she was 8 years ago.  At over 9 years now, she rarely shows signs of age except during cold weather or after a long sleep, when her legs don’t want to cooperate.  She still runs and plays like a puppy often, but the bike ride/run was just too much.

She’s done her best for me all of her life, and now, I have to remember to do my best for her as she gets older.  The bike trailer was the first step in accepting that she’s no longer a young dog.  When she was a year old, I should have taken up bike riding–she could run for miles as we hiked canyons, with her running up and down nearly vertical sides like she was really a mountain goat, then ahead of me, then behind me, then up the other side and back down again.  Cliff diving was another favorite, and she was known to take leaps of 20-30 feet without blinking an eye, an activity I discouraged after a nasty case of swimmers ear got us a large vet bill.  (That was her only ear infection, and it came after repeatedly diving off of a cliff about 30 feet up with a friend of mine’s young son–she had a ball, but we paid dearly for it about a week later.)

So, I began shopping for trailers.  It was soon obvious that a traditional “pet trailer” would not work–she would not fit!  At a mere 65 lbs. in middle age, she was far larger and bulkier than those trailers could comfortably manage.  Obviously, I would have to consider a “cargo trailer.”

Bike trailers come in a long list of brands, sizes, types, and materials.  I soon narrowed it down.  I wanted a 2 or 3 wheel trailer with a solid bottom and detachable top or no top, to allow room for her to sit in the trailer comfortably.  Next, there was the financial aspect of the trailers, and many beautiful trailers with more than enough room for her and the groceries were also far too expensive for my meager bike trailer budget.

Then I hit pay dirt.  I found the Aosom trailers.  (www.aosom.com)   They can be found on Amazon and Ebay also.  They had a metal bottom, were appropriately sized, and better yet, were priced at about $100 each.  At the last minute, I called Aosom to find out how much it would cost to have one shipped 3 day shipping, since their price included standard shipping.  At an additional $70, it moved the trailer out of my price range, so I had to settle for standard shipping.  Their website advertises shipping in 24 hours, but that’s rather misleading.  My trailer was ordered on Monday, but not picked up by Fed Ex until Wednesday, and didn’t depart until Thursday, the day I needed it to arrive.  It finally arrived on the following Tuesday, minus the second hitch I had ordered so that we could easily trade the bike trailer between bikes without having to use tools.  I shouldn’t complain–there was a time when ordering something via mail order took 6-8 weeks to arrive!

I called Aosom about the missing hitch, and it is supposed to be shipped out soon.  Judgement on “soon” is reserved at this point…we’ll see.

But the trailer?  It’s beautiful!  It’s their “small” trailer, with the red cover.  It wheels by hand like a dream, literally I can move it with a single finger!  I am hoping it moves as easily behind me with a 65 lb. big red dog lounging in it.  The floor is solid metal, and the sides are formed of nylon fabric.  The cover, which won’t be used with Red in the trailer, fits snugly and will work well for those rides with items other than large hairy dogs in the cart.  With 16″ wheels, the ride may be a bit rough, but I don’t think she’ll complain too much!

The metal floor is uncovered in the stock trailer I ordered.  I’ll handle that myself with a floor mat from our van’s back seats.  (Any floor mat would work though.)  The floor mat will make the floor less likely to intimidate with its slick surface, insulate the metal some, and provide an anti-slip surface that can handle big dog nails.  Additional padding could also be added for a long day’s ride.  In addition, since we are considering purchasing a second trailer, this trailer may well be large enough to hold Sissy’s crate–we have no illusions about her ability to cooperate and stay IN the trailer–she’s a feist with an attitude that is much larger than her abilities will ever be, and escape will only result in accident or injury.  At 25 lbs., even she is pushing the limits of size and strength for a traditional trailer, and we do like the idea of multi-purposed trailers for the dogs on the bikes.

With the rapid approach of a Gulf Coast summer, shade for the dog would also be necessary.  I can see two easy-to-manage and inexpensive solutions.  One is an umbrella strapped to the frame–hardly aerodynamic, but a quirky, attention getting solution.  The other alternative is to enlist assistance, and construct a lightweight PVC frame to insert into the trailer, and attach fabric to the top to create a “roof”.  Additional fabric could be used to create sides, and increase her feeling of seclusion and privacy–an important consideration when traffic is rushing by at 55+ mph!  This fabric could be easily made removable with the use of glue-on Velcro, I suspect.  Another choice might be using magnets glued to the PVC pipe, and a matching magnet on the fabric.  We’ll see–that project will take place next week.

So far, although we’ve not embarked on our maiden voyage, I’d have to say I highly recommend our choice of cargo trailers for a large dog.  It’s sturdy, very easy to put together even without directions.  (There aren’t any, by the way!) It’s the least expensive model on the market and one of the FEW with a solid bottom–a very important consideration with a large dog.  The trailer has two wheels, which gives it greater stability, another important consideration when dealing with the weight of a large dog.  While our trailer is rated for 80 lbs., I’d not hesitate to load any dog into the trailer that could comfortably fit, no matter what the weight.  The weight rating from the manufacturer is apt to be on the light side of the true capacity, and is largely determined by the wheels and tires, not the frame of the trailer.  I’m not towing it behind a motorcycle or motorized bicycle, and am only powered by my own pedaling oomph, so I feel comfortable exceeding the weight limit, if necessary.  I’m getting older too, and I don’t ride fast!

Take a look at the beautiful trailer in this stock photo from Aosom.

Small Aosom bicycle trailer