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Seriously Ticked Off
One little pup vs. infinite tropical parasites

If you think about life in the tropics, maybe you picture warm balmy breezes, a rain shower or two, and gently swinging in a hammock under a palm tree, your dog snoozing peacefully nearby. No taking the dog outside in freezing weather for “last call.” No bundling up to brave a chilly walk. And no frozen toes.

  And you would be right. Here in Belize, we do enjoy those balmy breezes, hammocks and rain showers. Lots of rain. They don’t call it the rainforest for nothing.   All that warmth and humidity grows things. Big things, little things ... parasite-type things. I think the biggest battle a dog’s person fights in the tropics is parasites, specifically fleas and ticks. Recall that there is no deep freeze to kill them off in winter. It is a year-round battle and despite my best efforts, sometimes the ticks win.   Recently, we had just such a week. Agatha, the first tropical storm of the season hammered Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. Somewhat north, Belize escaped the high winds but received heavy downpours daily, including more than 2 inches overnight. A boon for frogs, certainly, but the ticks also appeared, like I’ve never seen them before. Big ones, small ones, flat ones and fat ones. “Pepper ticks” so tiny and numerous they might be mistaken for something you’d sprinkle on your baked potato. And let’s not forget the aerial assault; that’s right, we have ticks raining from trees and overhanging vegetation.   After more than 20 years in Belize, I am no stranger to ticks, either on my person or my dog. So how do I deal with them? Well, I groom Maggie every day, top to bottom. I peer into her ears, lift her tail, separate her toes. I feel every millimeter of her furry little body for any tick-like bumps. I keep a tweezers, scissors and alcohol at hand. Usually, I find them before they have really attached when they are easily removed and drowned in alcohol.   Of course, prevention is an even better idea and I try, I really do, to take the green route. Maggie has a bandana scented with rose geranium reputed to be a tick repellent. She wears it when she goes outside, otherwise I store it in a jar to retain the tick-repelling properties and spare her sensitive nose from inhaling it constantly. I recharge it every so often with another drop of rose geranium. When the ticks get really bad, I spray her with a few drops of rose geranium and lavender dissolved in a bit of glycerin and 8 ounces of water.    And when that doesn’t work, I bring out the big guns: Frontline. Keeping in mind most flea and tick products are developed for the North American market and frequently not effective against the ferocious tropical species. Frontline seems to be the most effective of the bunch, in Belize anyway, although I’ve heard that the ticks have developed resistance to it here.   Last week was beyond awful though. Despite Frontline, scented bandanas and diligent examinations, ticks the size of black beans shinnied up my dog, attached and stayed hidden. These “stealth” ticks fed until swollen to bursting, then dropped to the floor in a small explosion of blood. Maggie looks like she’s been shot—blood spatters when she shakes her head or trickles down her snow-white fur. She stares at me big-eyed: Do something, Mom!    In desperation, I emailed Maggie’s vet who is three hours away on bad roads. I knew ticks injected an anticoagulant—so maybe I was overreacting to all that blood—but I wanted to grouse about my Tick Hell and ask for tips on how to staunch the bleeding. I’d even tried a styptic pen, such as men use for shaving nicks, to stem the flow. Dr. Sheila cut right to the chase: Blood that won’t clot is a symptom of tick fever. She mailed me a course of antibiotics ... and another dose of Frontline. 
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Don’t Be an Octomom
Nadya Suleman teams with PETA to promote spay/neuter

This week Nadya Suleman, better known as the infamous Octomom, teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to reveal a new campaign, “Don’t Let Your Dog or Cat Become an Octomom. Always Spay or Neuter.” A banner with the slogan will be hanging in front of Suleman’s La Habra, Calif., home for the next three weeks.

While Suleman’s participation was largely motivated by the $5,000 PETA paid her to hang the sign, she says that she is an animal lover who believes strongly in spaying and neutering. In addition to the money, PETA is giving Suleman a month’s supply of veggie hot dogs and burgers for her and her 14 children.

The sign has only been up one day, but has already garnered a lot of media attention and many requests for copies to display all over the country. In response, PETA has decided to provide signs to the first 100 people to sign up on their website.

While it’s probably true that the money and attention were the real factors that motivated Suleman to participate, I'm glad that PETA is putting her fame to good use. And as much as I dislike all the Octomom hype, I gotta admit the new campaign is pretty funny.

News: Guest Posts
Coneheads
The pros and cons of wearing a lampshade

At some point in your life with dogs, you’ll most likely shepherd them through the challenges and indignities of an Elizabethan cone. The awkward plastic neck collar—sometimes called a “cone of shame”—is often the final insult following painful hot spots, surgery and injury. The fact that it’s for dogs’ own good (keeping them from licking and biting irritated areas) is little comfort as they crash noisily into doors and chairs or struggle to retrieve a ball that’s right there. You’re sympathetic but you laugh—making matters worse. Still it’s hard not too: The sweet face framed in plastic like a confused pistil at the center of a tulip.

  There are lots of funny pictures and silly videos of dogs in cones across the web but a short, sweet photo series recently posted by Seattle-based dog photographer and friend Bev Sparks explores the upside (toy scooping and sniff amplifying) and downside (poor defense) of cones with a kind heart that preserves her dog Eddie’s dignity while delighting in the strange headgear.   Do you have a great shot of your dog in a cone? Send it our way.

 

News: Guest Posts
Pet Meds Primer
10 questions to ask your vet

The FDA recently published a quick checklist of what to ask when your veterinarian prescribes medications for your pet. These are commonsense suggestions and worth a refresher.

News: Guest Posts
EPA on Flea and Tick Products
Sign up for webinar about adverse reactions

Check out the EPA’s webinar on Wednesday, March 17, 4-6pm EST to hear the findings of the agency’s nearly yearlong evaluation of topical flea and tick products. This intensified scrutiny of the products is in response to the growing number of adverse reactions, including burns, neurological problems, and deaths, linked to these treatments. Pet owners are advised to register for the Webinar and can submit questions to EPA officials. Learn more in a story by Lisa Wade McCormick in a story for ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Banning Debarking
Mass. House approves a bill prohibiting a controversial surgery

Last week the Massachusetts’ House of Representatives approved a bill banning debarking surgeries by an overwhelming margin of 155-1. If approved by the Senate, the bill would make Massachusetts the first state to put such a law in place.

HR 344 prohibits the devocalization of dogs and cats unless a licensed veterinarian deems the procedure medically necessary. 

I realize that debarking, as with any surgery, puts animals at a risk. In most cases, devocalization is unnecessary and the problem can often be solved with training. But what about when a barking problem is coming between keeping a beloved pet and adding yet another pup to the growing shelter population?   

A year and a half ago, one of my friends added a puppy to her family. Despite her efforts to socialize him and bring him to puppy classes, he started to become reactive to everything -- dogs, people, and even the television. 

She’s dedicated the last year to working on counter conditioning, reading books and watching DVDs on the topic, taking him to group classes and private sessions with a professional trainer, but she’s only made marginal progress. 

Now the behavioral problem is starting to jeopardize her housing situation and makes it difficult to even walk her dog down the street. Debarking has been suggested to her, but it’s obviously not an easy decision. She’s hesitant, but her options are running out.

I think there are good reasons for the debarking ban, and I don’t think devocalization should ever be a matter of convenience to replace training, but I’m not sure if debarking should be entirely banned.

Where do you stand?

News: Guest Posts
Jury Rules Against Hartz
Beloved bulldog died 35 hours after flea drops were applied

[Editor’s note: We’ve blogged a bit about adverse reactions in dogs due to spot-on pesticide treatments and flea collars (see links below). Yesterday, Bark contributor Lisa Wade McCormick reported for ConsumerAffairs.com on what may be the first successful small claims case involving topical flea treatments. A portion of her story is reprinted here.]

A 72-year-old dog owner has won what may be a landmark decision against the country’s leading maker of pet care products and fueled the ongoing debate over the safety of topical flea and tick treatments.

A Texas jury awarded Frank Bowers $4,440.75 in the small claims court action he filed against Hartz Mountain Corporation. In this David-versus-Goliath court battle—believed to be the first small claims court action of its kind—Bowers alleged that Hartz Ultra Guard Pro Flea and Tick Drops caused the death of his beloved Olde English Bulldog, Diesel.

The six-member jury deliberated less than 30 minutes before reaching a unanimous decision in favor of Bowers, who was widely considered the underdog in the case.

“When the bailiff walked in the courtroom and said we have a unanimous decision, I nearly passed out,” said Bowers, who represented himself in the court action. “The jury said ‘we find Mr. Bowers’ integrity outweighed what was presented by (Hartz) attorney. He lost an animal of value and all costs he’s out are awarded to him.’”

“I just literally went numb,” Bowers added. “I caught up with three jurors in the hallway after the hearing. All I said to them was: ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And they just said: ‘we did our job.’”

Hartz told ConsumerAffairs.com that it believed the case was “without merit,” but did not appeal because of the time and cost involved.

Sense of justice

For Bowers, the jury’s decision brings closure and a sense of justice to an emotional issue that started at 8:30 p.m. on August 7, 2008. On that warm summer night in Texas, Bowers applied Hartz Ultra Guard Pro Flea and Tick Drops to the 14-month-old, 68-pound, Diesel.

“I nipped off the top of the tube and put it on his back,” Bowers recalled. “I precisely used it as directed – nothing more, nothing less than directed.” By early the next morning Diesel had become gravelly ill.

“I went to my garage to work and I smelled this odor from excretion,” Bowers said. “Diesel was laying on the floor. He was shaking and having spasms of some kind. And he was passing a horrible odor of diarrhea.” Bowers called his daughter, who told him to immediately take the ailing dog to the vet.

Diesel’s health continued its rapid decline during the ride to his vet’s office, Bowers said.

“He continued to have bowel movements on the way. When we got to the vet’s office, he couldn’t walk. They got one of those stainless steel tables and took him back to an exam room.”

The veterinarian asked Bowers a battery of questions about Diesel, including one that caught him off guard.

“The vet asked me if I’d put any flea treatment on him,” Bowers said. “And I said: ‘yes, last night.’ I told him what it was and went back to the store to get a tube to show him.”

The vet, he said, took one look at the Hartz Ultra Guard Pro Flea and Tick Drops and shook his head. “He said: ‘Oh, my God. He’s going to have kidney failure.’”

By 4 o’clock the next morning, Diesel’s kidneys had shut down.

“He was in total renal failure,” Bowers said. “The vet wanted permission to euthanize him. I said you know what’s best and I don’t want any animal to suffer. “I picked Diesel up around 7 a.m. and took him out in the country and buried him on my daughter’s 10 acres.”

This painful chapter in Bowers’ life happened in less than 35 hours—from the night he applied the flea and tick drops to the morning of Diesel’s death.

Read Lisa Wade McCormick’s complete report.

News: Guest Posts
Xylitol Alert
Artificial sweetner is dangerous to dogs

March 14 is the start of Poison Prevention Week, so here at The Bark we’ve been getting alerts about which household products are toxic to pets. The poisons lists feature pretty much the usual suspects, including, but not limited to, Ibuprofen (such as Advil), Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), antidepressants, chocolate, certain fertilizers, pest control products, and a special Easter-season warning about certain types lilies that are especially toxic for cats. But the folks at the Pet Poison Helpline surprised us with xylitol.

Many sugarless gums, including some Trident, Orbit, and Ice Breaker brands as well as candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. Desserts and baked goods can also be made with xylitol. Even small amounts when ingested can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar, or with large amounts of ingestion, liver failure. Signs of low blood sugar include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, tremors, and seizures. Treatment includes decontamination, checking a blood glucose/sugar level, treating with IV fluids and glucose, liver monitoring tests, and drugs to protect the liver.

Learn more at the Pet Poison Helpline including the tip sheet: Poison proof your home.
 

News: Guest Posts
We Love Word Play
Low-cost spay/neuter effort in Michigan

Just when you think you’ve read or heard every possible dog pun, rhyme or wordplay (in my line of work, I’d begun to think so), some creative minds come along and cast the familiar in a shiny new way. In this case, I’m sending a word -play shout-out to a cooperative effort in Michigan. Nooters Club (how come this is the first time I’ve heard that?) and All About Animals Rescue are teaming up with Pet Supplies Plus of Bloomfield Hills for their, wait for it, “Prevent Littering” campaign in honor of Earth Day on April 22. Clever words for a good cause.
 
The details: From March 1 through April 16, pet owners who pre-pay can get their pet spayed or neutered on April 17 for only $50 for dogs and $30 for cats.

News: Guest Posts
Food Safety Watch
How to report problems to the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on a public outreach tear these days. A few days after announcing a Twitter feed, with regular updates on food and drug safety issues (pet food recalls among them), it has released a video primer on how to report concerns about and adverse reactions to food and drugs for people and/or animals. Hopefully, this campaign on the consumer side is matched by aggressive inspection and enforcement efforts to ensure products are safe before they come to market.

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