Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Flea and Tick Prevention

I grew up in South Carolina on 68 acres with anywhere from 1-6 dogs at all times. For those of you who have never been to South Carolina there are many amazing things about the state, but one drawback are the fleas and ticks. For some reason, fleas in South Carolina have become resistant to Frontline, and pet owners and vets are having to figure out a variety of new solutions to this problem. From speaking with my vet fleas becoming resistant to Frontline is a trending problem, and one my vet’s parents have experienced as far north as Southern Virginia. As you are well aware, fleas and ticks can spread a variety of illnesses, diseases, and parasites - and flea and tick prevention - whether natural or through traditional medicine and pharmaceuticals - is an integral part of promoting good health in your pets.

For me, living in DC, and before that Roanoke, VA, Frontline once a month had always done the trick. I even stop using it for a few months in the winter to avoid putting unnecessary toxic chemicals on my furry friends. The only time Milly were after trips to South Carolina, and Hush had never had them.

That is until recently. Despite my religious applications, always perfectly on schedule, Hush seems to have gotten fleas. Not exactly surprising – she is running in the woods off leash almost every day. Hush has a much thicker and longer coat than Milly – she is very much bred to standard with the thick double coat, which is water repellent. I love her beautiful coat, but it does make it more difficult to notice skin problems. I first noticed some scratching, a telltale sign of fleas. I used a flea comb and found no signs of flea dander, which left me confused. However, when I bathed her and dried her with the high power professional dryer I immediately saw bite marks and flea dander. Having spoken with other people within the Golden Retriever breed, I learned many people up their flea/tick prevention before doing any field training in the woods.

So now the question lies in what to do next. There is a new(er) once-a-month topical skin flea/tick/mosquito product on the market called Vectra 3D, which I have used with good results in the past. Vectra is only available by prescription (I think), and from what I’ve found is more expensive than Frontline. However, I have an inside connection through a friend who works in veterinary pharmaceutical sales, and was recently given a three month supply. Having used it in the past, I did notice the smell is much stronger than other topical flea meds. Finally, some dogs have bad reactions to it. If you are going to try Vectra, make sure to follow the instructions. Unlike Frontline, which is applied in one spot between the shoulder blades, Vectra needs to be dispersed in three spots going down the back – between the shoulder blades, mid-back, and above the tail. If not applied this way, your dog’s skin can get burned from the medication. This product is a brand new technology created with a new molecule called Dinotefuron which is proven to kill fleas and ticks for a full 30 days, and does not have the resistance that other flea/tick products may have. It also is proven to kill all fleas and ticks on the animal within six hours of application. Additionally, the animal does not have to be bitten for the medicine to begin killing Vectra 3D also features a patented applicator for ease of use and is safer for the environment.

When I use any topical flea medication I always apply them at night, just before I go to bed. This minimizes the contact I have with the toxic chemicals, and women who are pregnant should never apply topical flea medications.

I also placed an order for Capstar. Unfortunately, this somehow was shipped to my old address… so I am not sure when I will receive it. For those of you unfamiliar with Capstar, it is a pill given orally that kills all living fleas on the dog’s body. This is not a preventative, and only kills any fleas that may exist, working in a similar manner to a traditional flea-dip. I personally have used Capstar with excellent results in the past – although, I have heard certain dogs do not respond well to it. Capstar has always been especially handy with trips to South Carolina – I know the fleas are in that environment and 2 doses spaced 2 weeks apart combined with Frontline usually does the trick for Milly. This said, before trying any new product; always speak with your veterinarian, especially if your dog has any special health concerns, such as seizures.

Another good product is Comfortis, a once monthly pill that works as a preventative. Comfortis has been shown to have very good results, and the ease of administering a monthly pill makes it appealing to many pet owners. However, it is only available by prescription. In the past, I’ve used Comfortis with great results with Milly, but again the product has mixed reviews. The only reason I stopped using it was because my current vet does not stock it within their office pharmacy, and having had no flea problems, I did not feel I needed her to send in prescriptions to 1-800-PetMeds or a similar pet pharmacy. I think I will be switching to this soon, though.

There are also a variety of natural supplements, like Bug Off Garlic, on the market that you simply mix in each day with your dog’s food. I have heard these, especially combined with traditional medicine, work beautifully. However, I have not tried any myself.

In the meantime, I’ve bathed the dogs multiple times with a flea shampoo (twice weekly), but fear this could dry or damage their coats. I have also started spraying each dog with Adams Flea/Tick spray before going into the woods, and have noticed all of the scratching has stopped. I was also able to secure one dose of Capstar for each dog. They are both scheduled to have their topical preventives applied again on Thursday, and this time I will be using my free samples of Vectra.

When it comes to flea preventatives there will always be mixed reviews of each product on the market, and all dogs respond differently. As far as traditional medicine goes, most flea products are toxic chemicals – that is how they kill and/or prevent the fleas – with this in mind, it is always a good idea to work with your veterinarian before making a change. Also, as of December 2009, Frontline is available without a prescription. As a result, there are numerous internet vendors selling counterfeit Frontline and/or damaged products. These can be extremely dangerous to your dog, so when using an OTC product, always buy from a reputable source, and not simply the cheapest available.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Baby Gates

I’ve lived in DC for over 4 years – I can’t believe it has been that long! The first 3.5 years in the area I rented large houses split between 3-4 roommates, had yards, and plenty of space both indoors and out. At the end of November, I signed a lease on a small 2 bedroom apartment in an idyllic condo community, and soon after found a wonderful roommate on Craigslist. I love where I live for a variety of reasons, but adjusting to apartment living after always having a house has been trying at times.

Golden Retrievers are more of a medium sized dog breed under AKC standards, but who are we kidding – they’re still pretty big dogs. I have big furniture and a lot of stuff (it’s amazing how much you can acquire in just 4-years!) – so our lives in the apartment are quite “cozy”.

While I’m at work, both Hush (usually crated) and Milly are left in my bedroom with the door shut. I never had this problem in a larger house, with more circulation, but in the apartment the air in my bedroom gets stuffy having the door closed all day. I hate coming home to a stuffy, dog smelling bedroom at the end of a long day.

After all of the rain we have been having surrounding Hurricane Irene, I was finally fed up with my bedroom smelling like a dog, or worse, a wet dog. On Saturday, I bought a baby gate, and today happily kissed my pups goodbye, and left the door open with Milly gated inside and Hush in her crate. I can’t wait to see, or smell, the difference when I get home.

Baby gates should be added to all must-have lists for dog owners! They’re great, and at only $10, this was a very cheap solution to my problem. As Hush gains more and more freedom, I will probably pick up 1 or 2 more baby gates. They are an excellent way of slowly bridging the gap between crating and being loose, and enable your dog to have more space with you not having to worry about your dog getting into anything he or she should not.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hush Starts Training

Around this time last year I was just starting training classes with Milly at the Mount Vernon Dog Training Club you can read this blog post on a training update mid-course. As I’ve said before, if you want to train your dog and take classes, the most affordable way (and often the best training) is to go through a local AKC affiliated dog training club. This club offers the Basic Obedience class, an 8-week serious, for $80. After you complete the initial 8 week course, you have the option of paying $30 for 10 weeks of classes, where you continue practicing and perfecting what was learned in basic, and focus on the Canine Good Citizen test.

I have also taken training classes from the Capital Dog Training Club. I absolutely loved both training clubs. The Capital Dog Training Club is much larger and able to offer a variety of classes at the same time – they divide their space, a warehouse, into multiple rings like a dog show. The drawbacks with this club are it takes an hour to get to classes, which can be impossible with DC traffic, and the classes often fill up fast.

I knew I wanted to get Hush in a class, and as soon as possible, so when I saw there were openings in the upcoming Basic class through the Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club I jumped on the opportunity. The class starts on September 27th, and is only 10 minutes from my house. Classes are held at 9pm, which gives me enough time to leave work, go home, feed and exercise the dogs, and then head to class. A very exciting added bonus is one of my best friends, Eileen, may also take this class with her dog Evan!!

I am so excited! I’ve already marked my calendar – and I plan on doing the full 18 weeks of training with Hush to cover basic and advanced basic obedience. From there, both Milly and Hush will do their Canine Good Citizen tests. After that, I’ll decide whether or not I want to start training Hush for competitive obedience with a 10-week “Pre-Novice” class, or if I will refocus on our conformation/dog show training. Of course, after these 18 weeks of classes are complete, I’ll have to decide which club to train with based on what classes are offered at each.

My goal is to put an obedience title on Hush by her 2nd birthday, and also get her in the conformation ring by then.