Saturday, May 20, 2006
Happy Flea and Tick Season!
I rarely divert from my format of recipes-with-stories. But it's May, and my thoughts have turned, not to romantic love, but to the love of my animals. Now I do love them, but having so many of them on a teacher's paltry salary, it can be a challenge to provide the best possible medical care. Don't get me wrong--I would go without groceries for myself before they would lack for food or a necessary trip to the vet. But some of the medications that you get from your vet are just ridiculously expensive! For example, at my vet, Frontline Plus for flea and tick controls has just gone up to $17 a dose! And I have FOUR dogs! That would be $68 a month! Now, I don't blame the vet themselves, but it's the drug companies--the same type of company that loves to gouge us humans--that jack up their prices, knowing they have us over a barrel. And every year, when it's time to stock up on Frontline and Heartguard, I become quite cranky about it! :-(
But one major benefit of being involved in the world of purebred dogs over the last few years is that I have learned LOTS of tips from breeders who maintain a large number of dogs in their kennels and need to keep costs down. The first concerns flea and tick control. I use Frontline Plus, as do most people I know, though there are other good products out there like Revolution and Sentinel. And each of these can be purchased for about HALF PRICE (that's including the shipping!) if you order these medications from Australia where you don't need a prescription for them. The company that I order from is called IPet International (Pet Shed is another popular one), and they have a website from which you can order directly. But I think I may have saved another couple of bucks by bidding on Ebay instead of ordering directly (actually, I didn't really bid--I chose the "buy it now" option). This is the same product made by the same manufacturer, Merial. The packaging is slightly different, as the dog's weight is expressed in kilos rather than pounds. Also, the seller has 100% positive feedback on Ebay and has thousands of feedback responses. Most of the posts speak to the speed of delivery from Australia to the States. It usually takes 7-10 days from Sydney, and they promise to ship within 24 hours of placing your order. I just ordered six doses of the largest size (89-132 lbs.), and that will take care of my four 25-45 pound dogs for the whole flea and tick season!
What's that you say? Six doses for four dogs for six months? How does that work? Well, this is the other tip that I got from several of my dog breeder friends--splitting the doses. One extra-large dose (the red box with the Bernese Mountain Dog, I believe) can be split between all four of my medium-sized dogs. The dose for an 89-132 pound dog is 4.02ml. Based on weight, Prunelle needs .67 ml, Rosie needs double that (1.34 ml), and Percy and Grady need approximately 1 ml. Do the math, and you'll find that that works out perfectly when you split the extra-large dose. One breeder I knows just kind of eyeballs the application, but I couldn't do it. One dog would always end up with way more than his/her share, leaving another dog short-changed. So I squeeze out the dose into a small ramekin and again, use a syringe (with the needle removed) to measure the correct amounts, and then squirt the medicine from the syringe between each dog's shoulder blades. Ta-dah! Four dogs treated for the price of one (HALF the price of one if you get your Frontline from Australia)!
So that takes care of your fleas and ticks, but what about heartworms? Typically, Heartguard is the drug of choice for heartworm preventative (or Interceptor is also used). But I stopped using Heartguard a couple of years ago when I got my youngest dog, and his breeders explained how they safeguard their dogs against heartworms for pennies a month. Following their advice, I bought a vial of injectible ivermectin (this is cattle wormer, but it's the same drug as in Heartguard) from my local feed store. It was about $40, but it lasts forever--I've had mine for two years and have barely made a dent in it! Then I already had 1.0 cc syringes from one dog's allergy shots, but I bought a 3 cc one as well. I also bought a liter of propylene glycol (the ingredient that keeps soft dog treats soft like Pupperoni and Jerky Treats) from the Wal-Mart pharmacy. Now there is some discussion that propylene glycol (in ENORMOUS quantities!) may be a carcinogen, so you could use olive oil or vegetable oil instead, but ivermectin won't mix in water. Each month, I take 3 cc's of either propylene glycol or oil and mix it with just .1 cc of the ivermectin (pay attention to that decimal point, please--that's one-tenth, not one whole cc!). Many sources online will tell you that the formula is .1 cc of ivermectin (undiluted in a base) per 10 pounds of the dog's body weight is correct. But that would be an appropriate dose if your dog were INFESTED with internal parasites! But as a simple monthly heartworm preventative, you need only a tiny fraction of that amount. That's why you dilute it in a base. Anyway...once you dilute the invermectin and mix it well, then you administer it at .1 cc per 10 pounds of doggie. You can squirt it onto a piece of bread or a favorite treat, but I just open their mouths and squirt it onto their tongues to be sure that they got it. And that's it. I have my dog's blood tested for heartworm regularly as directed by their vet, and they are heartworm-free! I actually think that my dogs are more protected now, as I keep them on heartworm preventative all year round, not just May-October like I used to when I was buying Heartguard. Oh, I should tell you that ivermectin can be fatal to collies and related herding breeds (shelties, for example). I don't know all of the breeds that might be affected, but if you already use Heartguard on your dog, you would be fine, as it is the same drug. Of course, it is always in your best interests (and your dog's!) to check with your veterinarian before trying any of the ideas that I have shared.
Have fun with your pets this summer, and give them a smooch from me and mine! :-)