Saturday, November 14, 2009

Caution: Contagious!

Swine. H1N1. The "Pig Flu". What ever you want to call it, it all means the same thing: 5-7 days of MISERY. And I'm not just guessing; going by the incessant reporting and interviewing of infected people on the news. I'm drawing the conclusion from experience. Yes, I had "the swine".

Let me tell you folks, if you CAN find and receive the vaccine, I think I would get it. It really is that much worse than the regular flu. And I can say to get the vaccine only because hindsight is 20/20. I procrastinated getting it because I had an appointment with the cardiologist this past Tuesday, and wanted to ask which one I should be getting, if any at all. My Dr. has always said that it was up to my parents and myself if I wanted to get the seasonal flu vaccine. My dad used to make me get it every year, until he passed away in 2000. Every year I would dread going because it seemed like I would always get sick after receiving it. So I haven't received the vaccine in years. And with the H1N1 being a new strain, I of course haven't ever been exposed to it or vaccinated against it. But with it being reported as being pretty serious, I wanted to see what exactly my Dr. thought about it; there are always risks with vaccines (which is why my dogs don't get them!) and this is a vaccine that hasn't ever been given before. I also knew that if the dr. did recommend it, I would probably need his help to find and receive it.

So I put it off. I mean, as of right now, its just 2 weeks into November for crying out loud. The risk wouldn't be that big, would it? Boy was I wrong!

I woke up the Wednesday right before Halloween feeling pretty ill. My body hurt, and I immediately started coughing. As the day went on (it was my scheduled day off) I got worse and worse. I couldn't find a thermometer that hadn't been used on the dogs (you know what that means...) so I couldn't tell if I had a fever; but I had body aches and chills worse than I ever have. I woke up Thursday feeling even worse. It wasn't like the flu I usually got- I didn't have any "head cold" like symptoms; just a nasty cough and feeling lousy. But then I started getting so cold that my fingers were blue. That's right. BLUE. Like "Scary Smurf" blue. That's when I called my GP. They said they didn't like the sound of my breathing (because I really couldn't due to the coughing) so they told me to get my ass over to the ER pronto. I told them (truthfully) that I really was too sick to drive. They told me I should go, but I told them Id have to wait to get a ride.

A few hours later though, I felt OK enough to drive (and I had tried to get warm in the hot-tub to no avail) so I decided to go to a local ER (versus Mass General). I waited for a while until I got triaged, where I found out I had a fever of about 101. I waited a total of 5 hours (masked, might I add) before I finally got a bed and was seen by a dr. They did a rapid flu test and found I was positive. The dr. said that "as it is too early for the seasonal flu, it is H1N1" (which doesn't make sense to me, as the seasonal flu doesn't abide by the calendar...). He wrote me out the prescription for the Tamiflu because I am "borderline" high-risk with my cardiac issues and he didn't want it to develop into pneumonia. He also told me that I would be out of work for 7 days. At that point I got a little upset. Work had changed its "paid time off" policy from paying us out for unused time off at the end of the year, to "use it or lose it"; so I had used it all, and was now looking at taking sick time without pay. I wanted to make sure I could go back to work as soon as I could, and he wrote the note for the parameters set by the CDC-either going back to work 48 hours after the fever breaks (24 to be fever free, and then 24 to make sure the fever doesn't come back) or 7 days (which is what a lot of employers are requiring to make sure it doesn't get spread around).

That night I ate a little (I hadn't eaten since Wednesday morning, but did not really have any desire to) and then took the Tamiflu. I went to bed with the blankets piled on because I was still freezing cold, and tried to get to sleep. I woke up at about midnight soaked in sweat. I also felt so nauseous that I got up and took some pepto. I tried getting back to sleep, but was still hot and sick. Then I found myself sprinting to the bathroom, hoping I would make it. Yeah...I puked until I was dry heaving. It was AWFUL. I haven't been sick like that since I was under 10. I was SSSIIIICCCKKK.....

I did feel better after I had finished, and was able to get back to bed. I didn't have any more vomiting, but it changed course if you know what I mean. That's when I knew that I did have the H1N1 and not just the flu. The gastrointestinal pyrotechnics are kind of a hallmark of the sickness...

So I spent the next few days out of work (Thursday, Friday Saturday-which is my normal day off, and also was Halloween-and Sunday) and went back on Monday. Needless to say I did NOT pass out any candy to trick-or-treators on Halloween! The girls were happy because they didn't have to dress up as hot-dogs this year. They were so good to me; they really do know when I'm sick. They were great when I was going through everything earlier this year, and were even better with me this time around. They both layed and snuggled with me on the couch. Usually its just Shelby that lays on top of me, but Heidi got right up there with her and settled in too. They really were the best medicine; definitely better than the chicken soup and Tamiflu!!

So it really was 5 miserable, awful, crappy days. Not only because I FELT sicker than I have in probably years, but because of the additional nerves of having to miss several days of work and pay. This happened the same week I was given a 2200$ estimate from my mechanic for a 60,000 mile tune up, 4 new tires and 2 sets of new brakes. Yeah, it was fun times... but now I'm feeling much better; a little more broke (as I did end up getting the tires and brakes...apparently they're important...) and I still have a cough, but I'm back to my regular activity.

So I lend this tale to let you know what to look for in terms of symptoms, and hoping that if I can convince someone to get the vaccine (especially any high-risk people reading this), I might save them several days of virus-induced torture.

On another note, I received an email from a dog friend about another disease that's going around. In order to try and protect even more people, I share this info with you now:

Urgent Notice: Potential Danger of Dog Hair......

In a press release today, the National Institute of Health has announced the discovery of a potentially dangerous substance in the hair of dogs. This substance, called "amobacter caninii" has been linked with the following symptoms in females: Reluctance to cook, clean or do housework, a reluctance to wear make-up, good clothes or high heels. Reluctance to spend money on home or car repairs until after 'Baby' has new collars, leashes, beds, treats, food, blankets or toys.

"Amobacter caninii" usually results in long hours away from home and exhaustion which may lead to a loss of physical contact with other humans (especially husbands and boyfriends). "Amobacter caninii" is thought to be addictive, driving the need for additional sources - this may lead to a "pack mentality" or like the potato chip commercial, "you can't have just one". Beware! If you come in contact with a female human infected by this substance, be prepared to talk about dogs for hours.

Surgeon General's Warning: Dogs are expensive, addictive, and may impair the ability to use common sense.

This message is from the CDC-Canine Disease Control
The following picture is the CDC's recommendation for protecting yourself against this life-altering disease. It is a lycra body suit that hopefully curbs the distribution of the dangerous dog hair!

(actually this is a picture of Heidi wearing a body suit from I bought it to keep the dog hair out of the pool when I have them swimming in it during the summer; apparently dog hair in the pool filter is pretty bad...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The most wonderful time of the year...

No, not Christmas. Not even vacation. I'm talking about FOOTBALL SEASON! Yes, it is here! (Actually, it started a few weeks ago, but this is the first time I've been able to post about it!) Now, there can be no doubt who the Shelties love and root for...I mean, no doubt with THESE pictures anyways!

That's right. The Shelties are New England Patriots fans! I mean, look at that last picture! You don't MESS with the Shelties on game day...they MEAN BUSINESS!

Now being a football fan of any kind isn't always easy. For me, having to work on Sundays in the ER means I miss all of the 1:00 start games. The 4:00 starts and Monday night ones are usually safe, but a majority are those that may be missed. So my mom and I have started taping them and watching them when I get home from work. No, we don't have a DV-R (yet!) so we're doing it old school with VHS tapes. We struggled in the beginning (just like the Pats) but now we're old pros. Just as the Patriots are playing better (59-0 against the Titans?!?!?!) we're getting over our technological deficiencies.

Game day for the girls is usually pretty good too. They usually get a rousing game of frisbee (unlike the NFL, our games are weather permitting) and the settle down with a good curly bully stick. (Jerseys come off-they must keep their uniforms clean!) This latest addition has helped Shelby get over her "fear of foozeball"; she used to run upstairs and hide when the game came on. At first we thought it was due to my hollering and screaming at the t.v. (look, I'm not THAT bad, I mean...the neighbors have never complained!) but it actually turned out to be the whistles. But now that we give her something to nom on, she seems to be 100% better. She hasn't run out of the room since last season!

So thanks for indulging us and letting us brag about our favorite pass time. We hope that whatever sport you and your Heart-Dogs chose to watch, and which ever team you all support, the important thing is that you enjoy watching them together! Here's hoping your teams does well! (Just not as well as the Pats...;0)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sheltie Survival!

Hi everyone...its been a while. A long, LONG while. I suppose some of you thought we were carried away, or eaten alive by the fleas! But no, we've (well, mostly I) have just been really REALLY busy lately. But life, once again, has caused me to slow down; which has also allowed me to take some time for something I really do love-writing!

The flea situation was, after all, blown a little out of proportion. I of course freaked out by finding them, because I had lived through an infestation many many years ago with the first dog I ever owned. I can just remember how costly it was in both time and money to finally eradicate them all. I definitely did not want the problem to get to that point. I wanted to stop the problem naturally before it got out of hand and I was then forced to use some not-so-natural (and down right dangerous) products to free us all of the fleas. So I did my research and came up with an action plan to get rid of them.

The firs part of the plan was to kill any live adults. This was done by first treating the dogs, and their immediate quarantined area (the kitchen). I had already removed their bedding and crates from there and provided them with temporary sleeping arrangements of an old sleeping bag on the floor. I got one of the doctors at work to write them a prescription for "Capstar", and it was given to them that same night by my mom. When I got home several hours later, I only found one dead flea on Heidi. That's when I started realizing that the problem might not be so bad after all. If I was finding them both covered in dead fleas, I may have been a lot more worried about what could be living in the house. Now I wasn't really thrilled about using the Capstar. But again, I did a lot of research online to find any reports of adverse reactions or problems that people have reported using it. I didn't find any. In fact, I found some information stating that some states allow groomers to use and dispense it without a veterinarians input or approval at all. Although it is a pesticide, and although it is given orally and gets straight into the bloodstream, the amount of time it is in the body is very short and it does the job very quickly; usually without the need of a second dose. So, I bit the bullet and gave it to them. Again, it did obviously seem to work, but I did find some vomit on the sleeping bag the next afternoon. It made my stomach clench quite guiltily when I found it; I hadn't used anything else yet to treat the fleas so I assume it was one of their little Sheltie bodies trying to rid themselves of the toxin...luckily they (which ever girl it was) had no more symptoms after that.

The day after the Capstar dose, I brought them up to our friends shop and did a thorough grooming. Here my spirits and hopes were further lifted as while I thoroughly brushed, bathed and blow-dried them, I did not find ONE SINGLE FLEA one either dog, alive or dead. WooHoo!!! And while I was cleaning the dogs at the shop, my mom was helping out and cleaning the house. Like really thoroughly cleaning it. She did everything! Vacuumed, washed the baseboards, washed the hard floors and vacuumed carpets. I, in turn, the following day took everything that was too large to fit into our washer and dryer to the laundromat. I washed the dogs beds, sleeping bag, and the beds for their crates in the car. With everything washed (including the dogs), I felt it was fairly safe to let them back into the rest of the house.

But the plan did not just include cleaning. It also involved treating; treating to make sure that any remaining eggs or adults that may have escaped the cleaning purge would not live much longer after that. And I was still hard pressed to figure out where the girls picked them up in the first place. I mean, we were in the woods, at the beach, around other dogs...I could have even brought them home with me from work! So I also wanted to make sure that if we were to come into contact with them again, that the house would be a very unwelcome place for them to stay. Again, after reading a lot of old issues of "The Whole Dog Journal" and consulting with friends who own shops that cater to people who want to use natural and safe products, I decided on a small biological army. I chose to use "Para-Clear" by Azmira Pet Products- which is food-grade diatomaceous earth (D.E.), "Flea-Busters"-a borax powder, and "Natural Defense" carpet powder and spray-a blend of essential oils that are natural pest-repellents. The D.E. is made up of the crushed fossils of hard-shelled algae. The fine powder allows the shards of the fossils to pierce the exoskeletons of fleas and ticks and kills them. The "Flea-Busters" powder works in a similar way, further drying them out. And the "Natural Defense" powder would hopefully cause any more pests thinking about coming in to rethink that idea.

All of the powders had a similar consistency and texture-like a light floury, confectionery-sugar type feel. This made for very easy application and spreading, but did cause a cloud of fine dust to rise and linger during the spreading process. I decided to mix the powders together for and easier, one time application. I used 2 parts D.E., 2 parts "Flea-Busters" and 1 part "Natural Defense". I put it on all of the freshly washed items like the dogs beds, carpets, floors, baseboards and even in the radiators. I used the brush from the vacuum to really rub it into the fibers and into the cracks and crevices in the floors. I let the powder sit on everything over night, and then vacuumed it up the next day. For a fine powder it came up really well. There was a bit of residue on the hard floors, but I just went over it with a dry Swiffer and it came right up. I only treated everything that one time and still have almost a full jug of both the D.E. and the "Flea-Busters" (which both came in 3lb. tubs). (here's a picture of the powder spread on the kitchen floor-before vacuuming!)

As for the dogs, I upped their garlic intake (as garlic is known as a natural pesticide; it is thought to make the blood distasteful to the parasites) and had planned on using the "Natural Defense" spray on them too. However, this spray is very VERY oily. Even if you use just a spritz, it will easily bog down your pets coat with a greasy residue. It probably goes on better if diluted with water, but I don't know if it is as effective. The nice part is, is that (in my opinion anyways) the oils smell LOVELY. I really do love the smell of this spray! (The powder smells the same, so it was nice to have the house smelling like the oils!) But before I tried to use a diluted form of the spray, I found "Flea-Free"; also a spray made up of essential oils. I liked this ones scent too (its a little less powerful and strong) and it seemed like a much lighter spray. So I bought and used this. It seemed to work really well; I mean...I didn't find any fleas or ticks! Then I noticed the label...yeah, it definitely has CATS on it. Ooops...oh well. The Shelties are quite secure in their canine-ness, and are OK with using a cat-spray as long as it keeps them flea-free!

So that's our story up until this point. I haven't seen ANY more fleas, and we've just about passed the "danger mark". Apparently dormant eggs can hatch for another 3-6 weeks after treating, and we've just passed the 6 week mark so I think we're OK. And a bonus is that most of these products also work on ticks! Indeed, as I checked the dry Swiffer pad last week, I found a dead adult (not engorged) tick on the bottom. There is no reason for it to be dead, I mean...we all know how hard they are to kill. Even if I had trodden on it while swiffering, it wouldn't have died. I could only attribute it to being exposed to the powders still lying on the floor. I even decided to test the powders myself by putting a crawling tick that I found on Shelby in a small gladware container with some of the mixture. It was dead withing a half hour. I got the same results when I tried with two more ticks. I now use the D.E. powder whenever we go out for walks-I keep it in a baby-powder container, and shake it into their coats before we go out walking. It works WONDERS!

Now I know that everyone has their own opinions and ideas about whats best for their own furkids. Parenting of any form can be fraught with tough decisions and many words of advice (asked or unasked for), but it really is up to each one of us to make those tough choices in the best interest of OUR kids. No one can tell you that this one way is the best or only way to handle something. I can't say that using my plan will help a flea problem that you might be having. I can just say what worked for me; what worked for me, and what I felt COMFORTABLE doing. Sure, I could have used harsh flea dips, bombs, collars and topical pesticides, such as Frontline. But I don't think that those types of products are in the best interests of my girls. I'm not saying that you shouldn't use them. That's why this is America. You can do whatever you want. But just as we have the freedom of choice, and the ability to make our own decisions, we also have the responsibility to make informed ones. Please do you thorough research before using ANY type of product on your furbaby. Don't just take your vet's advice. There are many MANY stories out there, all over message boards and email lists about peoples furkids being seriously injured or even killed using topical pesticides. Do your own research, get second or third opinions. Even though more information can make your decision more difficult, in the long run you'll always feel more comfortable with it.

So that's our flea tale. I know, its not enough of a circus to have kept us away from the blog for 6 weeks, but there have been lots of other things happening in that time...most of them a lot more fun than fleas! I hope to be able to post about those soon! Thanks for reading, and I promise with wont be another 6 week wait for another Sheltie Story!