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!

1 comment:

  1. Glad everyone is OK! Beautiful picture of them at the end.