Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Man's Best Friend...

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them. After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble... At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.

He saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. As he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.

When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"
"This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.
"Wow! Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked.
"Of course, sir. Come right in and I'll have some ice water brought right up." The man gestured, and the gate began to open.
"Can my friend come in too?" the traveler asked gesturing toward his dog.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets."

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside leaning against a tree and reading a book."Excuse me!" he called to the man. "Do you have any water?"
"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there, come on in."
"How about my friend here?'" the traveler gestured to the dog.
"There should be a bowl by the pump."

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself. Then he gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree."What do you call this place?" the traveler asked.
"This is Heaven," he answered.
"Well, that's confusing," the traveler said. "The man down the road said that was Heaven too."
"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's hell."
"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"
"No, we're just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind."

(Author unknown)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My dogs nearly died today because of rat poison!

My adrenalin levels have still not come down. I nearly lost my dogs today due to ignorance on my part and lack of professionalism on the part of a pest control company.

When a strange smell started emanating from behind my stove, I decided to call in the professionals. I was assured that the poison used was legal and safe as far as pets and birds are concerned. I have two owls in my tree and the last thing I want is for them to eat a poisoned rat that would result in their deaths.

The pest experts came and distributed rat poison bricks loosely in my roof, garage and behind my stove where they discovered the source of the smell - a dead rat. They then put the poison bait in my garden hiding a loose pile under a cache of bricks.
HUGE MISTAKE! The professionals should have known better and I found out too late.

Rat poison is safe only if it has been ingested in small amounts by a rat and then eaten by your pet. A greedy rat can eat enough poison to kill 20 rats before he starts to feel sick and if a dog or cat eats that rat, the poison is transferred. The good news is that most rats are not this greedy. The usual patient for secondary poisoning is a pet or predator that depends heavily on rats for food (a barn cat, for example).

However if a pet directly eats rat poison it will die the same way a rat does.

A toxic dosage is a matter of milligrams. My beagles soon scented the rat poison in my garden which apparently tastes delicious in order to entice rodents to eat. They broke down the cache of bricks and swallowed a massive overdose.

Thank God I caught them in the act but not before they had swallowed everything. I phoned my vet and explained what had happened. "Bring your dogs in immediately!" But, I bleated, I thought rat poison was safe for pets? "There is no rat poison that is safe for pets if it has been directly ingested" replied the vet sternly.

The next problem was knowing exactly what the composition of the poison was as this would dictate how to treat my dogs. Luckily I remembered the name of the product but when the vet did a search on the Internet about the product, nothing indicated what the active ingredients were on their website!

There are normally two ways rat poisons will kill - by causing renal failure or internal bleeding due to the anti-coagulation properties of the poison.

Phone calls back and forth between ourselves and the pest control company eventually produced a safety fact sheet two hours after my arrival at the vet. The one my dogs had eaten would have caused internal bleeding. If I had not seen them eating the poison, it is highly likely they would have either died within three days or if caught in time they would have needed ICU treatment, blood transfusions and who knows what kind of damage would have been done to their systems.

Renal failure poisons are far more insidious and difficult to diagnose. This is caused by cholecalciferol poisoning and there is no anti dote for this poisoning.

Poor Jamie and Jemma were immediately forced to vomit (an awful process) until their stomach contents appeared clear of all poison. Jamie was induced to vomit 9 times and Jemma stopped vomiting after 7 times. The vet said I was lucky that I had brought them in so quickly and hopefully very little of the poison had been absorbed into their systems.

The safety fact sheet advised that the treatment was doses of Vitamin K1 which Jamie and Jemma will be getting for the next three weeks.

So what lesson have I learnt? If you want to keep your children, pets and wild life safe from rat poison make sure that it is put in a safe container that is inaccessible to all of the above (except rats). Loose poison is a toxic idea. Make sure that your pest control company knows what it is doing by first educating yourself.

The poison put on the floor of my garage and every grain in my garden that I could find has been removed. My vet advised me to get closed containers that can be locked and attached onto your outside walls or fences well out of reach of children and pets. Even if poison is put in the roof it should be in a safe container as cats may climb up there. If the container should accidentally fall off, make sure that it cannot be chewed open by dogs or pried open by inquisitive children.

So what are the signs of rat poisoning, particularly the one that causes internal bleeding?
Most of the time external bleeding is not obvious and one only notices the pet is weak and/or cold. If one looks at the gums, they are pale. Sometimes bloody urine or stools are evident or nose bleeds may be seen. Signs of bleeding in more than one body location are a good hint that there is a problem with blood coagulation. Be aware of the signs of rat poisoning, particularly if your pet travels with you to places outside the home where poison may be left outside.

What a s****y day! First I set out to kill rats and nearly kill my dogs in the process. My budget is blown because I have a huge vet bill and still have to pay the pest control company!

And I also feel really sorry for the rats because the poisons we use today do not kill them in a humane manner. It's a catch 22 situation because rats do cause enormous damage in our homes and to our possessions. Are rat traps more humane? What do you think?

Whatever you do, protect your dogs at all costs from contact with rat poison!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Flea nightmare!

Over the past 17 years I have never had a flea problem with my dogs - until about three months ago. The experts say that in Gauteng this is due to the unseasonal weather alternating between cold, rain and hot weather. It never rains this late into autumn. Apparently this has caused a flea epidemic and believe me - the fleas are conquering the world. At first I kept on spraying my dogs with my regular flea and tick deterrent but the fleas just kept on multiplying and multiplying and multiplying.

Not only do they drive your pets crazy but they cause skin problems, can transmit tapeworm and cause "cat scratch disease". You need a product that will kill not only adult fleas but the development of flea eggs. They become larvae then pupae that cling to your carpets, furniture, skirting boards, curtains, clothes, bedding - in fact everywhere.
A single flea lays up to 50 eggs a day and lives for about 100 days. That's 5000 eggs per flea! The larvae emerge from the eggs and become pupae. These are invisible to the naked eye and can remain embedded in your home for up to a year waiting to strike. In a flea invasion only 5% are adults and 95% are eggs lying in wait.

I was advised to wash my dogs bedding in extremely hot water. The first product I used for the house was a powder that I sprinkled all over my carpets and on the dogs' bedding. But this did not produce the desired results. I was treating my dogs every second day and yet the fleas continued to thrive.

Out came the horror stories. One woman took 8 months of continual home and pet treatment to clear up the problem. Another woman had to rip up her carpets and left half her house bare for 6 months because they could not afford to fully re-carpet their home.

I eventually spoke to someone who said that there were no half measures when it came to fleas. It was WAR.

I changed the product I was using on my dogs as it was now obvious that the fleas had become immune to my regular product (which happens when you overdose). I gave them tablets to swallow which cause fleas to become sterile (after they have bitten the poor dog). I also paid a pretty penny for an environmental spray that I used to fumigate my house. I put flea collars into the bag of my vacuum cleaner so that any fleas that landed up there would hopefully die. I also bought a lice comb to groom my dogs' fur to get rid of all that nasty black gunk (a combination of flea eggs and flea poop). You have to be careful about what you comb the eggs onto as they stick to plastic, so rather use paper and syphon the eggs into vinegar or paraffin.

So four months down the road, my dogs are no longer scratching themselves to death. They still need more grooming to be completely egg/flea poop free but they seem to be picking up less fleas from the environment.

Have we WON THE WAR or is this just a truce? The cold weather causes the pupae to become dormant so it is possible that hostilities will resume in spring.
But what a nightmare!
Any other advice on the war on fleas?

All I can say is if you see a single flea on your dog, KILL IT!