Flea Products (chs. 54-56)

DogI am finding that fleas are becoming more and more of a problem these days! And here is my theory why: Prescription flea products are expensive. So people are looking for alternatives. The pet stores sell products that look exactly the same as what the vet sells. They are applied the same way and the package promises results but the price is often 25%-50% of the prescription product.

Unfortunately often these products will kill only 50%-80% of the fleas that are on your animal. The fleas that remain are the strong ones that withstood treatment. When these fleas reproduce they end up producing even more resistant fleas. This is why the pet store products become less and less effective and fleas are becoming more and more of a problem.

Another interesting point to note is that the majority of the pet store flea products come with a degree of toxicity. I have treated a number of cats with severe tremors and life threatening toxicity as a result of coming in contact with an over the counter dog flea product.

So this is an area where it really is worth the money to buy a prescription product from your vet. In most cases, if your vet has done an exam on your animal within the last year they will be able to sell you a flea product (such as Advantage, Revolution or Frontline) without doing an exam on your animal.

I would caution you on buying flea products over the internet. There have been a number of reports of expired drugs being sold online or even fake drugs that are passed off to be Frontline.

If your animals are treated with a prescription product once a month, most of these products will carry a guarantee. You should not need to treat your house as long as all of the animals in the house are treated appropriately. Although it is rare that these products fail to work, if you have purchased them through a vet your vet can contact the company for you and usually can get them to pay for additional treatment if for some reason the fleas are not going away.

If Your Pet is Going on Antibiotics

There are a few ways you can try to save money if your pet is going on antibiotics. In many cases we will have a variety of antibiotics we can choose from  to treat a particular condition. It is worthwhile to let your vet know that you are on a budget and if possible that you would like the least expensive antibiotic that they feel will be effective. You can also ask your vet if it is possible for him or her to write you a prescription for antibiotics that you can fill at the pharmacy as this will often be less expensive.

Similarly, you can ask if your vet can sell you a generic form of antibiotic rather than a name brand (i.e. Apo-Amoxi instead of Amoxicillin). In many situations, a culture test is recommended when antibiotics are prescribed. While this may sound like it is more expensive than not doing the test, often it can save us money in the long run. A culture (for example of a urinary tract infection) can tell us which antibiotic will be the most effective and whether the infection is resistant to any antibiotics.

You may spend $30-$60 for a culture. But often a culture can save us from doing a course of antibiotics that would be ineffective and can save us money in the long run.

Vomiting and Diarrhea – Is a Visit Necessary?

This can be a tough call! I often have animals come to see me because they have had diarrhea for a day. In many of these cases the diarrhea would clear up without a vet visit. As people, we don’t go to see the doctor after a day or two of diarrhea. (But then to be fair, we don’t tend to have diarrhea on the carpet which requires cleaning!)

So, how do you know if vomiting and diarrhea requires a vet visit?

For dogs:
Does your dog still want to eat? How bright is he? In general if a dog is bright and alert it is acceptable to wait it out for 48 hours with vomiting and diarrhea. I usually recommend a fast of 24 hours with no food (water is ok) followed by small meals of boiled chicken and rice. There is nothing “magical” about chicken and rice but they are both foods that are easy for the dog’s intestines to handle.

Most of the time, for cases of mild diarrhea and vomiting the period of 24 hours without food will be enough to solve the problem.

However, if the dog is really lethargic, not wanting to eat for more than 48 hours or seems to be very uncomfortable then a vet visit is definitely necessary.

For cats:
Again, does your cat want to eat? Is he bright and alert? Again, it is generally acceptable to wait for 48 hours with vomiting and diarrhea in a cat that is otherwise seeming fine. In cats I do not recommend fasting them. If cats go a couple of days without food then they can develop a serious problem called fatty liver.

Reasons to go to the vet include extreme lethargy, lack of appetite and obvious discomfort.

What about blood in the stool or vomit?

I have seen many panicked owners because they are seeing blood in an animal’s stool. In most cases, blood is actually not anything serious. If the colon is irritated it will bleed quite easily in a dog or a cat. So again, if the animal is bright and happy then there is no need to rush in for an emergency visit.

If there is a small amount of blood in vomit it is usually due to small blood vessels that have burst due to the force of the vomiting. If there is a serious issue with bleeding in the stomach, the blood that comes out usually looks black like coffee grounds. If you are seeing this, this can be a sign of a stomach ulcer and is indeed a reason to see your vet right away.

These are just general guidelines though. I always tell people to follow their gut instincts. If you really feel that your pet is unwell, then don’t wait… see a vet right away!

Article by Dr. Marie

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