Wednesday, April 28, 2010

But what do you do when you have massive amounts of ticks? Here's what we did.

Sometimes in life you are presented with a situation that has no perfect answer. This is exactly what happened with us the past few weeks.

If you are a frequent reader of Raise A Green Dog, you know how much we live the holistic, organic, natural, safer way of life. It's been our way of life, our entire life. That's what we practice, that's what we believe, and that's what we share with you.

We want to be completely honest with whatever major experiences we encounter and share here on our blog. Because of our recent encounters, and because we have been getting tons of email questions about what you do if you have tons of ticks and the holistic way just isn't enough to combat the little buggars, we are going to share something that will be surprising to our readers, especially in light of the recent report from the EPA about over the counter spot on topical flea and tick medications. It sure did to us.

There have only been a few times in our life that we were presented with a challenge that just couldn't be solved by following our holistic methods to the letter.

There was the time when I was attacked by a dog and had to undergo surgery. I had to take antibiotics to prevent infection. There was also the time that I got a nasty bout of gastroenteritis and had to take meds to prevent me from getting very ill and to prevent death. And just a couple of weeks ago, Gracie came down with what we believe is Giardia, which can be dangerous if the little parasites aren't killed, so Gracie had to take some antibiotics. Thankfully, we can count on one paw the number of times each of us - Mum, Gracie, Wolfie, Wiggy and me - have had to take antibiotics, and had to resort to means other than holistic methods to get us well.

When these potentially life altering, threatening and dilemmic situations happen, they aren't pleasant and they aren't easy. What we've always lived by is; the best thing you can do is get informed, do your research, talk with your holistic practitioners and DVM's, weigh the risks and make the best possible decision for you and your entire 'fur' family.

When we lived in Indiana, there were ticks, but not nearly to the extent of the massive tick population that we've encountered after our recent move to the mountains and deep woods of East Tennessee.

The tick population here took us by surprise. We had done research and looked into more 'powerful' holistic and alternative solutions for ticks before we moved here, knowing that we were going to encounter the little buggers more than we had in Indiana. But what we didn't know is how massive the population is, and how seemingly resistant they are to natural methods.

One week to nearly the day we arrived Mum found a tick on Gracie, my sis. She removed it utilizing safe methods. Then that afternoon she found another one on me. Later that night in the middle of the night she woke from a deep sleep and found one crawling on her. And this is only while walking on the paved path areas around where we live. This was just the beginning of tick season, even a few weeks early, which is a sure sign that, just like we heard happened last year, ticks here are going to be overwhelming this year.

Over the next few days, she continually found a number of ticks on us. At this time we were using many of the safer methods that we've blogged and talked about over the past couple of years, the ones we had planned for. We had to be careful utilizing some of these natural methods, because we live with two cats, and many of the recommended and safer natural methods for dogs contain essential oils that are very toxic to cats. Since we are close to our kittie bros, licking and interacting with each other throughout the day, Mum was very cautious in getting as much of the essential oils off of me and Gracie as possible after having it on during our hikes and before we spent time with the kitties. She also sprayed it on a bandanna and removed it when we got home, she tried many other methods to try and protect both me and Gracie, as well as our kittie bros.

As we said the massive tick population here didn't respond to any of our natural methods and we tried every type that was safer for us and safest for the kitties, except the electromagnetic type collars and amber stones which we didn't have on hand.

After doing a lot of research and talking with many holistic and local vets, we learned that many dogs in this area who had ticks were becoming sick from several diseases that ticks can transmit in this area - Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, and Canine Ehrlichiosis. In some cases the dogs had become very ill, even to the point of near death.

That's when Mum went into action. Faced with this dilemma of the holistic and natural methods not working on us and the potential dangers to our kitty bros, learning of the potential effects of tick diseases, and after talking with several holistic vets that specialize in integrative medicine and holistic practices, we decided drastic measures were needed.

The holistic vets in this area that have experienced these natural method resistant and prolific ticks are recommending something that we have over and over again indicated we would never use - Frontline (not Frontline Plus, but Top Spot or the spray).

Dr. Shawn, the natural vet, one of the respected vets that we follow says, "the occasional use of the products can be safely recommended for pets with potential exposure to large numbers of fleas and ticks." In addition, our good friends at GreenPaws.org indicates "there are significant health concerns associated with fipronil (the active ingredient in Top Spot and the spray) but in areas with severe tick problems, limited and careful use may be warranted."

The reasons that the holistic vets that we spoke with directly have recommended this product is because in cases where we live it is the safest alternative they have found for special cases like we have encountered. They have shared with us that they have not seen or heard of definitive cases of Frontline Top Spot creating a problem for dogs (although we have heard reports to the contrary from other sources, as well as reports of some of the 'natural' method products creating severe reactions in dogs, including Sentry's spot on product). All of them indicate they have had no patients with any type of reaction to the medication under their supervision and direction. This medication, they indicate, also has fewer amounts of chemicals than many of the topical tick meds, using only the minimum for the need.

After trying everything holistic in her arsenal, researching hours on end, talking with these holistic vets for hours on the phone, reading up on the risks of Frontline spray, and taking into consideration our senior kittie bros and the effect that frequent and extensive use of essential oils on us may have on them (and even us), Mum decided it was best for our entire 'fur' family to give us (only me and Gracie) the Frontline Spray and use it with the guidance of our holistic vet, as sparingly as possible, with recommended usage depending on the season and weight/health of me (JoJo) and Gracie. So Mum got the stuff...and a local house call vet here in town came over and put it on us a couple of weeks ago.

Mum and the local vet watched us very closely for any signs of a reaction. The DVM was standing by just in case we did. We got our holistic DVM's cell phone number to call too, just in case. We are very relieved and happy to say that it's been a couple of weeks, and we've had no effects and no ticks, even with several deep woods hikes over these past weeks. We even went on Wednesday following 'spray day' for our annual checkup and all four of us are in great health.

We don't like the fact that we've encountered a situation that has made us go to such extreme. The whole ordeal has been difficult for all of us. But we do want to be dogs. We want to live. We want to go hiking everyday in the woods. We want to be able to do agility in the pastures that border the woods. We want to be able to be free to go where ever (on a leash, of course) we want and know that we're not taking a risk of contracting some horrible, potentially life threatening disease from a tick. And Mum wants that for us too.

Thankfully all of our other new encounters - large amounts of ants, scorpions (yes, I said scorpions), and other nasties, have all been taken care of by our holistic methods of Diatomaceous Earth and an occasional squirt of eco-friendly bug spray. And the kitties (indoor lovers) are being treated with D-Earth as are our beds and theirs.

While our holistic approach to fleas and ticks worked perfectly when we lived in Indiana, we now know that there are parts of the country, like here in East Tennessee, where you may also be faced with the same situation we were, massive amounts that call for special case decisions.

We don't recommend what we did for everyone, we didn't need this in Indiana where we lived before because the natural methods we practiced worked perfectly. And we want all of you who read our blog to understand that this is a very extreme circumstance and very extreme decision.

We are not veterinarians, we are here only to share how we live the closest we can to a pure organic, natural, holistic, healthy, and environmentally friendly life. So, when you are presented with a dilemmic situation like ours, we hope you will do what we did - try holistic and natural first, do your research, talk with your holistic vet, learn and expand your knowledge of not only holistic and natural methods but conventional methods as well, to keep your pup safe, healthy and happy for your specific situation. Then you will have everything you need to weigh the risks and help you make the most informed decision possible for your 'fur' family, just like we did.

UPDATE: We've since moved from Tennessee mostly because of the tick problem. We just felt like it was a situation we couldn't afford for our health. So now we have a nice cabin in the Mountains of NE Georgia, and have found that there are many, many fewer ticks here. We've found only three in one year!

Here's what we've done to keep the ticks at bay here in our home in Georgia:

  • We fenced in an area around the cabin and raked all the leaf matter out of that area.
  • Then we sprinkle Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth around the outside of the fence line to keep the little critters out.
  • When out and about hiking, we utilize Earth Heart's Buzz Guard on a bandana to keep and ticks and fleas off when we're away from home.

And all of that has been working very well. Yeah for being able to live your dream in the forest and live without ticks and fleas!

If you haven't seen Food, Inc., here's your chance!

Food Inc., is a movie for our time, and a must see for everyone to know more about how our food gets to our table, whether we be two- or four-leggers. PBS has graciously added the movie to their website for free viewing for a limited time. Don't miss it, tonight is the last night to see it free via POV.
See the full length movie here on PBS.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Little things you can do to help the environment and your dog on Earth Day!

Tomorrow, April 22nd is Earth Day, a great day to take action to help our Earth and your pup!

We like to celebrate Earth Day everyday, but the nice thing about having a designated day is it can bring attention and awareness to things that each and everyone of us can do to help the environment.

What is Earth Day? According to Wikipedia: "Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in in 1970 and is celebrated in many countries every year. Earth Day is celebrated in spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Many communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues."

In preparation for Earth Day, we thought it would be fun to share just 10 things you can do to help the environment, and have a healthier, happier pup. There are so many things you can do we couldn't begin to list them all, so here are our 10 ideas for this years Earth Day!

  1. Take your pup to one of the local Earth Day celebrations being held all over the country and learn from and meet wonderful, like-minded people that share your passion for keeping our Earth more friendly, and get in some fun socialization for your dog at the same time!
  2. Plant a tree in honor of your dog in your yard, or at your local dog park, or a place that's near and dear to you and your pup.
  3. Take a day to volunteer at your local animal shelter, and help them however you can. Maybe it's just walking and playing with the dogs and kitties, or helping with or planning a special adoption event. And before you go, gather up some items that your shelter would be very happy to have...old towels, environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, dog toys your not using, pet food, grooming supplies you no longer use and more.
  4. Start an organic garden for you and your dog. I think this one sounds really fun. Did you know that dogs love fresh vegetables and fruits just as much as we do? Here are some great fruits and veggies you can grow in most parts of the country for you and your dog, and the great part is you know they will be organic, healthy and safer: carrots, green beans, zucchini, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, swiss chard, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon (no seeds, K?) and more. Just remember there are some fruits and veggies not suitable for dogs, and we like to steam them slightly before serving.
  5. Take the time to appreciate the Earth. We love this one...with our lives so busy, there just doesn't seem to be enough time to enjoy the great outdoors. Plan a day to take your dog hiking, or to the beach, or a local park and spend time enjoying each other and the Earth. Check out our Squidoo lens, "Fun Things to Do With Your Dog," for some great ideas!
  6. One of the most important things you can do for your dog and the environment is turn your lawn organic. Your dog spends most of their outdoor time in your yard, so why not make it a safe haven? "Dogscaping" is a great book to get you started from our friend, Tom Barthel.
  7. Take the afternoon and make your pup a toy from reused items around your home. You can make a great tug toy from old towels, interactive toys from used BPA free water bottles and much more!
  8. Reduce the pawprint of your pup on the environment by purchasing items in bulk and Made in the USA, whether it be food, toys, or other supplies. Look for items packaged utilizing recycled materials, too. Then when you're done, recycle that packaging! Not only will you reduce trash contributed to landfills, but you'll save on the costs of shipping those products too.
  9. Purchase one of pawsome Green Dog shirts from Zazzle - we have everything from "Reduce your carbon pawprint" to "Lift a leg, fertilize a tree" and more. And the best part is 10% of the profits go to no-kills animal shelters and rescues!
  10. Subscribe to Raise A Green Dog and get updates to help the environment and your pup live a healthier, happier life! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter too!

And remember, if you can participate on April 22nd, make your Earth Day one day this weekend. From then on...try to make Earth Day, every day!

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