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Archive for April, 2016

Sugar

Sugar

My latest dog brought with her a nasty surprise called whipworms.

Whipworms are intestinal parasites. They lay eggs inside the dog which are then expelled in feces. Dogs (and coyotes) get infected if they ingest the eggs. This can happen if a dog steps in or sniffs an area where infected feces have lain and then licks its paws or nose. Diarrhea, weight loss, anemia and dehydration can result.

The big problem with whipworms is that their eggs can survive outdoors for years. Long after the infected pile is gone, the eggs still are there. There’s no way to know what spots in a park, at a beach or along a trail to avoid.

Sugar probably had whipworms before she arrived in the shelter where I found her. More than 14 percent of shelter dogs are estimated to be infected with whipworms.

Yet no shelter or vet had ever mentioned them to me. I didn’t learn Sugar had them until four weeks after I brought her home. By then, she had turned my big back yard into a contaminated zone.

I’ve had to stop boarding dogs that aren’t protected from whipworms by a monthly preventative. Between medical costs, cancellations and a new fence confining Sugar to dumping on a small, easily cleaned patio, this has cost me $2,700 so far. There’s no telling how much more revenue will be sacrificed from customers who didn’t already have reservations and now are looking elsewhere for boarding.

Monthly medicines that prevent whipworm infections include Interceptor, Interceptor Plus, Sentinel, Advantage Multi and Trifexis. Some of these also include heartworm preventative.

Sugar should be free of infection in four to six weeks. The back yard has been marked with little red flags – 33 of them – wherever dog droppings were found among the dense ground cover of vines and ivy. I’ll be chopping through the vines, digging up dirt under and around each flag, dumping diatomaceous earth and clean soil in the holes, then covering them with black plastic landscape fabric.

Even after all that, there’s no telling if I’ve found every spot. The chances of infection might be small, but I won’t be able to guarantee that an unprotected dog can’t get infected.

This is a serious inconvenience for my boarding customers. They wouldn’t make plane or hotel reservations until after they’d secured dates for their dogs with me, where their pets enjoyed the run of the house, furniture privileges and romping in my big back yard. The dogs loved coming here. I booked them from only one customer at a time to lessen the chances of conflict and exposure to diseases.

I’m hoping over time that customers will get their pets onto one of these medicines and begin trickling back. Until then, I’ve lost at least 25 percent of my pet-sitting revenues to a microscopic pest.

 

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