Popular Posts

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sleep Tight (Don't Let The Bedbugs Bite!)

When I was a kid, my Mom used to tuck me in at bed time with the admonition, "Sleep tight! Don't let the bedbugs bite!" In my mind, there was no literal interpretation of what she said; it was just a way of telling me she loved me and to sleep well. It wasn't until my Veterinary Entemology class that I even knew that bedbugs were real. Even then, we were taught that bedbugs were no longer a problem in the US thanks to DDT. So...I pretty much forgot about bedbugs.

Now guess what? Theeeey're baaaaack. But you probably already know that if you read Time magazine (they made the cover!), or just about any US newspaper. Thanks to increased overseas travel and the disappearance of DDT, bedbugs have returned with a vengeance! They have been found in five-star hotels, upscale department stores, and homes across the US, but especially in the big cities. People are cancelling travel plans for fear of bedbugs.

The good news is, bedbugs don't spread disease like fleas, lice, and ticks do. However, they're still nasty little creatures that leave an itchy rash when they bite. And they are soooo difficult to eradicate.

Bedbugs look like apple seeds with legs. They tend to come out at night, so you may not see them. They like to live under mattresses and baseboards. Sometimes they leave behind "bedbug poop" which are small round black spots which may be found on bedding, headboards, or near baseboards. Bedbugs do not live on pets or people - they will bite us (or our pets) to take a blood meal and then scurry back to their hiding places.

You need the help of a professional exterminator to get rid of them. Don't even bother with over-the-counter pesticides. Let the exterminator know about your pets, so they can use pet-friendly products. Washing all pet bedding (and cloth toys) with hot soapy water is also recommended. Most pet flea and tick products will not prevent bedbug bites. The best way to protect the pets is to eradicate the bedbugs from the house. DO NOT put insecticides on your pets that are not labeled for such use.

The most effective way to control bedbugs is to avoid them! The ways to do this are beyond the scope of my blog, but here is a link to the CDC's webpage on bedbugs: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Topics/bedbugs.htm.

Having pets does not increase your risk of acquiring bedbugs! In fact, you are more likely to bring bedbugs to the pet than the pet is to bring bedbugs to you. So do what you can to avoid them, and "Sleep tight..." You know the rest.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Attachment Score

One of the most challenging aspects of being a veterinarian is the different levels of attachment our clients feel toward their pets, and to a lesser degree, the varied income levels of the clients. To many, the pet is an important member of the family, and anything that can be done should be done to keep the pet healthy. This level of attachment is independent of family income -we see "financially-challenged" people frequently forgo their own needs to pay for their beloved pet. Conversely, there are well-to-do people who feel that even basic care for a pet is too expensive. Of course, there are infinite variations on these attitudes and income levels. I certainly am not implying that wealthy people care less about their pets! What I am saying is that the amount of money spent on a sick pet is often not a function of the owners' income!

Unfortunately, and to my own chagrin, I have a tendency to recommend the best medicine for pets whose owners I estimate are best able to afford it, and scale back my recommendations to people who I estimate to be lower-income. Shame on me! After 23 years of practice I should know better. It is humbling and embarrassing when I suggest to the owner of a sick pet that we should try some medication, and if that doesn't help, maybe we should take an Xray...and the person says, "Wouldn't it be better to take the Xray now? Why wait?" The truthful answer would be that I was trying to save her some money, which completely devalues what that pet means to her. I have to remind myself that I am doing my job best when I present all the best options, and let the client decide. Period.

If the depth of attachment felt toward our pets could be rated on a scale from 1 to 10, we aren't all "ones", and we aren't all "tens". It would be helpful if pet owners came in with little cards which say "I have a 'seven' relationship with my pet," or "I have a 'four' relationship with this pet." Although even if that were the case, it really shouldn't affect the way I do my job. I will say this: after I get to know a client, I can cater to their level of attachment and concern for the pet, at least in the verbage I use to communicate the pet's needs. Interestingly, many clients will have a "five" level of attachment to one pet, but a "ten" level of attachment to another. We really do have our favorites.

This blog was inspired by two conversations I had this week. One was with a college student who was concerned because I hadn't recommended testing her older dog for a parasite we had found in her new puppy (I was trying to save her money. Old habits are hard to break). The other conversation was with a fashionably dressed middle-aged lady who told me that testing her dog for parasites was a ridiculous waste of money (ie the dog is not that important). I guess they don't have to have a card with a number on it after all.