Hump Day: When it comes to pet care, it doesn’t pay to save

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to try and save some money. In fact, going “cheap” on some things can do more harm than good.

Last week, I bought some flea prevention treatment for my dog Milane at a local pet store. Milane’s a little white dog who’s just as happy being carried in your arms as she is running and playing outside. She’s pretty easy-going – although she’s developed a nasty habit of doing her business on my mother’s kitchen floor. Clean as a whistle at home, but the minute she steps on my mother’s floor, she squats.

I’ll leave that story, however, for another very special episode of The Usually Perfect Little White Dog Diaries.

This week’s episode deals with the aftermath of using a cheap flea treatment that nearly burned her entire head off. OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a tad – not that I’d ever do that.

Normally, I’m Captain ‘Buy Everything from the Vet.’ I get my pet food there. The dog and two cats get annual checkups. If they need tests or special treatment, I don’t hesitate to spring for them. Better to pay for a bit of precaution rather than the expensive aftermath. Like people, taking care of a medical situation early on for a pet is a lot cheaper and less hassle than waiting for it to get out of control.

Milane doesn’t have fleas, but I decided to treat her as a precautionary measure. She plays outside when we go for walks, so doesn’t hang around outside too long. The risk of exposure is not extreme, but animals get fleas from time to time. It’s just part of being an animal. And with two cats at home, too, having all three being munched on by the pests would be unbearable for everyone.

Anyway, for some reason, I decided that the cheap flea prevention from a pet store would be a suitable treatment for Milane. In fairness, not all dogs would react badly to it, but vet’s product is of higher quality and certainly safer – at least in my experience.

There are many treatments out there, but the one I chose was the packet of gel that is placed on the back of the dog’s neck and rubbed into the skin. Do that for three or four months in a row and fleas don’t stand a chance.

I gave the treatment to Milane at about 5:30 p.m. By 8 p.m., I noticed her scratching the area. Lo and behold, the back of her neck looked like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s famous honker. While perhaps useful for leading Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, it wasn’t good news for this little white dog. Besides, she can’t fly.

I called the vet and had the emergency service call me back. They told me to give her a bath and wash off the gel. So, I threw (not literally, mind you) Milane in the tub, got out the Palmolive dish soap and gave her a good scrubbing. Finally, when she looked like a white wet rat (try to say that 10 times fast!), it was time to dry her off.

It seemed the crisis was averted and I didn’t think much more about it. The next day, the skin was no longer red. Phew! The day after that, however, the red skin was back and she had scratched it raw and the fur had fallen out. Let’s just say that she wouldn’t be posing for Playboy anytime soon with that big sore on her the back of her neck. I put on some antibiotic cream and made an appointment with the vet.

Finally, a $90 vet visit later and more money spent on various other treatment requirements (bandages, etc.), the “cheap” flea treatment I decided to buy ended up costing me a small fortune in undesirable consequences – not to mention Milane’s nude modeling career being put on hold.

To stop her from scratching the sore, on the advice of some resourceful pet store employees, I bought a small light raincoat for her to wear which would stop her from scratching the area. It works like a charm and everything is healing well, but I’m now ‘that’ person who dresses up his dog for walks. And if there’s something I can’t stand are clothes on dogs. They have fur . . . that’s more than enough, at least for Milane.

So, now I’m walking her around the neighbourhood on a hot sunny day (what few we’ve had) with her wearing a pink raincoat. I look like a nutcase – more than usual, I mean. I end up explaining to everyone, “It’s for a medical condition!” and then show them her sore neck just to make certain they don’t think I’m some eccentric creep who dresses up his dog in the middle of summer.

I don’t know what came over me when I decided to go cheap. I’ve always regretted doing that – especially when it comes to pets. Cheap food doesn’t sit well with them and makes them gain too much weight. Cheap toys fall apart. Cheap treats make them sick. I don’t skip vet appointments. I have everything checked out. I like to think I’m a responsible pet owner.

And then I go and do something like that. Makes me angry, quite frankly! I should have known better.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to go cheap if you can help it. The difference in price between the ‘bad stuff’ and the ‘good stuff’ wasn’t enough to go through all this grief, and I’ve certainly learned my lesson. The moral of the story: when it comes to your pets, rely on a vet’s advice and products if you can. Going cheap doesn’t always pan out.

2 Responses to Hump Day: When it comes to pet care, it doesn’t pay to save

  1. When my cats had fleas I went to the local drug store and took a look at the collars and flea drops. Just reading the back of it scared me. Wash your hands immediately if you get it on your hands, call poison control if ingested…etc.

    I’m thinking, if it’s that harmful to people, then what will it do to my cats?!

    I did some research online and saw how many people were complaining about store bought flea treatment and how it harmed their animals.

    So I contacted my vet (Maritime Animal Hospital) and they suggested “advantage” or “Revolution” I would prefer a more natural way to get rid of fleas, but I also trust my vet. I got “advantage” and it worked. My cats didn’t have a bad reaction to it.

    So, I totally agree with it doesn’t pay to save when it comes to pet care.

  2. You are so right Brian. So often, the price between the cheap and the good stuff seems huge, like paying $22.99 (ouch) or $9.99. “Hey, that’s more than double the price. They must be crazy! And besides, the pup on the $9.99 bottle is so cute!” Well, that huge difference is $12. That’s the price of 2 beers, more or less. Is your adored little friend worth the price of that? It’s a bit like those people who won’t take a $20 flu shot because it’s — OMG, $20! — and when they catch te nasty winter bugger, they will probably spend close to $50 in syrup and dristan, not to mention the discomfort of being sick as a dog (to close the circle) and for us small business owners, missing a week of revenue making — what, $1,000? And all that to save a few bucks. Wouldn’d you feel just a bit dumb? (Brian, I wrote that on my iPhone, so please correct any mistake you see. Thanks.)