Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Flea and tick prevention decoded

In this episode:

- Flea and tick preventives decoded: Sorting through all the product options to prevent these pests!
- Going green segment: Biodiesel!

Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Welcome back everyone to The Web-DVM. I am your host, veterinarian Dr. Roger Welton. We are going green with biodiesel today, but first, let’s get right into a very important topic for pet owners, choosing the right flea and tick preventive for your dog or cat. With many flea and tick preventive products out there and more added all the time, it is important that pet owners have this mess of products broken down and sorted out. For fleas and ticks cause discomfort and itchiness through their bites, transmit parasites and infection, and just simply decrease our pet’s quality of lives when they are infested. Fleas and ticks can also infest our homes and become a nuisance for even us personally, so it is in everyone’s best interests to keep them in check. However, in controlling fleas and ticks, we also do not want to put our pets nor ourselves in danger, so safety is also an important aspect of choosing the right flea and tick preventive.

In presenting flea preventives, I will be keeping the discussion to veterinary grade products, as pet store grade products, such as flea and tick collars, Adams, Hartz, Biospot, Zodiac, etc, just do not work. While flea collars may keep fleas and ticks away from the neck or the aforementioned topical products may keep fleas and ticks away from the site of application, the rest of the pet remains prime feeding ground for fleas and ticks. My advice is to not waste your money on these products, since no treatment works almost as well.

I want to also state unequivocally that I am not a fan of dips, as they tend to have uncomfortably high rates of toxicity and, while they are effective in killing pests that are on the pet, they do little to keep environmental pests from getting back on the pet and quickly re-infesting the patient. Lastly, as I have stated before, I am not a cheerleader for any flea and tick preventive manufacturer, and nobody is giving me a check for my sentiments. My views come plain and simply from my own experience.

So let us start by quickly naming the prevalent products out there for flea and tick prevention: Frontline, Advantage/Advantix, Capstar, Program, Revolution, and the new kid in town, Comfortis. From the point of view of what stage of the flea lifecycle each product kills, Frontline leads the way killing 3 out of 4 stages of the flea lifecycle, including adult fleas, eggs, and larvae; Advantage/Advantix kills 2 stages, adults and larvae; Comfortis kills adults only; Capstar kills adults only; Program kills eggs only; and Revolution kills adults and eggs only. Only Frontline and Advantix are effective in killing ticks. Revolution claims activity against ticks, but my experience with the product has been completely contrary. Frontline, Advantage/Advantix, and Revolution are administered topically, while Capstar, Comfortis, and Program are administered as an oral pill.

All of these products with the exception of Capstar are labeled for monthly protection. Capstar kills adult fleas only for 24 hours. That is why Capstar really is used as the modern alternative to a flea dip for a quick, safe kill-off, but one of the aforementioned monthly products really is needed properly prevent fleas long term.

Regarding effectiveness with monthly flea prevention, I find that Program and Revolution are only effective in cases where environmental flea prevalence is low. In more wooded, rural, or tropical settings, certainly here in Florida, these products are easily overwhelmed and often seemingly ineffective. Frontline, Advantage/Advantix are highly effective flea preventive products, adequate to prevent fleas in the majority of settings. However, in cases where there is a heavy environmental population, such as a yard frequently trafficked by strays, rural or wooded settings, or living among irresponsible neighbors that do not use flea prevention for their pets, Frontline and Advantage are known to sometimes fail to keep up with the flea burden. In these cases, where Frontline and Advantage/Advantix may not protect the pet adequately, Comfortis has proven to be the go to product, making it at this time, clinically the most effective flea preventive.

Regarding ticks, as previously mentioned, only Frontline and Advantix are effective against ticks, with their effectiveness overall good and each product comparable with one another.

So, which product should you go with? I already mentioned, for a quick kill off fleas, rather than dip your pet, I would just give Capstar, as it is highly safe and effective in killing all adult fleas on the pet within 90 minutes of administration. But, for monthly flea protection, you will still need to choose another product.

If flea loads are low and/or your pet resides in a cool or temperate environment, then you can likely get away with Program either by itself or Sentinel that has heartworm prevention with Program in it to provide an all in one heartworm and flea preventive product for dogs, and Revolution that is also and all in one heartworm and flea product for both dogs and cats. These products have a proven excellent track record for safety.

For more problematic flea areas, most of the time Frontline or one of the lines of Advantage topical products are quite effective. These products both have well established histories of safety and effectiveness and for me still comprise the staple of good flea prevention. Most pets that I see do just fine with these preventives, making them our top sellers.

I reserve Comfortis for the most stubborn of flea infestations, since it is a taken as a monthly pill. While the safety of this preventive to date seems quite good, it is known to cause occasional GI disturbance in certain patients. It is also not for use in patients with seizure disorders and is not currently labeled for use in cats.

Once again, if ticks are an issue, your only options are Frontline or Advantix, both of which also have excellent activity against fleas. However, if either of these products fail to keep up with a given flea problem, Comfortis can safely be used concurrently with either product in dogs.

Now, this is a lot of product information crammed into a short explanation, so feel free to start over and watch again, or refer to the written transcript of this show at my blog at

My going green segment today is about biodiesel. Biodiesel is a vegetable oil based fuel that is both clean burning, renewable, and actually more efficient and performs better that petroleum based diesel fuel. Oil to be processed into a diesel fuel comes primarily from the canola plant, a plant which grows readily in a variety of different soil types and in both tropical and cooler temperate climates, making it continually and perpetually renewable.

When I first learned of biodiesel, my first thought was that, if this fuel works to power standard diesel engines, then it must leave some level carbon footprint making it not truly a clean burning fuel. However, further research into biodiesel informed me that, while the burning of biodiesel does indeed provide the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide is essentially removed from the atmosphere by the canola plants that are the raw material for a given amount of biodiesel, making it a carbon neutral fuel. The processing of biodiesel is also far less polluting than the processing of petroleum into diesel fuel.

One criticism of biodiesel of course coming mostly from republican poiliticians bent on protecting big oil, is that farmers choosing to grow canola instead of corn, wheat and other consumable food crops, will drive up food prices. This is actually quite wrong. Food prices will actually go down, with farmers having an in demand crop to sell to help their bottom line, while having another crop to aid in crop rotation, which optimizes the fertility of their soil.

I am surprised that more people who run vehicles with diesel engines are not flocking to this stuff. Even if the environment does not concern you, nor does global warming or our dependence on foreign oil, use it because your vehicle will run better, more efficiently and more cheaply than on petroleum based diesel. If you do not believe me, then believe the Secretary of the Navy, who approved the building of a prototype F/A 18 fighter jet that’s powered by biodiesel. The pilot on its inaugural flight reported excellent performance and no less responsiveness than with a traditional petreoleum based jet fuelled aircraft. The largest consumer of oil in the world, this is prompting the US Navy to take a serious look at powering its vehicles with biodeisel.

To find a biodiesel station near you for your own diesel vehicle, go to A quick search and I found a station just 6 miles from my home.

That is our show for this evening. Please do not forget to join me for my live call-in radio show every Wednesday night, 9PM EST, available at my blog at, where this show is also embedded, along with bonus content and links. While there will be no lapse in the presentation of my live radio show, I will be taking next week off from The Web-DVM, as I will be in the hospital with my wife welcoming our new baby girl. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

Blog Talk Radio

Bonus Content

Find a biodiesel station near you at:

Drive Alternatives

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website

Friday, September 17, 2010

Affording veterinary care in a struggling economy

In this episode:

- Affording veterinary care in a struggling economy.
- Going green segment: Clean coal!

Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Hello pet lovers, and welcome back to another edition of The Web-DVM. My going green segment to come later in the broadcast but first, we need to discuss an ever growing problem in my industry, and that is, affording quality health care for your pets in a struggling economy. With a new round of foreclosures underway and great uncertainty on how that will affect our economic recovery, things do not seem poised to get better any time soon, so rather than whine about it, we all need to tighten our belts and prepare.

So let us begin with how I have had to make tough choices and brace my clinic for weathering this most unexpected monkey wrench in my plans for growing my business. I must bring this up, because along the way in my industry, people struggling financially have gotten the impression that I should be discounting services and medications, even outright giving them away for free, or allow them to run up tabs that they can make payments on. Somehow some people feel that because I am in a health care related industry that I am mandated to work for them at a discount or for free, because unlike other businesses, I do not have to cover costs like taxes, insurance, licensure costs, payroll, payroll tax, employee health benefits, inventory, business and real estate mortgages, etc. Well guess what folks, my business may be a clinic in with the mission of healing, but in the end, it is still a business, with all the aforementioned costs right long with it, but worse, because I also happen to have another mortgage in its own right to pay, my student loan debt I accrued in order to pay for the schooling necessary to achieve my veterinary degree, a monthly payment which is higher than many peoples’ home mortgages.

Okay, so it is clear why veterinary clinics cannot give away or discount services, but why can’t we allow clients to make payments on a tab? Well, when I first took over my clinic in 2004, we had a billing policy where people could pay down on a tab. Interestingly, the doctor who I purchased the clinic from, had $12,000 in money owed to her at the time she sold me the clinic, the likes of which, I gave my blessing for her to pay the office manager at the time after hours to call and collect on that debt. Seeing that astronomical accounts receivable outright frightened me as a new business owner, which prompted me to end that policy immediately. And boy was I justified, as my predecessor to this day has not even collected half of that, proving the bottom line that people who run up tabs tend not to pay, end of story. And it is for that reason that the vast majority of veterinary clinics have a strict no billing policy.

However, still wanting to give people a payment option if they did not have the cash to afford pet medical services, I signed my clinic up for Care Credit, which is a third party medical lending program popular in elective medicine such as fertility clinics, chiropractors, dentistry, and now, veterinary clinics. Care Credit does run a credit check, but they are very lenient, and even allow co-signors when prospective borrowers get denied. The debt is typically no interest over the course of 6-12 months depending on credit worthiness, as I pay the participating merchant pays the interest as compensation for them carrying all the risk. Despite Care Credit’s leniency, prospective borrowers still get denied frequently. Just last week, a couple got denied for Care Credit, at which point they became irate that I would not make an exception and allow them to make payments. To this I asked, “Let me get this straight, you are upset with me that I do not trust that you will pay on your bill, when your credit score proves quite clearly that you do not have the ability or inclination to pay your debts?” To this they replied that I should be more willing to allow billing because I provide health care and am supposed to have greater compassion than other types of businesses. Well, folks, the grocery store across the street from my clinic is in the business of selling food, something we all need to survive. I would like anyone who says I should allow billing to go in there and ask to run up a grocery tab that they can pay down over time and see what they would have to say about that.

Alright, so it is clear that veterinary clinics cannot give away services, discount services, nor allow billing, which means that pet owners must provide payment when medical services are rendered one way or another. How are pet owners financially struggling in this never ending recession supposed to do that? One answer that pet owners should really start giving serious consideration to is pet insurance. Why more pet owners do not carry insurance for their pets is not really clear, but we do know that only less than 3% of pet owners carry insurance. Contrast that with the more than 50% of pet owners that carry pet insurance in Europe, it is clear why European pets have a statistically much higher likelihood of receiving quality health care, while European veterinarians report much less frustration than their American counterparts at being medically stifled by pet owner’s inability to pay for a high standard of medicine. We really should learn from this European pet health care model that works very well.

The way that most pet insurance programs work is that the pet owner pays for pet medical services as they normally would, then submit a claim to get reimbursed, in most cases 80% of the cost of the veterinary care. Depending on the age of your pet and/or medical history, monthly cost of premiums can range from $35 - $55, a much easier sum to keep up with than to fork out a substantial lump sum payment should extensive diagnostics and treatments be necessary. It is important to keep in mind, however, that reimbursement is not instantaneous and can take as long as 30-60 days depending on the pet insurance company. That is why it is still important to keep the credit worthiness to take out Care Credit or leave a few thousand dollars available on a credit card to make pay for services while you await reimbursement. If your credit is shot and credit card or Care Credit are not an option, then a good policy to keep is to have a separate savings account where on a monthly basis, you deposit money in an amount equivalent to amount of your monthly pet insurance premium.

Let me be clear that I am not in the business of advocating for the pet insurance industry in general, because like any other industry, not all pet insurance companies are created equal. That is why it is important to do your due diligence before selecting a pet insurance company, and utilize consumer research options like the Better Business Bureau or even just ask your veterinary clinic on which companies they find to have higher satisfaction ratings.

Today’s going green energy segment is about clean coal technology. Most of us a re well aware that coal is an abundant energy resource, with currently known stores of coal, even with our current and projected significant increase in energy demand, still is poised to last for 200 years or longer. The problem with coal is that it is a fossil fuel, the burning of which is not only polluting, but perhaps the biggest producer of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, known chemically as CO2. For scientists all over the world and for most American scientists, there is compelling evidence that CO2 accumulation and the subsequent heating of the planet is increasingly becoming one of humanities greatest threats. Of course, we have a good number of politicians, namely those from that good old republican party that can always be counted on to try to keep us on the energy policy of the previous century, that deny irrefutable scientific proof of global warming as the result of the burning of fossil fuels. Rather than have us believe overwhelming mainstream scientific thought, along with Fox News, they instead put their faith in the vast minority of scientists that do not think that global warming is real, and showcase these three or so scientists as if they actually represent mainstream scientific thought. This is a denial of epic proportions.

You see, global warming deniers are so because they do not want to give up their SUVs, and in the case of coal, they do not want to give up what is an abundant and cheap energy source that also supports the economies of many states, particularly those of the Appalachian Mountains. President Obama understands this, but rather than deny what science has overwhelmingly proven, while at the same time being reluctant to eliminate what is an abundant and economically necessary energy source, he seeks to make it cleaner, aka., clean coal. Of course, his opponents during the 2008 presidential campaign and his opponents now laugh off the legitimacy of his advocacy of pursuing clean coal technology as folly, an impossible endeavor that is a waste of time and money. Really?

Well, I just happen to be aware of a number of examples of real, legitimate clean coal technologies that are surfacing all over the world, everywhere else of course, but here. The most successful, cost effective, and well known example of clean coal technology is that of the energy corporation, Vattenfall in Germany, currently used to power several large cities in Germany. Vattenfall has developed a carbon capture and sequestration process by which coal is burnt for energy production, but rather than release all that polluting and global warming CO2 back into the atmosphere, they capture it in what is known as flue gas, which is then compressed into a liquid that is stored deep underground. We effectively get the benefit of coal energy without the polluting consequence. You see what can happen when we stop denying what science has proven to be true, and then endeavor to do something about it?

Now, I know what many are thinking right now. What was the purpose of telling you about this technology? It is not like any one of us has the political pull or money to start one of these plants. This may be true, but most of us can write, and we all can vote. What we do with this information is to start letter writing campaigns and petitions to pressure current leadership to look into these technologies. We can reject would be leaders that reject science and progress in favor of denying and providing excuses why we need to remain on energy technology of the past, and vote instead for leaders that embrace green energy and the prosperity and safety it can provide for our children.

That is our show for this Saturday, September 11, 2010. Remember to catch me this Wednesday 9PM EST for my live radio show at, where you can call me with questions or comments toll free, live on the air.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

Blog Talk Radio

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why Pamela Anderson is one of my favorite people.

In this episode:

- Why Pamela Anderson is one of my favorite people.
- Going green segment: Green automobile showcase: the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another edition of The Web-DVM. I am your host, veterinarian, Dr. Roger Welton. My going green segment later in the show but first, I want to tell all of you why Pamela Anderson is one of my favorite people and no, it has nothing to do with Baywatch. While I certainly was not complaining about my nightly dose of Pamela’s Baywatch character CJ Parker as a pubescent teen, it is her dedication to animal welfare that impresses me most about Ms. Anderson, and she has made headlines recently once again in the name of animal welfare. But before we get to that, I want to first highlight Ms. Anderson’s past work with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals aka, PETA.

Many people have strong feelings about PETA one way or another and I have publicly made statements about my own mixed feelings about the organization, processing for me what is a contrast between excellent work and expose that leads to positive change, with extreme elements within the organization that do animal welfare cause far more harm than good. In the case of their campaign against Kentucky Fried Chicken, one spearheaded by none other than Pamela Anderson, PETA was not only just in their case against the chicken fast food giant, they were also effective in creating change for the better, in large part, due to the efforts of the leader in this charge, Pamela Anderson.

Specifically, PETA obtained undercover video evidence of cruel practices of poultry suppliers of KFC, namely beak cutting, slaughter by electric stunning and scalding during the rearing process because chickens were not fully dead. Their graphic video footage also found evidence of poultry supplier workers sadistically abusing the chickens, engaging in despicable acts, such as throwing the chickens against walls, and punting them like footballs. Ms. Anderson created awareness of these acts of cruelty through the dissemination of a DVD the cover of which had a photo of her scantily clad, a means to get attention for her cause that drew criticism from some, but for which she made no apologies for. Specifically, Ms. Anderson and PETA called on a boycott of KFC until they made a pledge to use suppliers whose policies were consistent with more humane methods, while more closely scrutinizing poultry suppliers to minimize cruel acts by their workers. At the time of this campaign, 2006, I gladly participated in this boycott and still do (I'll explain why in a moment).

You see, Ms. Anderson and PETA were highly successful in KFC Canada and the UK, as those KFC divisions took action to remedy their besmirched reputations by working with PETA to see to it that they avoided poultry suppliers that did not adhere to acceptable humane guidelines, while purchasing exclusively from suppliers that did. Specifically, acceptable poultry suppliers did not engage in beak cutting, used the more humane controlled atmosphere killing by inert gas, took measures to prevent death by scalding, and had a strict zero tolerance policy against workers who were caught abusing the animals. Not surprising given our relatively piss poor animal cruelty stance in comparison with other developed nations, Ms. Anderson and PETA were not as successful here in the United States. Not only was the boycott not quite as effective here with Americans more interested in feeding their fat asses with fried chicken than having any concern for the animals, but the Human Methods of Slaughter act that protects farm animals against inhumane treatment, for some reason does not extend its protection to chickens. Therefore, in honor of Ms. Anderson and her tireless efforts to stop cruelty to chickens perpetrated by poultry suppliers that KFC turns a blind eye to, I call on all my viewers to join in the KFC boycott. Even if we are not successful in forcing KFC US to enact real reform, your bodies will thank you.

In her latest high profile act of animal kindness, Pamela Anderson has brought awareness to the plight of gulf coast dogs and cats, many of which have been given up to shelters as the BP Gulf Oil Spill has taken its economic toll on the region. No longer able to afford food and health care for the animals, people have turned in dogs and cats, leading to more overcrowding in already overcrowded shelters. Many of these animals enjoyed loving homes and human companionship, whose reality suddenly became a cage in an overcrowded shelter with imminent euthanasia within 30 days should they not get adopted.

Pamela Anderson held a press conference to create awareness about the plight of these animals, as she herself adopted two dogs that she was planning to take back to LA to share the home of her and her family. In this cause, ladies and gentlemen, I call on all of my viewers to find a place in your hearts and your homes for one of these animals in need. In that spirit, I will be posting links on my blog to Gulf area shelters where you can do your part by rescuing an abandoned dog or cat. The web address of my blog is

On to our going green segment, today’s green energy showcase includes two green automobiles that are very exciting. First, since it is an American car, made on American soil, by American workers, I will start with the 2011 Chevy Volt. The volt runs on electricity primarily and plugs into a regular household AC outlet. Each full charge provides 40 miles of driving. With the average American driving less than 32 miles per day, electric power alone will fulfill the driving needs of most drivers on a daily basis. However, should the need arise to drive beyond the mileage provided by the volt’s battery, the car will seamlessly kick into a gas mode where a gas powered generator sends power to the motor that increases its range by several hundred miles, at a fuel efficiency of 55 miles per gallon. The car is priced around $33,000, but with up to $7500 in federal tax rebates for having a green vehicle, the net cost is far less. Factor in the gas savings over the life of the car and one can go so far as to say that the car nearly pays for itself. The Chevy Volt will be available for sale as early as October 2010.

Our second green vehicle is the Nissan Leaf, unique from the Volt in that it has no tailpipe, since it never burns any gasoline at any time. This car runs on 100% electric power, plugs into a standard household AC outlet, and offers 100 miles per charge. This car will sell for $32,000, but like the volt, with $7500 federal tax rebates and no fuel expenses for the life of the car, this car also seems that it will pay for itself.

Now of course there will be skeptics watching that will maintain that these cars do run on electricity, and energy source which costs money on our electric bill, as well as provides carbon footprint of its own. This is true. However, the money you spend on electricity to power one of these cars is on average 1/6 of the money spent on gas to power comparably sized gas powered cars, causing ¼ of the carbon footprint. Of course, there is the added benefit of sticking it to the oil companies and their republican lapdog politicians, thumbing our noses at Middle East countries that hate us yet profit hugely on our insatiable appetite for their oil. And for those of you that are as disappointed as I am in our nation’s current unemployment rate, the batteries to power the Chevy Volt are manufactured in 16 plants that were just built in Michigan which will provide 68,000 American jobs. If I had not just purchased my Ford Fusion hybrid, I would be on the waiting list as we speak for one of these cars. And once my Fusion is paid off, mark my words, I will be in one of these cars immediately! I hope to see a lot of these on the road in the coming year.

That is our show for this September 4, 2010. You can also catch me live later this week on my call-in radio show at where the players, as well as this broadcast are always embedded. Please join me next week when I will be discussing pet insurance: has the time come that pet owners should start taking a serious look at it?

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

Blog Talk Radio

Bonus Content

Gulf Coast animal shelter links: rescue a pet in need today!

St. Bernard Parish Animal Services
Louisiana SPCA

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website