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Fire Pants--Round 2

by User Not Found | May 25, 2013

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks at our house.  And by exciting, I mean ridiculous.  Last fall I wrote about Gus and his short-lived career as an ant eater.  He made the mistake of attempting to consume a giant mound of ants with little pinchers and stinging butts.  Luckily I was there to catch it as it happened and if you are feeling like a good laugh, feel free to relive it, Fire Pants.

I had been home during the day most of the week, since I was working overnight, something I am far too old to be doing any more.  But when I came home from work on Thursday at my usual evening time, I was greeted by a bloody-nosed Gracie.

What in the heck?

With a clean report from the kids who come over to let my dogs out during the day, I could only speculate.  She had quite a lump on her nose and aside from an emerald physique, looked remarkably like the wicked witch of the west.  

Bee sting?  Spider bite?  Snake?  Who knows?  I cleaned it carefully with warm water and soap and proactively started her on some Benadryl.  That night, while she was happily sedated by the Benadryl, I was able to inspect her nose for punctures, stingers, ticks and other insect or vermin pleasantries.  While I was rubbing her ears, initially to distract her, I noticed how thick they felt.  Imagine that they normally feel like one sheet of paper, her ears felt like three stacks of paper.  A known ear issue, a hematoma can sometimes cause this, but those typically feel more like water balloons inside the ear flap.  Hematomas occur when the tiny blood vessels of the ears burst and form a pocket of blood in between the two layers of the ear flap.  Typically this happens when a dog is shaking their head too much, like when they have an ear infection.  Gracie had been shaking her head, from whatever tagged her on the nose and could she have caused both ears to develop hematomas??  Crap, this is not an easy fix.  Some Hematomas require draining and surgery to repair and not only is the surgery a pain, but the healing process is long and messy.  Despite my efforts, her nose continued to ooze a semi-clear, pinkish fluid.  This is called serous or serosanguinous fluid which refers to the liquid part of blood.  It’s a normal part of healing, but as you know, dogs instinctively try to heal themselves by licking whatever is injured.  Most times, this makes it worse as all the bacteria in their mouth and skin can get pushed into the wound causing an infection.  Gracie’s overall attitude and demeanor were pretty depressing and to ward off serious infection on her nose, I decided to take her to the vet for some antibiotics to help speed recovery and to figure out what had affected her ears.

Thankfully, my vet seemed to think that it was just edema (fancy word for fluid retention that causes swelling).  She postulated that it was caused by whatever tagged her nose and that it was some kind of allergic reaction.  We both agreed that healing this quickly would make her more comfortable, so a shot of short, but quick acting steroid in the office and home on antibiotics.  Within 48 hours her nose had gone down considerably and the wounds had begun to dry and scab over instead of oozing all over the place.  Clearly she felt better too.  Interestingly enough, we also discovered tons of scabs on her ears...it appears the ants had "stung" several times all along the edge of her ears and they were covered in giant scabs as she began to heal.  It appeared we had our answer to the ear swelling issue.

Gracie gracefully recovering.

In the meantime, Gus was apparently sad to be missing out on the fun, despite having just been to the vet earlier in the week for something else unrelated, and on Friday afternoon he popped up with the same oozing bloody nose that I had seen on Gracie just 24 hours before.  

Alright, what the hell is trying to eat my dogs??  And in my own backyard?  I stomped in to the backyard searching everywhere for snakes, small animals, bear traps, small birds of prey and any other random thing I could think of that would have caused all this.  Nothing.  Upon closer inspection I noticed an all too familiar sight.  Giant red welts had sprouted on Gus’s face.   

Fire Ants?  No.  Surely he had learned his lesson, ha ha.  I had been religiously looking for mounds to pop up this year after last year’s festivities and had actually fenced off a small area already where I noticed them.  I headed to the known mound and that’s when I saw it.  The ants had packed up their little U-hauls and moved just outside of the fence.

After three days of mopping up ooze (it was the weekend of course) and tending to Gus’s wound on his nose, I decided I had done all I could do.  He refused to leave Neosporin on his nose by promptly licking it off and in the process had severely irritated the welts on his face by his continuous licking.  The Benadryl seemed to keep his swelling at bay, but you could just tell the guy felt crappy, so I moved up his recheck that I had originally scheduled for Friday (again unrelated issue) and took him to the vet on Tuesday.  Another short-acting dose of steroids in the office and round of antibiotics for him too and three trips to the vet had cost me, well, a lot.  My next stop was Lowe’s for some serious ant killer.  Normally I attempt every means possible to naturally treat things where my dogs are walking, laying, rolling and eating grass and sticks.  I had been able to treat the one mound that popped up last year with a couple vats of boiling water, but this time they had spread thru a good portion of my yard.  Diatomaceous earth, cedar granules, vinegar, none of these worked, they just kept moving.  I looked in to Spinosad based products.  Spinosad is actually the product used in our dog’s oral flea medications, but I was unsuccessful in finding any.  I researched myself to death and finally found Amdro.  The secret weapon, it would kill the little buggers and prevent new fire mounds from forming.  Yes it’s a chemical and yes I secretly wanted to watch every last little fire ant die a slow and painful death but that didn’t mean I was ok with the risk it posed to my dogs.  Luckily I now know more about ants and various forms of control than I ever wanted to know and rather than bore with you the details, I will give you the reader’s digest version.  Amdro contains hydramethylnon which is an organic chemical compound used as insecticide.  It is similar to Fipronil, which is the product used in Frontline….still not good for eating, but I do have a point.  A small amount of hydramethylnon is applied to each tiny pellet.  The ants take the food, feed it to their friends, including the queen and then they die.  Yes!  No queen means no one directing the U-haul caravan and hence no relocating.  Because ants are teeny and dogs are not, my 50# female golden (the smallest at my house) would have to eat nine pounds of Amdro to get sick.  Although I didn’t even buy that much, let’s not even get close to testing that theory.  The double-edge sword is that this kind of product that is meant to provide long-term control, so that means it takes longer to work.  The tricky part for me would be keeping my dogs out of the ants until they have time to eat all they can eat at the insecticide buffet.  I fenced off half my yard and treated the entire ant hostel.  Within seven days, the population had severely diminished and I was able to take the large fence down.  Only one small persistent group remains and I have retreated that mound and fenced it off.

Gracie's wounds are almost completely unnoticeable and Gus is at the two week mark with some pretty new pink skin.  As usual he is totally "amused" with me.

  

The day before Gracie's nose swelled up, I saw her hiding her head under the bed. 

I should have gone with my gut when I thought to myself, well that's weird.  Being a good dog owner is a lot like being a detective.  Instead of a crime, you are presented with a symptom and you have to use your observations and memory to piece together the things that you may have noticed were out of the “norm” for your dog.  This is why medical history is so important to share with you vet, it gives us clues and allows us to put together a time line.  These clues determine what may have caused the problem, like a new medicine, or a change in diet, a new route on your walk which exposed your dog to high grass or poisonous mushrooms or even little evil creatures invading your backyard.  You know your dog best and even little things are important, so don’t always brush them aside thinking they are incidental.  You are their protector in every way and they always need you, even in their own backyard.  Oh and Fire Ants suck.

Happy Hunting

Katie    


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