Burton’s Blog 6/27: Your dog’s been bitten by a tick. Now what?

tick bite

Your dog’s been bitten by a tick. Now what?

Tick season is in full swing now and will remain so for the next 5 or 6 months. Even after November, depending on the weather, ticks can still be active and deadly.

There are right ways and wrong ways to dislodge an embedded tick. A lot has been written about what to do when bitten by these dastardly blood suckers. One thing you’ll read is the suggestion to save the tick and take it to your doctor to see if the tick carried Lyme. They’ll test for other pathogens as well, but with regards to Lyme disease I have talked to personal care physicians and their recommendation in our area of Western Pennsylvania is to assume infection. They’ll automatically give the patient a round of doxycycline. The incidence of ticks carrying Lyme is so high that we must assume the tick is infected.

Now for removing the tick. You will need a simple piece of equipment called a mosquito hemostat. The hemostat is a tool used in the medical profession to clamp blood vessels or tag sutures. We carry them in our stores for the purpose of grappling with ticks. Some articles recommend tweezers; however tweezers leave a lot of latitude for shape and ability of the tool. There are many types. You will need a narrow tip with a strong grip to remove the tick cleanly.

mosquito hemostat

Examples of a strong pair of tick-grabbing tweezers (left) and a mosquito hemostat (right).

The mosquito hemostat will clamp down and is made of stainless steel that has a strong grip when used. Now for removing the tick. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull steadily straight up. Do not twist or jerk it. Even when great care is taken you might leave the mouth parts in the skin. Your body will heal over the tick mouth parts and eventually expel them. You won’t even know it happens in most cases. You can save the tick if you want in a freezer bag. Store them in the freezer until you decide what you need to do with them.

Once the tick is removed, clean the area with alcohol or an antiseptic and keep your eye on the location to see if there are any red areas. Under no circumstances should you wait to see if there are symptoms of Lyme before seeking treatment. Assume the worst and immediately go see your doctor. That is the safest course of action due to our scourge of tick-born diseases.

Now for some additional information that may be helpful. People wait until they find ticks on their pet to react. Be proactive! Prevent ticks from biting you or your pet in the first place. Putting a flea or tick toxin topical or collar on your pet is fine, but don’t assume that is all you need to do. That is a little short of being careful. You can’t assume 100% effectiveness, and it only takes one bite to cause Lyme Disease. Use your topicals, but also check for ticks and fleas by inspecting your pet with a flea comb on a light or white sheet.

A lot has been made of Seresto Collars the last two years but I prefer Advantix II (Bayer) or Advantect II (Generic). Brand and generic varieties exist for most flea and tick topical applications and collars in our stores. As an example, Advantect II is only $39 for 4 months and Advantix II (Bayer) is between $58 and $63. Save money where it makes the most sense.

Another word about tick control. If you find embedded ticks on your pet, you need to make sure all embedded ticks are removed before using a topical. Recently a customer came in and asked me to examine some bumps on her dog’s neck. I looked at 5 or 6 bumps, cutting one of them open (with her permission), and decided she discovered ticks on her dog and didn’t want to pull them so she used a good topical to kill them. The embedded ticks died and stuck in the dog’s skin. Eventually the skin grew over them, like a piece of sand in a wound. This is very unpleasant. Always be proactive whenever possible. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call me my McIntyre office at (412) 367-0962.


Information about Advantect II by tevra and Advantix II by Bayer ($59 to $63 per 4 doses).

  1. Pyriproxifen (IGR-growth regulating hormone)
  2. Imidocloprid (original ingredient for Advantage, was not effective as a repellent nor killed ticks, that is not good)
  3. Permethrin (a repellent as well insecticide with great residual. This in my mind is one of the best products.
  4. Cant be used on cats. For cats use CateGo (also available in our stores)
  5. In short they are the same product at a very different price.



Frontline by itself will kill ticks and fleas but not very quickly. Merial is advertising Frontline Gold which is merely a marketing ploy. All they did was add another IGR and claim “new and improved!” but neither of the IGRs in Fronline Gold or Plus kill fleas or ticks quickly.

There are many generics for Frontline and they work… but not fast enough to be wholly effective.


  1. S-methoprene IGR with no killing power
  2. Pyriproxyfen added to Frontline Gold. Save your money.


Regarding Wondercide, a new “wonder” drug


I called the Wondercide manufacturers recently to find out about their claims of efficacy. The active ingredient is cedar oil. They claim it is all natural and all organic. The problem is that it doesn’t have any residual for killing ticks or the fleas. You have to keep spraying the product on the pet to kill the fleas and ticks. In my mind that makes it pretty useless. The liquid has to be directly applied to the tick. This is not much protection.

They claim to have been presented on Shark Tank. I’m not sure what a bunch of MBA and accountants know about fleas and ticks or Lyme Disease. Some dogs are indeed sensitive to the pesticides and maybe this product would be helpful as long as you kept a bottle of it on you at all times. Cedar Oil will act as a repellent after it dries, but I could not find any literature showing efficacy. In short, Wondercide will not ultimately protect your pet. It’s just not practical to keep spraying the pet with the solution. Plus, I think it would be really hard to penetrate the skin on dogs with thick underfur like and Siberian or Akita.


Burton’s Blog 4/4: Bayer’s Advantus and Frontline Gold – New in Flea & Tick

New in Flea & Tick – Bayer’s Advantus and Frontline Gold

Burton's BlogToday I’m on my soapbox about two flea products. Again. This time its Bayer Advantus and Frontline Gold.

I had a customer come in that had purchased ADVANTUS by Bayer to take care of her flea problem. The Advantus marketing is really misleading. Advantus is a systemic flea toxin that is only good for one day. The store from which she bought the product didn’t tell this customer that she had to treat her entire house for fleas. If you don’t treat the entire premises, they’ll jump back on the dog again the next day.

bayer advantusIf your dog has a lot of fleas, so does your house. Additionally, Advantus does nothing for ticks. The prevention of tick bites should be your primary concern. If your dog has a lot of fleas use a pyrethrin shampoo that costs roughly $10. The pyrethrins will kill them immediately. The difference between using Advantus or pyrethrin is that the bottle of pyrethrin will last you many washings – not just one day. I wish vets would use their education to help you in these simple matters rather than just trying to sell stuff.

And while I’m on this soapbox I would like to mention another product that is being sold now by Merial called Frontline Gold. The only difference between Gold and Frontline Plus is an “extra” IGR.

The old Frontline formula still works. To recap: Frontline Plus is Frontline with an IGR that didn’t add a lot to the product. Frontline Gold is Frontline with two IGRs to make it seem like an even better product. More IGRs must be a good thing? Right? Well, no. I called Bayer inquired about the research that illustrates the extra effectiveness of the extra IGR. They couldn’t provide any evidence.

frontline goldThis extra IGR does not make the topical more effective. They suggest that it’s a great addition to the formula, but the reality is that the “addition” is only added cost. Don’t fall for this type of marketing.

Talk to our associates about your flea and tick problems. We can help steer you in the right direction. We can save you money that would be better spent on a quality food for your pet.

Burton’s Blog 3/14 – The Importance of Moisture in a Pet’s Diet

importance of moisture

The Importance of Moisture in a Pet’s Diet

The amount of moisture our pets drink is important. I’m referring to normal, everyday consumption. In general, I do not think that pets get enough moisture in their everyday life. Why? Dry kibble absorbs moisture and is hard to digest. A pet that wolfs down food will often cough it up, almost entirely dry, because the kibble gets stuck in the esophagus. The accumulation of food in the esophagus can be painful.

Additionally, pets that suffer from stones likely do not drink enough water. Water dilutes the toxins and reduces the overall accumulation of solids in the urine through dilution. Dilution makes all toxins less toxic. Water for our pets (and for us for that matter) is very important.

Cats in particular having evolved from a desert environment are really prone to poor hydration because we feed kibble dry. Why? It’s all about convenience. Let’s consider how most of us feed our pets. We put food in a bowl and leave it there so our pets can eat whenever they please. Now I’m going to tell you the reasons that this might not be such a good idea.

In talking to many people over the years with pets that have crystals in their urine, it seems vets want to push a lifetime subscription to veterinary foods. In many cases this is unnecessary. I’ve never heard anyone say the clinic recommended increasing the moisture content of the animal’s food. I’m sure it happens. I’m sure there’s a vet out there somewhere with enough clinical sense to treat the underlying source of the problem, but I don’t think it happens often enough.

I tell people to add a little low sodium chicken or beef broth to moisten food. Don’t make it a soup. This improves both palatability and the moisture content, thereby diluting solids that accumulate in the urine and decreasing the likelihood of urinary tract infections.

Another problem I’ve observed is that as pets get older they seem to drink less water. I can’t prove this with anything other than personal experience. Less water at any age means increased the urine solids and increased crystals formation.

Stick to moistening the kibble with chicken or beef broth. Serve only as much moistened food as your pet would eat in a single serving. Erring on the side of moisture can do no harm. Prevention is always the best medicine. At the very least, your pet will think the food tastes better.

Burtons signature

The Imperative of Shopping Local

shop local

The answer is simple, but the reasons for shopping local are more complex.

We’ve been in the business of providing for Pittsburgh’s pets for 24 years. I teach managers every day to be helpful in providing customers with the best information based on today’s science– not myths perpetuated by the pet care industry. What you think you know may not be true. Myths are everywhere.


Where Do We Look for These Myths?

Take for example the manufacturers that tell people not to feed their pets too much protein because it will hurt their kidneys. Not one shred of evidence exists to backup that claim. They want to sell low-protein food at a higher price to make more money per bag. This is so that when you see an expensive bag of food (containing nothing but the highest quality protein sources) for $70 or $80, you will automatically say that is too much to pay for any food quality.

The too-much-protein theory flaps in the face of 40 million years of canine evolution. One manufacturer representative recently told me that dogs don’t need the protein because they are domesticated. Domesticated!?

How stupid does that sound? Does the status of domesticity automatically override millions of years of evolution? On the other hand, he tried to sell me a new freeze-dried meat food at 60% protein. Real meat, only 60% protein. Does that compute? Does consistency in marketing matter any more? Obviously not.


Our shelves are not just filled with “stuff” to sell. They’re filled with items to feed and care for your pet. Our stores are also filled with knowledgable employees to help you find the right items for your pet.

Tell people what they want to hear. Sell people the food they think they need. People need to more often look beyond what they think they know. You simply cannot find a great pet food at the $35 price point. You’ll hear the contrary, of course, from every food manufacturer that makes food below $35 per bag. I don’t care if you are buying it online, Costco, WalMart, or the grocery store. Quality protein cannot be purchased cheap.


Think Logically. Ask Questions.

For every advertising claim ask yourself how that manufacturer would want to spin their marketing to sell you dog food. When you come up with your answer, do more investigation. Ask questions. Why might a big box store place a palette filled with one type of food right in the front of the store? Do they recommend the food? Or did they get a great deal from the manufacturer to move product?

complete and balanced dog food

Don’t think for a second that the vast majority of pet food is made using our best scientific knowledge about food processing or animal husbandry.  The old spin used to be “complete and balanced” food. That assertion means absolutely nothing. Complete and balanced neither exists for man nor beast. Proper nutrition is an ever-moving target. It is also a subject susceptible to snake-oil sales and rampant misinformation.


The Value and Void of the Internet

Most so-called pet supply stores are not really pet supply stores. Do they have pet supplies? Many are just closets with pet food. What they lack is the skill and knowledge to guide their customers to something better or more budget-friendly. Good luck finding this information on your Internet retailer du jour.

The Internet pays very little or no taxes to local government. The Internet provides little or no information. The greatest strength of the Internet is providing access to what you want or think you want immediately. As long as you fill our your credit card information correctly, they don’t care about the welfare of your pet. They don’t care about you getting the best food for your money.

Consider the dietary basis for all pre-domesticated canine species. Thousands of years of evolution cannot be eliminated overnight.

Consider the dietary basis for all pre-domesticated canine species. Thousands of years of evolution cannot be overwritten by human companionship.

For years I have preached that quality protein from animal sources is mandatory for great pet nutrition. Now customers are starting to look at protein sources. Manufacturers want to capitalize on this consumer push and they’re trying to sell higher protein sources. But where is that protein coming from? Are they selling good protein? Is it animal-sourced? What is the ash content? I have no idea why ash content is not included in a label. It is important. Why? Too much ash means a lot of bone. A lot of bone means a lot of calcium. Too much calcium causes stones. Mineral imbalance leads to many health problems. It’s not much of a reach to suggest that the ash content of most of our pet foods is too high.

Who other than your local retailer is going to care enough to dispense this information?


Transparency in Business

So why shop in a full-service pet store that doesn’t pander to customers? That doesn’t just sell them what they think they want? A true professional full-service pet store can save you money and grief and hopefully future veterinary bills. We see hundreds of dogs each week and talk to hundreds of customers. We talk amongst ourselves about these conversations and we learn more every day.

Our managers and many integral employees have all been with us for many years. Cindy: 24 years.  Steve: 24 years. BJay: 24 years. Chris: 24 years. Phil: 22 years. Donna: 20 years. Ken: 16 years. Sarah: 7 years. Milan: 7 years. Who else can provide that kind of consistent support for their customers? Buying online may save you a few minutes and a couple dollars today, but what is the ultimate cost?

purina beyond

Purina has stuck a couple of plant leaves on top of “Beyond” to convey a “healthful” message to its consumers. Now is the time to think. Think about the kind of protein source required by our pets. How is this marketing lying to you?

Purina recently came out with a formula called Beyond. The commercial suggests you can feed Beyond to a seven-year-old dog and they will become re-energized and more youthful. Why in the world is a seven-year-old dog showing signs of senility or lethargy? Simple. He was fed a rubbish food for the first six years of his life. Now, Purina’s come to rescue that dog from, well, probably Purina’s old food… but this time it’s legit! This is the only food you’ll ever need… until we come out with another forever food next year! This time our rubbish food isn’t rubbish! Is there any limit to our gullibility when it comes to marketing?

Once full-service pet stores have been crippled by Internet competition and the neighboring big box stores run by investment bankers, the business of improving pet care will only be in the hands of the profit takers. Consumers have the power to make a difference, by supporting stores that sell more than just the stuff on shelves. Burton’s Total Pet shares its collected experience free of charge with every customer that comes in the door and takes the time to ask for more information.


The Shop Local Movement

Locally-based retail shops are the last holdout from a bygone era. They’re the last stores that feel accountable for every customer that walks through their doors. National chains like to put up a good front, feign community awareness, but what are they really selling? What’s behind the curtain? A board room full of investment bankers counting their dividends.

shopping local - shop small

The Shop Local movements like Shop Small and Small Business Saturday have been gaining traction as families have rediscovered the value of face-to-face interaction, of an accountable merchant here at home. That traction, however, has been slow. We lose more of these Mom-and-Pop shops every day. The movement to shop local needs to be every day and whenever possible. Celebrate these stores for their service, for the people that pour their blood, sweat and tears into their business and serving their communities.

Burtons signature



Burton’s Blog 2/14 – Fleas and Ticks

fleas and ticks


People always seem to be more worried about fleas than ticks. That is misplaced emphasis. Ticks transmit disease and can cause long term chronic pain. Lyme Disease is one of the most serious diseases transferred by ticks. We will start our story from there. This is an update to a previous article I published a few years ago about fleas and ticks.

Fleas and Ticks 2017 – No Rest for the Wicked

Depending on the circumstances fleas and ticks can be present year round, so don’t become complacent just because the temperature drops. The ticks will overwinter in fermenting leaf litter. When it gets warm for a couple of days, they begin looking for a meal. Remember to comb out your dog when he is out where there are ticks. There is more to controlling Lyme disease control than just putting on a topical.

tick sizes

Over the years there have been all kinds of products produced to help prevent being bitten by ticks. There are two separate philosophies regarding tick and flea control. People don’t like chemicals so they decide to use the so-called “all natural” ingredients. This is foolish. The risk of their inefficacy is too high. There is no such thing as “moderate” success when repelling ticks. Even with humans there are no foolproof repellents. The other school of thought is to use topical and systemic toxins to kill the parasites. The problem is some of the products only kill fleas. Advantage, Advantus, Capstar, etc. Some 10 years ago Merial came out with Frontline. This worked against fleas and ticks. It helped more than Bayer’s Advantage because Advantage only killed fleas.

Prior to this the vets sold Program. That was a farce. It contained a well-known chemical called Ivermectin. Every flea in a house had to bite the pet to die, and people thought Program was all they needed to cure their infestation. Premise spray with permethrin was also needed but that wasn’t conveyed to the client. I personally like Ivermectin. It is a great dewormer — but with regards to ticks, the put must already have been bitten for the drug to take effect. If the pet’s been bitten, the damage has already likely been done. It does not protect against getting Lyme.

Now Bayer has introduced Advantus. This is another product that will only kill fleas. It is a systemic product that has an active ingredient called Imidocloprid — the same as Advantage. Fleas are a nuisance, but ticks are dangerous and potentially deadly. Lyme disease is everywhere now. It’s doubly dangerous because it’s hard to diagnose and the tick population seems to be exploding.

Many of the other products take up to 48 hours to kill ticks. Some, like Advantix, will kill both fleas and ticks but it still takes 24 to 48 hours to kill a tick. The nice thing about Advantix is that it uses permethrin (dogs only — the chemical is toxic to cats) which also acts to some degree as a repellent.

The new Seresto collar from Bayer seems to be quite effective, but I suggest using a bit of Frontline spray around the tail region of larger dogs. In big dogs the collar seems lose efficacy on the far end of the dog. Frontline seems to be going out of favor for some reason. Some say it isn’t as effective as it used to be. I have not noted any dropoff in quality. We use a product called Spectrasure (basically the same as Frontline Plus with an IGR – insect growth regulating hormone – that for the life of me I see no immediate use). If the flea or tick bites an animal protected with Spectasure, they’ll die and their eggs won’t be around anyway. The IGR is to keep the eggs of the fleas from hatching. It seems a little redundant, but IGRs have little to no toxicity at any concentration. It’s superfluous, but harmless. Spectrasure is cheaper and saves money, but many still want to pay the extra cash for Frontline because that is what they know.

In the late spring when the tiny ticks are out and about you can barely see them. Be diligent about combing your dog for fleas and make sure they have a quality topical that kills both fleas and ticks. Cats are harder to treat because permethrin is toxic to cats, but there are a couple of new products on the horizon that hopefully will be available soon. I will keep you informed as they are released and tested.

I hope this helps you make decisions about controlling fleas and ticks. Talk to one of our managers — they can be a great source of information — or call me at (412) 367-0962.


Burtons signature