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Dr. Michael Fox, Published September 27 2013

Dr. Fox: Tap water causes tearstains

Q: A reader wrote to you recently about his poodle’s eye tearstains. I have a suggestion that worked for my white shih tzu-poodle mix.

While I was walking my dog about 4½ years ago, a woman stopped to admire my little Danny Boy. Unfortunately, he had those horrible tearstains. While we were chatting, the woman told me she worked for a pet food company and suggested I not give my dog tap water, but bottled water. Immediately I started using what I had in the house (Iron Mountain). It took a couple of months, but it worked! No more stains! Thanks for your dedication to all God’s creatures.

A: Many thanks for your mutually supporting letters sharing your evidently effective remedy for tearstained faces in your dogs.

This is a common problem and is yet another reason why dogs (and cats, too) should not be given municipal tap water to drink, the hazards of which are detailed in “Dr. Fox’s Library” on my website.

Q: Our 8-year-old female cat has been diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The vet has her on prednisone. She also had a shot of a longer-lasting antibiotic to treat bronchitis. Is there anything we can do to help with the congestion/coughing? -- F.P., Stratford, CT

A: I am concerned about this standardized treatment that proves effective most often on a one-shot, hit-and-miss basis and can have some harmful consequences from steroid and antibiotic side effects.

Many cats with symptoms like yours actually have food allergy-related asthma, and they get better when triggering ingredients – such as corn or fish – are removed from their diets.

I would follow a holistic and alternative approach. In addition, provide your cat with daily probiotics that have been shown to significantly help children suffering from asthma. Also check the archives on my website, DrFoxVet.com, for more suggestions.

Cats who are allowed outdoors and who kill and eat birds and small mammals should be checked for lungworm parasites, since some wild prey can carry these worms and infest cats, causing respiratory problems. Slugs and snails also carry a parasitic worm species that has been implicated in lung disease in dogs and foxes.

Q: I acknowledge you’ve written about the risks of toxic plants, but I don’t remember seeing anything discussing moss. Not the shade-loving, dense form, but the kind that looks a bit like slimy snot when lifted from wet rocks or perpetually wet areas.

For several years, our backyard has had a problem from runoff coming from a neighbor’s pool. To their credit, they’ve tried to repair the pool and berm landscape; however, the water seems to have no boundaries, and the problem has gotten worse.

My concern here is that our dog – our third in just a few years – is suffering identical problems that our first two went through. He’s constantly licking his paws and legs to a point of hot spots, and he has foamy hacking and frequent bowel movements. How do you test for toxic organisms in moss? My vet has only been able to treat the symptoms.

Our first dog lived for two years after we moved here. Our second dog only lived to be 4 years old. Our third is 6 years old now. When he was 3, he started developing focal seizures that seem to come about only in the rainy season and summer months. This dog has had greater exposure to the slime.

We’ve attempted to fix the problem with landscape solutions, but the water continues to surface, killing the grass and taking over the swath of ground our dog runs on. I’m perplexed as to a solution, short of building a bridge.

Is the moss what’s making our pets’ health compromised? Please let me know what you make of this. -- C.B., Clayton, Mo

A: Some pool chemicals, especially chlorine compounds, could cause serious dermatitis and possibly seizures. But the “moss” that you describe is most probably a species of algae that can be toxic to dogs – it causes liver damage, nausea, vomiting and seizures. That is why I advise people to never allow their dogs to drink from standing water in the summer months when algae bloom. Blue-green algae are especially hazardous.

You need to get to the bottom of this health hazard with your neighbor. Where there’s standing water with slimy, potentially toxic algae, there can also be botulism bacteria, producing one of the most deadly poisons to humans and other animals. Our communities would be generally healthier without swimming pools, lawns and golf courses, and with more attention to creating more environmentally friendly, chemical-free environments.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.