Dog remedy stirs outrage

Q. Our Westie has cleared up my athlete’s foot completely. The sensation was a little odd at first as the dog licked both my feet. Still, it’s better than suffering with this fungal infection. This worked better than the creams and potions I’ve bought through the years. Has anyone else ever had this experience?

A. Dog lovers have written in from time to time with testimonials like yours. The first one we received stated: “My uncle had his athlete’s foot cured by his small terrier dog back in the ’50s. When my uncle came home in the evenings, he would remove his shoes and socks and put his feet on a hassock while reading the paper. The dog always went to him immediately and licked his feet all over, especially between the toes. After about three months, he noticed that the athlete’s foot, which had plagued him for most of his adult life, had gone away!”

But other readers were not amused by this form of treatment. Although dog saliva may have some anti-fungal properties, dogs often carry a variety of bacteria in their mouths, which could be a problem if saliva got on broken skin.

A vet tech added: “Not only is this ‘treatment’ ridiculous, it could be dangerous to your pet! Dogs and cats can get fungal infections from human carriers. Not only that, but they can also transfer the same fungi back to you, other people and other pets.

“Treating pets for fungal infections can be costly and time-consuming. If you love your furry friend and want to keep him/her healthy, please don’t recommend this remedy.”

Q. I have been on omeprazole for heartburn, but it has led to high blood pressure and headaches. I have also developed osteoporosis.

I am desperate to get off this drug, but every time I stop, the heartburn is intense. Recommendations?

A. New research suggests that long-term use of acid-suppressing drugs may reduce blood-vessel flexibility and raise the risk of heart disease (Circulation online, July 3, 2013). Stopping drugs like lansoprazole, omeprazole and pantoprazole suddenly, however, can trigger rebound hyperacidity.

Q. My beautician told me to add 8 ounces of vodka to a whole can of cayenne pepper, let it sit overnight, strain and apply it to the top of my scalp with a cotton swab to counteract hair loss. Does this work, or will it cause more hair loss?

A. Our first impulse was to discredit such a remedy. We feared that the ingredient in hot peppers, capsaicin, might be too irritating.

To our surprise, however, we discovered an article in Current Medicinal Chemistry (No. 29, December 2008) reporting that capsaicin can stimulate growth factors in the hair follicles of mice and in human volunteers with hair loss. The investigators suggest that hot-pepper extract stimulates nerves in skin, improves blood flow and might help counteract hair loss.

Before you dump a lot on your scalp, though, it would be prudent to do a spot test to make sure it doesn’t burn you.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

2013 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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