Pet Fountain Slime – The Good News

What is “pet fountain slime” and where does it come from?

Pet fountain slime is more than a disgusting inconvenience. Pet fountain slime is usually “bacterial biofilm” that develops when airborne bacteria attach to a surface and begin to release a slimy, gluelike substance that can stick to all kinds of materials (including plastic, stainless steel and other metals, ceramics and glass). Bacteria produce the slime as protection from cleaning chemicals. In your pet fountain, bacteria feed on microscopic particles that are deposited into the water from saliva, as well as food particles that are dropped into the water by a drinking cat or dog. With the right conditions, they multiply rapidly until they can be seen with the naked eye or you can feel them along the surface.

Biofilm can be found in spas and hot tubs, in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms, in municipal water and sewer pipes, in stagnant ponds and any humid environment. The dental plaque that forms on your teeth is a form of biofilm. It appears in almost any color, including red, green, pink, yellow, purple, orange, brown, colorless or black. It can produce a putrefied smell that is especially offensive to pets because pets can smell 14 times better than humans. More important, bacteria in pet fountain slime can cause life threatening infections when ingested and/or inhaled, including E.coli, listeria and staphylococcus. Pet fountain slime presents a major health risk to your pet, including dental diseases, urinary tract infections and kidney disease.

How does saliva contribute to pet fountain slime?

Pet fountain slime comes from biofilm development, or pet saliva, or a combination of both. Saliva breaks down food particles into simple sugars that are easier for animals to digest and absorb. Bacteria love sugar, too, and when they get a lot of sugar to feed on, they multiply very fast. In your pet fountain, saliva is dropped into the water every time your cat or dog drinks and is a food source for microorganisms that can produce slime. The pet fountain slime will attach to the bowl or basin, plastic parts, and especially inside the corners and crevices of the pump where they cannot be easily washed away by routine cleaning.

What type of water will prevent pet fountain slime best?

Pet fountain slime can form in any pet fountain regardless of the type of water used. Every organism involved in biofilm development is already contained in the air in every home. Even if you fill your pet fountain with bottled or filtered water to start with, your dog or cat is adding saliva, bacteria and food particles to the water every time it drinks. The air inside the home is full of bacteria that can fall into the water, where it will feed on organic material that is dropped into the water and then develop into pet fountain slime. Whether that happens in two days or two weeks depends on the unique environment of your home and your water supply. Chlorinated tap water resists bacteria better than non-chlorinated or filtered water, but do you want your cat’s sensitive kidneys exposed to the toxicity of chlorine every time he or she drinks?

How do I get rid of pet fountain slime?

Removing the food source regularly and often is the key to controlling pet fountain slime and its pathogens. The best way to make sure that pet fountain slime never develops is to change the water weekly so that bacteria do not have time to multiply to the level where slime becomes apparent. Removal is the most successful strategy because chemicals rarely, if ever, come into contact with organisms that are protected by the biofilm. Your success in getting rid of pet fountain slime will depend on (1) how easy it is to clean the areas where slime develops, and (2) how porous the surface is where the biofilm is attached.  Many pet fountains have sharp corners and inaccessible crevices where bacteria can hide. All pet fountains circulate water through a pump that has small parts where bacteria can hide, accumulate and grow. Your pet fountain and its pump should be easy to take apart for cleaning, with a simple design and no sharp corners or crevices.

What are the best and worst materials for preventing pet fountain slime?

The best pet fountain material is a “high-fire” (over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit) ceramic with lead-free, certified non-toxic glaze. U.S. made high-fired ceramics are non-porous and possess the same characteristics of glass. Bacteria that fall into the water can be easily removed. Low-fired ceramics and plastics are porous. Bacteria are able to get inside the pores and are impossible to remove, except with 250-degree Fahrenheit heat. Stainless steel is less porous, but it can corrode depending on the composition and quality. There are many grades of stainless steel, including food grade and surgical grade, with different amounts of chromium, nickel and other metals. Lower quality grades are not as resistant to corrosion and more likely to leak toxic minerals into the pet’s water.

Are disinfectants effective in preventing pet fountain slime?

Disinfectants are antimicrobial agents that are applied to destroy microorganisms. Disinfectants do not kill all microorganisms, and they are less effective than sterilization, which is an extreme physical and/or chemical process that kills all types of life. Disinfectants usually work by destroying the cell wall of microbes or interfering with their metabolism. A perfect disinfectant would offer complete sterilization without harming humans or pets, be inexpensive, and noncorrosive. However, most disinfectants are, by nature, potentially harmful or even toxic to humans or animals. It is environmentally preferred to maintain clean conditions that are less friendly to bacterial growth, rather than attempting to kill all microorganisms with chemicals which can lead to resistance in later generations, requiring even stronger chemicals in the future.  Disinfectants are ineffective to clean a porous surface, such as plastic, because they cannot get inside the pores where the bacteria are protected by their biofilm. You can scrub all day, but the porous surface will continue to feel slimy shortly after the cleaning.

How Do Glacier Point Pet Fountains Prevent Pet Fountain Slime?

The good news about pet fountain slime is that it now can be easily removed and prevented. Glacier Point Pet Fountains are designed to be easy to clean and keep clean. The ceramic basins are made in the USA from high-fired lead-free clay with lead-free certified non-toxic glaze, and the pump and dual filters simply lift off the basin for easy cleaning. Glacier Point Pet Fountains are the only pet fountains that use FDA-approved, hospital grade plastic tubing and fittings with antimicrobials embedded in the matrix of the plastic itself to inhibit the growth of microorganisms and the formation of biofilm inside plastic tubing that is otherwise inaccessible and impossible to clean. With regular cleaning and maintenance, you now can have a pet fountain without slime!