Summertime means afternoons by the water and our dogs, of course, will want to come along. Something you may not have thought about when taking your pup into the outdoors is the dangers of them coming into contact with blue-green algae. What is it and what are the dangers of blue-green algae toxicity in dogs?
What is Blue-Green Algae?
What is referred to as toxic blue-green algae is not technically an algae. It actually refers to certain strains of cyanobacteria (or microcystin) present in algae that produce toxins. Toxic blue-green algal blooms often multiply in lakes during late summer, when the water is warm and rain is scarce. Runoff from fertilizer and waste often contribute to the increase of cyanobacteria.
Water infected with blue-green algae usually has patches of scum or streaks on the surface that resemble motor oil or thick paint. Though often blue-green, the algae can also be neon green, pea green or even reddish brown. The water usually has a bad odor and taste.
Symptoms of Blue-Green Algae Toxicity in Dogs
The signs of toxic blue-green algae poisoning usually occur within one to four hours of exposure. You will usually see one or a number of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
A dog is typically exposed through drinking contaminated water, but the toxin can also be absorbed through the skin.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog following exposure to water, contact your veterinarian immediately or take your dog to an emergency clinic. Neurological or liver damage from blue-green algae toxicity can be treated if caught early enough.
How to Keep Dogs Safe in Water
Check with your state agency that deals with environmental quality to see if it monitors the levels of toxic blue-green algae or cyanobacteria in area lakes and rivers. Nebraska does extensive testing on bodies of water, and the Department of Environmental Quality issues a health alert whenever the level of microcystin in a particular lake or river reaches 20 parts per billion. However, testing is not always reliable, and you will still want to take precautions.
The safest thing is not to bring your dog to the water if you think there is a danger from blue-green algae. If you do bring your dog make sure you bring plenty of drinking water for your dog. This will hopefully help to keep them from drinking any contaminated water. Monitor your dog’s activity in the water. A dog that merely wades in the water for a short time is not likely to become exposed to many toxins, but if your pup splashes in and out of the contaminated water all afternoon he is at a much higher risk.
After your dog goes into any water, clean him off immediately with a towel and try to keep him from licking his fur. Wash your dog thoroughly with clean water as soon as possible.
Toxic blue-green algae poisoning is a real danger to dogs, but it’s 100 percent preventable if you take the right steps to protect your pet. If you suspect any water might contain blue-green algae, simply leave your dog at home or choose a different spot to enjoy the outdoors. If exposed, take steps to clean your dog thoroughly and call your veterinarian if symptoms occur.
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