During the dog days of summer, a common threat to animal safety is from overheating and dehydration since the weather causes health risk. There’s another threat to dog safety, however, and it may not be one that you would expect.
CJ here, joined by my friend Rex! Today we’re talking about a shocking threat to canine health that you may not be aware of; toxic blue-green algae. Dogs have become fatally ill after swimming in freshwater lakes and ponds after ingesting water that is laden with this stuff. Because of that, these intense blooms have led to swimming bans from lakes in the Pacific Northwest to the entire Mississippi seacoast, to Lake Hopatcong. This alga is a very serious threat to us dogs.
Rex: Toxic blue-green algae sounds so scary, CJ… Can you tell me more about it? I don’t want to go swimming anymore; even though it’s one of my very favorite activities.
CJ: It is incredibly scary, Rex – and it’s in your best interest to take up a new hobby! Woof, woof! This stuff is known as cyanobacteria and this type of algae that is often found in lakes and ponds. Algal blooms, which are common this time of year, are a big cause for the presence of aquatic plants.
Rex: BARK. I don’t like this stuff; what does this alga do, exactly?
CJ: This alga is deadly to animals because they ingest large amounts of water, unlike humans. These algal blooms release toxins that take on a wide variety of effect such as causing liver damage, seizures, panting, excessive drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory paralysis, and even untimely death.
Rex: Death?! This is awful!
CJ: It absolutely is; WOOF. Unfortunately, there have been several reported cases of death in dogs after they’ve been swimming in contaminated water – there have even been a few reported cases in our area.
*CJ & Rex take a moment of silence*
Rex: So, what should owners look out for next time they go to a river, pond, or lake?
CJ: Some people have described these blooms as foam-like or similar to spilled paint. Despite the name, the color of this algae can also appear as red or brown, in addition to the more common blue-green color. These blooms give off a smell that is pungent to humans, but us dogs don’t really mind it.
Rex: I see… So, if we don’t see this green or red layer on the surface of our favorite place to swim, does that mean we can still swim in it?
CJ: I wouldn’t be so sure – woof! Sometimes, algal blooms can appear to have dissipated, but the harmful toxins are still present in the water.
Rex: That’s frightening… what can our parents do to protect us?
CJ: For starters, dogs should never be allowed near any water that is clearly contaminated with algae since drinking or swimming in it puts them at immediate risk. So immediate, in fact, that the dog may not make it to the vet without experiencing serious symptoms.
Rex: woof, woof – sounds like we shouldn’t be swimming in any bodies of water unless we’re sure that it’s safe; I know I don’t want to take the risk!
CJ: That’s exactly right, Rex! There are health departments that do perform testing to be sure about the safety of the water and will post signs of caution when the test shows positive. But if you’re not able to be certain, avoid that water completely! Also, dogs should always be rinsed off well after a swim, just to be super careful.
Rex: I’m glad I now know more about this! I think I may take up more games of fetch in my backyard where there isn’t any water.
CJ: Good idea, Rex – and for dogs that do have ponds in their backyard, this deadly algae can also grow there too, so their parent should keep a close eye and even block off the area for safe measure.
Toxic blue-green alga is very serious, but the more you learn about this threat and how to prevent it from affecting your dog, the safer your family will feel. If you feel that your pet may be at risk, or if you have any questions, contact the professionals at Bulverde Animal Hospital today.