This summer, blue-green algae has been in the news a lot. Dogs who are exposed get very sick without warning, and exposure can be fatal. Where is it coming from, and what can you do?
Blue-green algae grows in ponds and is not algae but cyanobacteria, a primitive organism. There are benign types — like spirulina – that are marketed as a nutritional supplement. And there are toxic types, which are not identifiable just by looking at them and are not always visible as large patches. These overgrowths, or blooms, happen with increased nutrient levels and warm water temperatures.
The toxins target either the liver or the nervous system. Signs of exposure can be vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, salivating, lethargy, convulsions, seizures, or blue mucous membranes. These toxins act quickly, usually within a short time of being exposed to the water. There is no specific antidote, but supportive care can help save the dog. If exposed, your dog needs to get emergency treatment ASAP.
On warm days, you can look in the water for areas of pea soup appearance. If you think your dog has been exposed, get him emergency treatment. If you are not sure or your dog is showing mild signs, hose him off.
Blue-green algae is becoming more common because our climate is changing and pond water is staying warm longer. In addition, nutrients — waste and fertilizer run-off — pollute ponds and cause these blooms.
What to do?
- Avoid water with the algae blooms.
- Be cautious about letting your dog swim, especially in still water.
- Vote for candidates who support measures to control global warming.
Some helpful links: