Most of us may not be aware of blue-green algae and what it is. This is a quick guide of what it is and what dangers it has against dogs and other animals.
So what is Blue-green Algae and what does it look like?
Blue-green algae is a general term used to describe a group of harmful bacteria called Cyanobacteria. This type of algae naturally occurs in lochs, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and even the sea. Blue-green algae commonly occur during periods of prolonged hot weather but also can occur at other times of the year. Such times can be when the water has been polluted by agricultural, domestic or industrial discharges.
This type of bacteria cannot be seen to the naked eye unless they clump together. When this happens, blue-green algae can look like green flakes, greenish bundles or brown dots. When the algae bloom, it can give a look like a blue-green scum has appeared on the surface of the water. It sometimes looks like pea soup! This can build up around the edges of the waters, which may look like a foam.
The algae may still be present in a harmful form even if you cannot see it, so please take note of any warning signs in the area.
Why is blue-green algae dangerous to dogs and other animals?
When the blue-green algae form these can produce toxins. These toxins can kill wild animals, farm livestock, and domestic pets. The harmful toxins that are produced can stop a dog’s liver from functioning properly.
Sadly, exposure to the toxic blue-green algae is often fatal, and can also cause long-term health problems in dogs that survive after drinking or swimming in the water. Some types of this blue-green algae can kill a dog within just 15 minutes to an hour after drinking the contaminated water. Dogs who have also swum in the infected water can get these harmful algae caught in their fur, and can then ingest this while the dog is cleaning itself later on.
What are the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning?
If a dog swallows algae containing a combination of the most severe toxins, they may start showing signs within minutes. If your dog shows any of the following signs after drinking from, or swimming or paddling in the water, contact your vet immediately.
The most common signs of blue-green algae poisoning include:
- Vomiting/being sick
- Breathing difficulties
There is no antidote for the toxins produced by the bacteria, but if caught early enough, your vet will likely try to make your dog sick or they will be given oxygen and intravenous fluids to help flush the toxins from the body. Your dog may also require intensive care and medication for seizures, respiratory distress or liver failure. Thankfully, surviving pets do have a good chance for recovery.
How can I prevent my dog from getting blue-green algae poisoning?
Keep your dog away from lakes and ponds that you know, or suspect may contain blue-green algae. Never let your dog swim in or drink from water sources you suspect may be contaminated by blue-green algae, and if your dog has been swimming outside, always wash them thoroughly afterwards.
If there are blue-green algae warning signs in the area you’re walking keep your dog by your side and follow the information given.