The health risks posed by the blue-green algae may include skin irritations, upper respiratory problems, severe diarrhea and vomiting, liver toxicity and kidney toxicity, and in some extremely serious cases, dogs have been known to die after drinking water that contains blue-green algae.
If you’ve ever run across algae while fishing or taking a dip in a pond or lake, you know how gross it looks and feels. Green fuzzy looking stuff that is a bit slimy. Nothing you would want to put on your skin on purpose. However, did you know that algae are more than simply pond scum? Algae is bacteria that typically grows in slow moving, warm bodies of water that have nutrients in abundance and some forms of algae can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and animals that come in contact with it.
When large amounts of algae are produced and looks like a mat of algae, it is considered an algae bloom and can range in colors of blue, green, red and purple. While algae blooms can develop at any time of year, they are most often present between the seasons of summer and fall. In the heat of the summer, the blue-green algae typically blooms (large amounts of the algae that float on top of the body of water), or cyanobacteria, and this lake algae toxicity can be dangerous to pets and humans because of the toxins and chemicals that are contained within them. The health risks posed by the blue-green algae may include skin irritations, upper respiratory problems, severe diarrhea and vomiting, liver toxicity and kidney toxicity, and in some extremely serious cases, dogs have been known to die after drinking water that contains blue-green algae.
If you are out camping or visiting a local pond, stream or lake, you may be able to notice the algae by the floating scum looking-slime that sits on top of the water. The more severe algae blooms are said to look green in color like pea soup and thick like a cake. While there is no way to know how toxic a particular algae bloom may be, the most severe blooms typically are found in shallow bodies of water that has a high nutrient count, making the body of water considered poor water quality. However not all algae blooms will be noticed prior to putting yourself, your family or dog at risk.
Symptoms of Toxicity
It is always safest to walk around and visually check the water before allowing summer fun play to begin, but you may not always noticed the algae, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms that a toxic algae can produce. Symptoms that your dog may have been swimming or drinking toxic algae infested waters include weakness, breathing problems, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and even death. Symptoms that humans may have been exposed to the toxins include tingly limbs, lips, and feeling dizzy. Symptoms may occur in just 15-20 minutes after coming into contact with algae infested water. Unfortunately, some algae blooms that produce toxins are considered the most powerful natural toxins and have no known treatments.
Since the toxicity of a bloom cannot be determined by sight, the best course of action is to steer clear from any body of water that has an algae bloom present. Do not allow yourself, your children or your pets to get into the water or drink the water, as the side effects could be extremely serious.
Dr. Susan Wright DMV is a veterinarian with more than a decade of experience. Dr. Wright and her staff share their love of dogs both professionally and personally by writing informational and entertaining pieces on the proper care of domestic animals.