“Anytime they’re ingesting water that’s possibly contaminated, they’re ingesting more and more of that toxin. Their little bodies can’t handle that much toxin.”
Keeping Your Furry Friends Safe from Toxic Algae
On a hot June day, a group of friends launched their boats and headed out on Jordan Lake near Raleigh, North Carolina for a relaxing day on the water. It was a chance to soak up some sunshine and get relief from the summer heat. But according to media reports, the day turned tragic after a three-year-old beagle, Ruby, suddenly became ill after playing in the water. She died a few hours later. Health officials confirmed the presence of toxic blue-green algae in the lake.
Unfortunately, this tragic scene is playing out in lakes and rivers across the country, where unsuspecting dog owners are allowing their beloved pets to play in contaminated water, not realizing the dangers lurking.
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, does not always start off as toxic. Algae are natural organisms that already exist in the water. In the summer, when temperatures start to soar, algae can grow into blooms, choking aquatic ecosystems and becoming toxic to people and pets.
Toxic algae is particularly harmful to pets and they can quickly become ill and even die from exposure. They can be exposed either through gulping water, licking their fur, or even just licking rocks on the shore of the lake.
“Pets and livestock can get very sick and die within hours to days after swallowing or coming into contact with cyanobacterial toxins,” said Dr. Gad Weiss, Scientific Director, BlueGreen Water Technologies.
While humans can also get sick, dogs are especially vulnerable.
“Anytime they’re ingesting water that’s possibly contaminated, they’re ingesting more and more of that toxin. Their little bodies can’t handle that much toxin,” said Lucia Ross, CMO, BlueGreen Water Technologies.
Toxic algae does not always have a smell or a color. Even if you suspect a bloom may be present, do not let your pets off their leash. Any exposure to contaminated water could be fatal.
“Pets and livestock can get very sick and die within hours to days after swallowing or coming into contact with cyanobacterial toxins.”
It doesn’t have to be this way; pets and their owners should be able to enjoy time at the lake this summer. There are remedies available to rid lakes of toxic algae and protect people and pets.
State health departments typically monitor conditions and post advisories when harmful algal blooms are present. Make sure you check for advisories before heading to a lake or river.
There are warning signs pet owners can watch out for. The CDC advises keeping pets and livestock away from water if you see signs of a cyanobacterial bloom, like scum or changes in the water’s color.
The following tips can help keep your dogs safe:
- Know before you go:
- Be on the lookout for local water advisories and any sign of algal blooms. Signs include: water discoloration, foam or scum, foul smell, and dead fish around the water.
- If the water has harmful algal blooms, do not let your dog off their leash. Swimming in and drinking contaminated water can be fatal, and should be avoided.
- Symptoms of toxic algae poisoning in pets include:
- Lack of energy
- Lack of appetite
- Yellow eyes or gums
- Dark urine
- Weakness, stumbling
- Tremors, seizures
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive drooling
- If your dog is exposed:
- Wash your dog off with clean water immediately
- If your dog drank any infected water or has eaten any material nearby, call a veterinarian as soon as possible
- Also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661