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Blue-Green Algae: A Danger to Pets

June 15, 2021

Have you heard of cyanobacteria? You may recognize it by its common name: blue-green algae. This is an extremely dangerous algae that thrives in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich water. Cyanobacteria can make both people and pets very sick. It can grow rapidly under the right conditions. This is called a bloom. Unfortunately, these blooms are becoming much more common. A veterinarian discusses cyanobacteria below.



Warning Signs

Blue-green algae blooms usually occur in summer and early fall, but they can happen whenever the water temperature is over 75°F. Here in the north, shallow waters in lakes and ponds are most susceptible. Local authorities and newscasts will alert people when a body of water has been contaminated, and a few will even post signs. Take time to check local resources before bringing your dog swimming.


Appearance

Blue-green algae typically looks like pea soup or green paint, and often causes a swampy odor. However, you can’t judge by appearance alone. Smaller blooms can still be dangerous, but they won’t necessarily alter the look (or smell) of a lake or pond very much. It’s also worth mentioning that, while not all algae blooms are harmful, you can’t tell by looking at a lake whether it is or isn’t safe. Err on the side of caution: if in doubt, just stay out!


Contamination

As mentioned above, blue-green algae is extremely toxic. It’s dangerous to both people and pets. Many wild animals are also sickened or even killed by it. You don’t have to drink contaminated water to get sick: you can also become ill through skin contact or by breathing in water droplets or vapors. This can happen when people are swimming, boating, or tubing. Cyanobacteria can also stick to pets’ fur, where they can later lick it off and ingest it.


Pets

Blue-green algae can make any pet sick. However, dogs are particularly at risk, as so many of them love to swim or splash around in water. Blue-green algae can cause very serious neurological problems and/or liver failure for Fido, and can, unfortunately, be fatal. Warning signs include panting, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness/disorientation, respiratory problems, seizures, and excessive drooling. If your furry pal shows any of these red flags, call your veterinarian immediately.


Safety

As always, when it comes to pet care, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. Be really careful when choosing Fido’s swimming holes. Also, don’t let him drink from lakes or ponds, especially ones with blue-green scum. 


Do you have questions about pet care? Contact us, your animal clinic, today! 

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