Have you heard of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria? This is an extremely dangerous algae, one that can, unfortunately, be fatal to both people and pets. The algae typically lives in warm, nutrient-rich water. It can grow rapidly, or bloom, under the right conditions. Unfortunately, these blooms are becoming much more common. A veterinarian discusses cyanobacteria–and how to protect your pet from it–below.
In most places, blue-green algae blooms usually occur in summer and early fall. However, they can happen anytime the water temperature goes over 75°F, which means they can happen almost any time here. Many local authorities and newscasts will alert people when a body of water has been contaminated, and some post signs. However, it’s really easy to miss these updates. The EPA has a map only here with cyanobacteria resources for every state. Florida’s is here . This is definitely something you want to check before taking your dog swimming!
Blue-green algae looks like pea soup or green paint. It can also cause a swampy odor, which of course isn’t all that helpful in these parts. However, you can’t judge by appearance alone. Smaller blooms may not alter the look (or smell) of a lake or pond very much, but they can still be dangerous. 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 here: if in doubt, just stay out!
As we mentioned above, blue-green algae is extremely toxic to both people and pets. You don’t have to drink contaminated water: you can get sick through skin contact or just by breathing in water droplets or vapors. This can happen when swimming, boating, or tubing. Cyanobacteria also sticks to pets’ fur, where they can later lick it off.
Dogs are particularly at risk, especially those that love to swim or splash around in water. Blue-green algae can cause very serious neurological problems and/or liver failure in our canine buddies, and can be fatal. Some warning signs include panting, respiratory problems, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness/disorientation, seizures, and/or excessive drooling. If your furry bff shows any of these warning signs, call your vet immediately.
Prevention is always worth much more than cure when it comes to pet care. Be very careful when choosing Fido’s swimming holes. Don’t let him drink from lakes or ponds, especially ones with blue-green scum. (The good news is that since these lakes are also likely to be housing gators, many people avoid them anyway.)
Do you have questions about pet care? Contact us, your animal clinic, today!