Have you heard of cyanobacteria? You might know it by its common name: blue-green algae. This is an extremely dangerous type of algae, one that thrives in warm, nutrient-rich water. Cyanobacteria can make both people and pets very sick. It can even be fatal. The algae can grow rapidly, or bloom, under the right conditions. Unfortunately, as average temperatures grow warmer, these blooms are becoming much more common. A veterinarian discusses cyanobacteria below.
Blue-green algae blooms are most common in summertime and early fall, but they can happen anytime water temperatures go over 75°F. In many places, local authorities and newscasts will alert people when a body of water has been contaminated by algae blooms, and some post signs. However, it’s really easy to miss these updates. The EPA has a map available here with cyanobacteria resources for every state. This is definitely something you want to check before taking Fido swimming, especially if you’re going to an unfamiliar area.
Blue-green algae looks like pea soup or green paint. It often has a swampy odor. Smaller blooms are still dangerous, but they may not alter the look (or smell) of a lake or pond very much. It’s also worth noting 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 here: if there’s any doubt, just stay out!
As mentioned above, blue-green algae is extremely toxic. It has unfortunately caused the deaths of several pets over the last few years, and is deadly to wildlife as well. 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 boating, swimming, or tubing. Cyanobacteria can also stick to pets’ fur, where they can later lick it off.
Blue-green algae can make any pet sick. Our canine friends are particularly at risk, especially those that love to swim or splash around in water. Blue-green algae can cause very serious medical problems in dogs, including neurological problems and/or liver failure. Warning signs include panting, respiratory problems, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness/disorientation, seizures, and excessive drooling. If Fido shows any of these warning signs, contact your veterinarian immediately.
As always, prevention is worth much more than cure. Be extremely vigilant and careful when choosing Fido’s swimming holes, and 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 local animal clinic in Edison Park, FL!