Blue Green Algae and Dogs: Danger!
Protecting our dogs from the dangers of chocolate or household cleaning products are frequently discussed hazards. But there are many common causes of dog deaths that don’t receive enough attention. Blue green algae is one very real hazard. Please arm yourself with information about blue green algae and dogs–and safeguard your canine companion from this toxin.
Why sharing information about blue green algae and dogs is critical:
I heard an unusually sad story from one of my veterinary clients recently. His young retriever was frolicking in a nearby pond and quite suddenly died in the water. The dog’s tragic death happened within minutes and was caused by a water-based toxin that acts lightning fast. As with my client’s dog, it is not uncommon for a dog to die in the water or coming out of the water onto the bank. There is no practical treatment. Nothing can be done.
The culprit? Blue green algae that produces toxins that are hazardous to humans and potentially fatal to dogs.
Where can blue green algae be found?
Also known as cyanobacteria or cyanobacterial blooms, blue green algae can be found in:
- natural and man-made ponds
- ponds set in landscaping in the yard
- standing water
- fresh water
- brackish water.
How can I tell the difference between toxic blue green algae and generic pond scum?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t what you want to hear. Determining whether algae is toxic requires an expert using a microscope. However, I believe it’s important to have a general idea of what blue green algae looks like. (I am a firm believer that a picture is worth a thousand words.) Here are several photos of toxic blue green algae:
How long has blue green algae been around?
The toxins from cyanobacteria have harmed humans and animals for thousands of years. In dogs (and other animals), it has a tendency to primarily damage both the liver (like many toxins) and the nervous system.
Toxins may be ingested as easily as a dog innocently lapping up a few sips of the water that’s essentially poisoned or from the dog licking the bacteria off of his fur after wading in contaminated water. Death for the dog can occur in 20 to 30 minutes.
Are all cyanobacterial algae blooms toxic to dogs?
It’s been estimated that 25 to 75% of cyanobacterial blooms are toxic. There’s no reason to take the chance. Keep your dogs (and children and yourself) away from water with algae and err on the side of caution.CAUTION: Blue green algae and dogs just don't mix! Click To Tweet
When is blue green algae at its worst?
Blue green algae is a regional problem and a seasonal problem. It is at its worst during periods of hot weather when the water is warm, but growth can occur at cooler temperatures too. Often local authorities at lakes or parks recognize the risk and take appropriate precautions by closing lakes to the public during a bloom.
Where can I learn more about blue green algae and dogs?
Blue green algae is a very real, yet not as commonly discussed, health risk to our canine companions. For more information about blue green algae and dogs including the the symptoms of poisoning, please read the Pet Poison Helpline’s article: Blue Green Algae. If you have questions or concerns about the hazards of blue green algae for your dog, please speak with your veterinarian.
Helping You Help Your Dog
As an integrative veterinarian and founder of Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips, my mission is to help you help your dog live the longest, happiest, healthiest life possible. For information on protecting your dog from other common dangers, please listen to my podcast: Danger Ahead-Preventing Pain, Suffering, and Death in Pets with my guest, Dr. Jason Nicholas.
What questions do you have about blue green algae and dogs? Please comment below.
For more images of cyanobacterial blooms, please visit Cyanosite.com, a research site supported by Biological Sciences at Purdue University and by Wichita State University. A special thank you to Mark at Wichita State University for permission to share images of cyanobacterial blooms so that we can inform our readers about blue green algae and dogs.