Blue-Green Algae: Hazard for Dogs

Blue-green algae toxin poisoning, also known as cyanobacterial poisoning, is an acute, sometimes fatal, condition caused by the ingestion of water containing high concentrations of cyanobacteria.

In Oregon, dogs have become very sick, and some have died, after swimming in and swallowing water affected by toxic algae.

Poisonings are most likely to occur during warm, sunny weather when algae blooms are more intense and dense surface scums are present. If you find thick, brightly colored foam or scum at a lake, pond or river, don’t let your pet drink or swim in the water.

 
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Symptoms

Children and pets are particularly susceptible to blue-green algae. Exposure to blue-green algae can result in:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin irritation
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea, nausea, and cramps
  • Fainting
  • Heart problems

If Your Dog Does Go in the Water

  • Don’t let your pet lick its fur.
  • Wash your pet with clean water as soon as possible.
  • If your dog shows symptoms such as drooling, weakness, vomiting, staggering and convulsions after being in bloom-affected water, call your veterinarian immediately. Acute, life-threatening symptoms from cyanobacterial toxins often develop rapidly. Death can occur within 4 to 24 hours after exposure. 

Treatment

Treatment is primarily supportive in nature. Your veterinarian may administer activated charcoal slurries to absorb the cyanobacterial toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. Because the toxins are excreted rapidly from the body within a few days, animals that survive the initial tissue damage have a good chance for recovery.

Reporting Illness

Pet owners are encouraged to report suspected toxic algae illness in their dogs to Oregon DHS at (971) 673-0440. Illness reports are an important tool for public health to assess the severity of environmental problems.

Know Before You Go

Oregon's Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance program provides updates to the public regarding bodies of water that are experiencing blue-green algae blooms. We (OVMA) also post advisories on this Web site and our social networking feeds: Twitter and Facebook.

Published: July 16, 2010;    Updated:

Filed Under: Safety, Seasonal Issues, Companion Animals, Dogs

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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