Many dogs enjoy swimming as a way to exercise and cool off. However, recent news about toxic algae has left dog owners across the United States concerned. When the weather is hot, it is extremely important for all dog owners to understand the dangers of swimming in unfiltered water.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Two dog parents in North Carolina took their three furry friends to the lake for a playdate. However, after just fifteen minutes of leaving the lake, one dog began to experience seizures. All three of the dogs passed away that night. Vets attributed these deaths to blue-green algae poisoning.
Algae is common and natural in water, but some blooms are much more harmful than others. Also called cyanobacteria, blue-green algae can be extremely difficult or even impossible to spot. Look out for water that is blue-green or even light green in coloration. These colors may appear as though painted onto the surface of the water. Algal blooms may also pile up on the side of the water, making them easily accessible to animals drinking from a body of water. The affected water often has a bad odor.
Blue-green algae has appeared in all 50 of the United States of America. It can be found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, estuaries, and other fresh and marine water environments. Even a home swimming pool left unsanitized can foster harmful algal blooms. Blue-green algae poisoning is most commonly reported in the mid- to late-summer months. This is because the water is warm, stagnant, and rich with nutrients such as phosphorus.
Blue-Green Algae Poisoning
Dogs can become poisoned from ingesting cyanobacteria. They may drink it directly from a body of water or lick it off of their own fur or paws following a swim. Symptoms vary widely, including seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, blue discoloration of the skin, and shock. There is no cure, and most dogs that ingest blue-green algae die anywhere from minutes to days after exposure. Keep in mind that this ailment is not limited to dogs; it can occur in humans and other animals as well.
How to Avoid
Although there are some signs that cyanobacteria may have infiltrated a body of water, it is best to avoid taking your dog swimming in lakes or rivers. Always keep your dog on a leash to avoid them drinking from unknown water sources. Keep home swimming pools properly sanitized.
It is also important not to panic. Though it is a serious threat, blue-green algae is fairly rare.
What to Do in the Case of Exposure
If you think your dog has been exposed to blue-green algae, immediate veterinary care may be necessary. Contact the 24-hour Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 for further information.
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