Dog Walkers Warned After Blue-Green Algae Deaths

Dog walkers and owners are being warned to be vigilant after a number of cases of poisoning at the hands of blue-green algae. The algae is particularly prevalent on lakes and rivers, and can be fatal to dogs that ingest the substance.

In recent weeks, deaths have been reported in Cheshire and Wales, while other dogs have become ill in Hampshire and Cornwall.

The most concerning aspect to dog owners and walkers is that there is often no sign that a dog is sick, before it is too late. A number of the recent reports have seen dogs spending a day or afternoon playing in lakes and waterways, before taking a dramatic turn for the worse.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue Green AlgaeBlue-green algae, also known by its scientific name of Cyanobacteria, is a naturally occurring organism that can be found in a wide range of waters across the country.

According to the Environment Agency, “water bodies affected by blue green algae, or algal blooms may be green, blue-green or greenish brown and can produce musty, earthy or grassy odours.

“Blooms can also cause foaming on the shoreline, which can sometimes be confused with sewage pollution. During a bloom, the water also becomes less clear, blocking sunlight and can slow down plant growth in water.”

Danger is present to both humans and canines as the algae produces toxins. Though not life threatening to humans, contact with this toxin can cause rashes and irritation on the skin.

How does it affect dogs?

The effect of blue green algae on dogs and other animals is much more serious. If a dog ingests contaminated water, the toxins involved will begin to attack the animal’s liver functions.

There is no antidote to the toxins, showcasing why immediate action is required if symptoms are shown. Quick responses mean a vet may be able to aid the dog to regurgitate the water they have drunk, removing the toxins from their system.

Unfortunately, like some of the recently highlighted cases, symptoms are often shown too late. Dogs can go from having a great day playing in a lake, to becoming critically ill in just a matter of minutes.

What are the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning?

The symptoms shown in dogs suffering from blue green algae poisoning are often seen in other illnesses too. However, if your dog or an animal in your care shows signs of the following after swimming in local waterway, or drinking from the lake or stream, it’s important to seek veterinary assistance:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Seizures
  • Weakness/collapse/unconsciousness
  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Drooling
  • Breathing difficulties

Spotting these symptoms early could be the difference between life and death for the dog in your care.

What can dog walkers do to stay safe?

Blue-Green Algae Warning SignThe advice being given is simply to be vigilant. If you let your dog swim in a lake, river or stream, keep an eye out for blue green algae beforehand, and closely monitor your dog’s behaviour afterwards.

More importantly, make sure you take notice of any signage present. After recent cases, several local authorities have taken the step to close some lakes for swimming for both dogs and humans. Do not ignore these warnings, as you will be putting the life of the dog in your care at risk.

Whether you are a professional dog walker, or have your own dogs that you walk, staying alert during your dog’s next walk is vital. Keep up to date with the local news in your area and be sure to act accordingly if cases are reported near you.

For more information on blue-green algae and the risks it poses, visit the Blue Cross website.

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