In these dog days of summer, many people take their pets with them on outdoor adventures. But, pet owners need to be aware of a danger that can threaten their dogs’ lives: toxic algae blooms. A deadly species of algae is believed to have caused the recent deaths of several dogs across the United States. Several cases were reported at Texas, North Carolina, and Massachusetts lakes.
Blue-green algae is on the rise in freshwater and saltwater ponds, rivers, and lakes, especially in warm and humid climates. If you notice that the water looks cloudier, it may be contaminated, so do not let your pets drink or swim in it. Blue-green algae emits a noticeable smell. Areas near the water may also contain algae in the soil.
Even a small exposure can cause harm due to two toxins within the algae called microcystins and anatoxins, which the Centers for Disease Control named as “among the most powerful natural poisons known.” These toxins are not visible.
Signs of algae poisoning appear within an hour and can include confusion, lethargy, discoloration, tremors, seizures, and difficulty breathing, according to Pets WebMD. Damage to the liver and metabolic system is also possible, and the most likely cause of death by algae poisoning. Cases have been documented in all animals, but dogs are affected most severely.
Before taking your pets to outdoor sites, check for any environmental advisories from your local Parks and Recreation department. If you have standing water in your yard, try to keep your pets away from it.
Symptoms can appear within minutes to hours. If your pet does become ill, or if you suspect any algae exposure, take action quickly. Rinse your dog off first. Consult with both a veterinarian and an animal poison control specialist immediately, so they can begin pumping toxins out of their body and treating any affected organs. Pet insurance plans with accident-illness coverage or veterinary discount programs will ensure that you get the right care, and lessen the cost of treatment when unexpected issues arise.