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Blue-Green Algae: A Lurking Danger to Pets

June 15, 2021

Have you heard of blue-green algae? Officially known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae is an extremely dangerous algae that thrives in warm, nutrient-rich water. Cyanobacteria can make both people and pets very sick. It can grow rapidly, or bloom, under the right conditions. Unfortunately, these blooms are becoming much more common as average temperatures rise. A veterinarian discusses cyanobacteria below.


 Warning Signs

Blue-green algae blooms will most often occur in summer and early fall. However, they can happen anytime the water temperature goes over 75°F. Here in Florida, that means they can occur at almost any time. Many local authorities and newscasts will alert people when a body of water has been contaminated, and some post signs. However, it can be easy to miss these warnings. The EPA has a map here with cyanobacteria resources for every state. This is definitely something for you to check before taking Fido swimming!


Appearance

Cyanobacterial blooms typically look like pea soup or green paint. They can also cause a swampy odor. (Of course, that in and of itself isn’t much of a clue here in Florida.) It’s worth noting that not all types of algae blooms are harmful. However, you can’t tell by looking at a lake whether it is or isn’t safe. Smaller blooms are still dangerous, but they may not alter the look (or smell) of a lake or pond very much. Err on the side of caution here: if in doubt, just stay out!


Contamination

As mentioned above, blue-green algae is extremely toxic. You don’t necessarily have to drink contaminated water to get sick: you can also become ill through skin contact or by breathing in water droplets or vapors. This often happens when people go swimming, boating, or tubing in lakes with blue-green algae. Cyanobacteria can also stick to pets’ fur, where they can later lick it off.


Pets

Blue-green algae can make any animal sick, but our canine buddies are particularly at risk, especially those that love to swim or splash around in water. Cyanobacteria can cause very serious neurological problems and/or liver failure, and can, unfortunately, be fatal. Warning signs include panting, respiratory problems, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness/disorientation, seizures, and excessive drooling. If your dog shows any of these warning signs, call your veterinarian immediately.


Safety

As always, prevention is worth much more than cure. Be very careful when choosing Fido’s swimming holes. Don’t let him drink from lakes or ponds, especially ones with blue-green scum. Hopefully this goes without saying, but you’ll also want to avoid bodies of water that could be housing gators or snakes.


Do you have questions about pet care? Contact us, your animal clinic, today! 

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