Algae and your dog: The dangers
Dogs are exposed to poisonous substances both at home and out and about. As humans we may not give a second thought to leaving items such as e-cigarettes or antifreeze within easy reach of our pets; however both of these products have been known to be fatal to dogs. Foods such as chocolate, grapes, raisins and onions also lead to adverse reactions in our canine friends.
The current warm weather has increased the risk of one particular type of poison, Cyanobacteria. The bacteria are commonly known as blue-green bacteria or blue-green algae. The algae can be found in ponds and lakes that appear green in colour and it has been proven to be toxic to both animals and people. Contact with the bacteria can cause damage to the liver and nervous system, inflame the respiratory tract and irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Scientists believe the algae is as a result of fertilisers, septic tanks and storm runoff and is more prevalent in warm areas that are combined with a low water flow.
Not all blue-blue green algae is dangerous, however there is no easy way to distinguish between the harmful and harmless types. Therefore the best thing to do is to avoid ponds or lakes that have a blue-green or ‘pea soup’ appearance. Dogs that frequently swim in lakes and ponds are at greater risk as are dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors such as those involved in hunting.
Symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning depend on the toxins involved and whether the specific algae produces microcystins or anatoxins.
Symptoms from exposure to microcystins:
- not eating
- blood in the stool or a black tarry stool,
- pale gums
Symptoms from exposure to anatoxins:
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive (eye) tearing
- Muscle tremors
- Muscle rigidity
- Inability to walk
- Difficulty breathing or blue gums
There is currently no antidote for blue-green algae poisoning, therefore if suspected, immediate veterinary advice should be sought. Depending on the particular toxin there is a four to five hour window from ingestion of the poisonous water to death, as a consequence, speed of response is vital.
There are many other items on the list of harmful plants; garden and household substances so if in doubt always contact a Veterinarian.