Toxic blue-green algae
Vets have urged pet owners to take extra precautions when walking dogs around freshwater bodies.
It has warned that warm weather conditions spark concerns about an “increased” risk of toxic blue-green algae growth over the coming months.
The warning follows on the heels of a few recent news reports about algal bloom sightings in lakes, ponds or rivers.
In April of this year, a cocker spaniel died of suspected blue-green algae poisoning after a swim in Anton Lakes, Hampshire.
According to the British Veterinary Association (BVA), blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are a group of bacteria that can contain dangerous toxins.
They can be harmful and potentially fatal to pets, livestock and birds if ingested, even in small quantities.
The algae may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the water’s surface.
Dogs can swallow it by drinking water from an affected lake, river, or pond or while licking their fur after going for a swim.
Furthermore, the veterinary body explains, it is possible for dogs to come into contact with the bacteria even if they do not go into water for a paddle.
This is because toxic blooms are often blown to the edges of water bodies.
According to trend data supplied by Professor Alan Radford and his team at SAVSNET, University of Liverpool suspected or confirmed cases reported by veterinary practices peak in July and August, at the height of the summer season.
BVA advice for pet owners:
- Look out for any warning signs erected by the responsible national environment agency or local authority near water bodies;
- Keep pets on a lead and by your side around water bodies known or suspected to have a blue-green algal bloom – do not let pets swim in it or drink from it;
- Seek emergency veterinary treatment if you’ are concerned your pet may have ingested toxic algae.
- If your dog has been swimming outside, wash its coat thoroughly with clean water afterwards.
British Veterinary Association President Justine Shotton said:
“Many dogs love nothing more than a paddle in a lake to cool off in this weather.”
“However, we urge pet owners to keep them on a lead during walks near water bodies confirmed to have algal blooms this summer.”
“The majority of blooms are toxic. It is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry.”
Shotton said it is also important to be aware of the symptoms of exposure.
These commonly include:
- Trouble breathing;
- Blood in faeces.
They can appear within a few minutes or hours of exposure, depending on the type of toxin ingested.
Furthermore, they can cause liver damage and ultimately be rapidly fatal if left untreated.
“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins.”
“Dog owners should seek prompt veterinary treatment to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for their pet,” the BVA president concluded.
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