Most dogs love to play in water, especially on hot days. So it's not unusual for a canine to head straight for a lake or a pond after going on a hike for a quick, cooling splash. Harmless, right? Not always. There is a chance that innocent-looking body of water might contain blue-green algae, which could pose a serious health threat to a dog.
Blue-green Algae Will Give You the Blues
Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae is a bacteria that can be found in many ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams, especially during warm or hot months. Though usually found in freshwater, this algae can also show up in brackish water. That yucky, green stuff you can see floating on the top of some ponds during the summer? It's probably a form of blue-green algae.
Not all blue-green algae are poisonous to dogs, but there are certain varieties that are very toxic to animals and even humans. In 2017, for example, two dogs were killed after swimming in a pond in California that was fouled by a blue-green algae bloom. Dogs typically get ill from the toxin by either drinking water containing the bloom or swimming in contaminated water and then licking their fur afterwards.
Unfortunately, dogs can become extremely ill very quickly after ingesting the algae. If your pup has recently been swimming in slow-moving water and exhibits any of these symptoms, you should take your canine immediately to a veterinarian:
- Difficulty breathing
- Black or bloody stools and/or diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
Because the toxins in blue-green algae are very quick acting, a dog could die within a few minutes to hours after ingesting them. According to the Washington State Department of Health, some blooms will cause nerve poisoning, with symptoms showing up as soon as 15 to 20 minutes after the toxin has been ingested. Other blue-green algae toxins may cause liver poisoning. The symptoms for this type of poisoning may not show up for hours or days after your dog ingested the water.
While there is no antidote for the blue-green algae toxin, your vet can help treat your pet's symptoms. They may, for instance, give your dog oxygen if it is having trouble breathing. Immediate veterinarian care, in fact, could mean the difference between life and death for your beloved pet.
Still, the most important thing to remember when it comes to blue-green algae is to prevent your dog from drinking from or entering a body of water that has any visible algae on its surface. For more information, contact companies like Acequia Animal Hospital.