Have you heard of cyanobacteria? You may know it by its common name: blue-green algae. Cyanobacteria is an extremely dangerous algae that can make both people and pets very sick.. It typically thrives in warm, shallow water that is rich in nutrients. It can grow rapidly, or bloom, under the right conditions. Unfortunately, these blooms are becoming much more common. A veterinarian discusses cyanobacteria below.
Blue-green algae blooms usually occur in the summer and early fall. However, they can happen anytime the water temperature goes over about 75°F. Many local authorities and newscasts will alert people when a body of water has been contaminated, and some will even post signs. However, it can be easy to miss these updates. The EPA does have a map here with cyanobacteria resources for every state.
Blue-green algae often looks more green than blue. It typically looks like pea soup or green paint. It can also cause that swampy/stinky odor. However, you can’t really judge by appearance alone. Smaller blooms can still be very dangerous, but they won’t alter the look (or smell) of a lake or pond very much. While not all algae blooms are harmful, you can’t tell by looking at a lake whether it is or isn’t safe. Err on the side of caution here: if in doubt, just stay out!
As mentioned above, blue-green algae is extremely toxic. One of the reasons it’s so dangerous is that you don’t have to drink contaminated water to get sick. You can also become ill through skin contact or by breathing in water droplets or vapors. You can see how easily that can happen when someone is swimming, boating, or tubing. Cyanobacteria can also stick to your pet’s fur, where they can later lick it off.
Blue-green algae can make any animal sick. However, dogs are particularly at risk, especially those that love to swim or splash around in water. Blue-green algae can cause very serious neurological problems and/or liver failure in our canine companions. It can, unfortunately, be fatal. Some warning signs include panting, respiratory problems, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness/disorientation, seizures, and excessive drooling. If your pup shows any of these red flags, call your veterinarian immediately.
As always, an ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of cure. Be extremely careful when choosing Fido’s swimming holes, and don’t let him drink from lakes or ponds, especially ones with blue-green scum.
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