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Guide to Blue-green Algae Toxicity in Dogs

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039

 

Despite the name, blue-green algae is not actually algae at all, but is the name given to a group of bacteria (cyanobacteria) that can be found in stagnant water. They are called algae due to their appearance when clumps form on the surface of water – they can make the water look blue-green in colour and can form foam or scum, accumulating at the edges of non-flowing water in ponds, reservoirs and lakes. Blue-green algae is mostly seen during the summer when the temperature is warmer and the rainfall low.

Why is blue-green algae toxic?

Some forms of blue-green algae produce toxins that are highly toxic to dogs (and other animals and humans), resulting in severe liver damage very soon after exposure, sometimes within just 15 minutes. Dogs are at an increased risk of toxicity due to their tendency to play in the water and they are therefore more prone to ingesting it. They also can be exposed by licking their fur and paws after they have been in contaminated water.

It is not possible to tell just from the appearance which type is toxic so it is best to avoid the standing water if there is any doubt. You may notice dead fish or wildlife in the water which can give a clue as to the presence of blue-green algae

Symptoms of blue-green algae toxicity

The symptoms normally develop rapidly after ingestion of the toxin, often within 15-60 minutes, and include:

  • Vomiting and drooling
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weakness and collapse, possible loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Breathing difficulties

If you are worried that your dog may have been exposed to blue-green algae then please contact your vet ASAP as prompt treatment is key when treating these toxicities.

How is grape and raisin toxicity treated?

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for blue-green algae toxicity. If presented to the vets quickly enough then they may be able to give an injection to induce vomiting, removing as much as possible from the stomach. Sadly however, blue-green algae toxicity often results in fatal liver failure and the prognosis is therefore usually poor.

How can I protect my dog from blue-green algae?

Keep your dog away from water where you suspect there may be blue-green algae, not allowing them to drink from or paddle in the water. Never ignore warning signs around the water or on walks.

Always rinse your dog thoroughly after they have been swimming in case they have any in their coat that they could then ingest by licking and grooming.

Remember that blue-green algae can form in any stagnant water, including bird paths, garden pots and water features.

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Blue-green algae in dogs

Despite the name, blue-green algae is not actually algae at all, but is the name given to a group of bacteria (cyanobacteria) that can be found in stagnant water and can look like algae, turning the water blue-green and appearing on the surface like foam or scum. Blue-green algae is mostly seen during the summer when the temperature is warmer and the rainfall low.

Some forms of blue-green algae produce toxins that are highly toxic to dogs (and other animals and humans), resulting in severe liver damage very soon after exposure, sometimes within just 15 minutes. Symptoms include vomiting, drooling, disorientation, collapse, seizures and breathing difficulties.

Unfortunately, there is no antidote. If presented to the vets quickly enough then they may be able to induce vomiting, removing as much as possible from the stomach.  Sadly, blue-green algae toxicity often results in fatal liver failure and the prognosis is therefore usually poor.

Keep your dog away from water where you suspect there may be blue-green algae, not allowing them to drink from or paddle in the water. Never ignore warning signs and always rinse your dog thoroughly after they have been swimming, in case they have any in their coat that they could then ingest by licking and grooming.

Remember that blue-green algae can form in any stagnant water, including bird paths, garden pots and water features.


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