Blue-green algae growth commonly occurs in ponds and lakes throughout the US and around the world especially during the late summer and early fall. While not all blue-green algae produce toxins, those that do, called Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), contain cyanobacteria that can pose serious health risks not only to you but to your pets as well.
Usually, algae growth can be treated with a sludge removal system and by using algae removal products. However, since many of our waterways may not be closely monitored for algal blooms and pets can’t recognize affected waters like we do, they are especially vulnerable.
To prevent your pets from the dangers of HABs, here are a few things you can do.
1. Watch out for beach advisories or warnings regarding water quality before going near the water or prior to engaging in any water activity.
Local beaches and parks should place advisories to inform people if the water is safe to prevent poisoning. Always pay attention to them. It’s also a good idea to watch the news or check your state health or parks department for any information about HABs in your area.
2. Know the signs of toxic algae.
It’s not always possible to tell only by looking whether a bloom contains cyanobacteria or not but it’s best to know what they can look like. HABs can be blue, bright green brown, red or purplish. They can look like foam, scum or mats on the surface of the water. Some may also emit a bad odor. If you’re not sure if the water is contaminated or not, it’s best to stay clear of it.
3. Do not let your pets swim in infected water.
One of the ways that pets can get infected is by getting the algae on their fur. Swimming or even simply touching the algae can cause skin irritations or skin rash.
4. Do not let your pets drink infected water.
Drinking infected water will allow the toxin to enter your pet’s body, which causes toxicosis. Even a few mouthfuls can already be fatal.
5. Do not let your pets lick the algae or scum off their fur.
Getting algae or scum on your pet’s fur may prompt him to lick it and ingest it in the process.
6. Rinse your pet and yourself off immediately in case of contact with algae-infected water.
It is imperative that you rinse off your pet and yourself with clean water immediately once he is exposed to blue-green algae. Do not use any bleach or disinfectants.
7. Know the symptoms.
Look out for signs that your pet has been infected with cyanobacteria. Signs depend on the toxin produced. Pets that have ingested blue-green algae may show some of these symptoms: difficulty breathing, lethargy, weakness, lack of coordination, vomiting, urination, excessive salivation, diarrhea, and convulsions. Symptoms usually begin to appear within 15 to 20 minutes after ingestion.
8. Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your pet may have been poisoned.
While there is no antidote for cynobacteria-induced illnesses, your veterinarian may still be able to intervene through early and aggressive supportive care that includes intravenous fluids, electrolytes and other medications.
9. Report any algae-related illnesses or any musty smelling water to the proper authorities.
Let the authorities know if you encounter any bodies of water that you suspect to be infected or if you know of any occurrences of algae-related incidence. This way, they can do their part to warn the public of the potential dangers.
10. Go organic and quit using synthetic fertilizers on your lawn.
Fertilizers wash off into sewers and go directly into waterways. This is one of the main causes of toxic algal blooms. Pets who are left wandering and have access to unmaintained ponds or stagnant bodies of water will be at great risk.
As with any other illness, prevention is always better than cure. Protect your pets from the dangers of HABs by knowing the facts and by proactively doing your part to keep them away from any algal bloom.