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Don't Let Your Dog Drink the Water: The Dangers of Blue-Green Algae

Pet Safety Tips: Outdoor Water and the Dangers of Blue-Green Algae

As warmer weather approaches the appeal of the great outdoors beckons to dogs and their two-legged companions. However lovely the scenery may be, potentially deadly dangers can await in the most unexpected of places—in the water. Blue-green algae can become prolific in hot seasons, developing as blooms within ponds, lakes, streams and other brackish water sources. Here, our veterinarian in San Diego explains the dangers and symptoms of blue-green algae and provides useful pet safety tips.

The Dangers of Blue-Green Algae

All algae types aren't poisonous, but blue-green algae is a cyanobacterium that produces anatoxins and microcystins. Cyanobacteria can infect animals and humans, so water sources found in the wild shouldn’t be consumed without proper purification steps. The level of illness caused by blue-green algae will depend on whether it’s an anatoxin or microcystin based algae, and symptoms can range from moderate to severe and can even lead to death.

The Symptoms of Microcystin Algae Poisoning

Microcystin types of blue-green algae are not as severe as the anatoxin type, and symptoms of infection include:

  • Vomiting after eating or drinking.
  • Diarrhea with unusually dark stool.
  • Malaise or lethargy.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Gum discoloration.
  • Signs of shock, seizures or unconsciousness.

If proper veterinarian care is sought immediately upon the appearance of symptoms the chances of a full recovery are good.

Signs of Anatoxin Poisoning from Blue-Green Algae

Dogs exposed to anatoxins will have a rapid onset of severe symptoms that are similar to those of hypothermia and include:

  • Foaming at the mouth.
  • Excessive salivating or eye tearing.
  • Breathing or panting heavily.
  • Blue hues around the gums.
  • Tremors and/or rigid muscles.
  • Walking complications such as dragging the rear legs.
  • Unconsciousness

Unfortunately, anatoxin poisoning is challenging to stabilize, even with immediate veterinary care. Hence, the importance of keeping pets away from non-pure water sources during warm weather.

Pet Safety Tips and Outdoor Drinking

The best prevention is to avoid allowing pets to drink outdoor water that isn’t purified. Bring along a collapsible bowl and bottled water for yourself and pets on excursions. Just one or two small drinks could prove fatal, so just don’t take the chance. After all, you cannot tell visually whether the water is contaminated or not.

Suspect Blue-Green Algae Poisoning? Contact Our San Diego Veterinarian

Tierrasanta Veterinary Hospital aims to provide the highest quality of care for your pet whether your visit is for an emergency or preventive care. Contact us today at 858-292-6116.



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