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Posted on 08-31-2017

Don't Let Your Dog Drink the Water: Blue-Green Algae Can Be Deadly

With the winding down of the dog days of summer, it’s likely that you and your dog will enjoy a bit more outdoor time in parks and wilderness areas. However, you and your pet should take caution before swimming or drinking from lakes and ponds. One of our top dog safety tips from our vet in Mokena is to take a close look at the surface of the standing water to see if there are any greenish layers of scum present. If so, this could be what is called blue-green algae, and you should want to avoid contact and consumption of the water.

water dog

What is Blue Green Algae and Why is it Dangerous?

During particularly hot seasons, standing water can begin to develop a ‘bloom’ of thick algae that floats to the surface. Algae is known to develop in lakes, streams, ponds and other brackish water ecosystems. While not all algae are poisonous, cyanobacteria, which is better known as blue-green algae, produces toxins known as anatoxins and microcystins. The potential health risks to dogs who encounter cyanobacteria can lead to extreme illness and often fatality in dogs and even humans—particularly children. However, the symptoms and severity of symptoms will vary depending on which type of toxin you’ve encountered: a microcystin or an anatoxin.

The Symptoms of Microcystin Poisoning from Algae

The clinical signs of contamination from blue-green algae of the microcystin type include:

  • General malaise or unusual lethargy
  • Lack of appetite or vomiting shortly after eating
  • Diarrhea, particularly black-tarry stools
  • Gum discoloration such as yellow indicating jaundice
  • Signs of shock, experiencing seizures or periods of unconsciousness

You should come in right away to a vet in Mokena if any of these signs are present for immediate care. Unfortunately, as terrible as these symptoms sound, they are not as severe as those sourced by anatoxin exposure.

Clinical Signs of Anatoxin Exposure from Blue-Green Algae

The absolute worst case scenario when it comes to blue-green algae exposure is having your dog exposed to anatoxins. Symptoms and signs include:

  • Trouble walking, often indicated by ‘dragging’ of the rear limbs
  • Excessive salivating and/or eye tearing or foaming at the mouth
  • Tremors and muscle rigidity
  • Breathing complications or excessive panting
  • Blue tinge to the gum line
  • Unconsciousness

These can often be signs similar to hyperthermia, but unfortunately, many of these symptoms cannot be stabilized in instances of blue-green algae poisoning.

The Prognosis for Dogs with Blue-Green Algae Poisoning

Sadly, the prognosis for pets suffering from blue green algae isn’t so great. Many dogs actually suffer from organ failure and pass away before they can be seen by a vet in Mokena. These toxins react very quickly once they are internally ingested. While dogs with microcystin exposure have greater chances of survival with prompt treatment, the outlook for pets with anatoxins is typically grim.

Tips to Prevent Blue-Green Algae Exposure

Avoid water with signs of blue-green algae at all costs. You may want to trek around the water source and take a closer look before delving in with your pup. While you can’t visually tell if the water’s algae are toxic, it’s best not to take any chances because just one or two licks can be fatal. Bring along a collapsible bowl and fresh water on wilderness hikes or long days in the park to prevent them from drinking from algae-contaminated sources.

Call Today for More Dog Safety Tips from Our Vet in Mokena, IN

If you want to learn more tips about pet safety, feel free to contact us, send us an email or read our Mokena Animal Clinic blog regularly. As a full-service vet in Mokena, we are prepared to help treat all of your animal’s medical needs, so give us a call at 708-479-2811 to schedule a consultation or appointment.

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After Hours ER: Animal Emergency of Mokena: 708-326-4800 or Premier Veterinary Group in Crestwood: 708-388-3771


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