a dog looking at a lake

Dangers of Blue-green Algae

Nature’s summertime glory also brings danger in the form of blue-green algae

By: Brent Honcharenko

As a pet owner, few things are more satisfying than having time to get outside with your dog during the summer. Taking your best friend and trekking onto your favorite hiking trail can be just the relaxing medicine one needs in these uncertain and ever-changing times. Watching a dog in nature’s elements, simply enjoying life, can bring a few moments of serenity and pure joy to your, otherwise, busy day. But beware what lurks in the ponds and lakes behind the trees of those wooded pathways. That peaceful and joyous time with your favorite furry companion could end quickly if one important summertime precaution isn’t taken. Before allowing your dog to run up to that open body of water for a drink or to jump in for a quick swim, look to see if the surface is plagued with a thick, smelly, scum. If so, it could be blue-green algae and that is toxic to dogs.

Warnings about the dangers of blue-green algae, to dogs in particular, have increased tremendously over the past few years, and those warnings should not be ignored. The algae blooms are often found in non-flowing bodies of water and it can have a thick, pea soup appearance or it can be multi-colored (green, blue, red, and/or brown) and look like paint poured on the water surface. Alternatively, the algae can be in the form of foamy scum layers with blobs. Blue-green algae can be fatal to dogs if ingested in high concentrations. Dogs are more susceptible to ingesting the toxic substance because of their tendency to play or swim in water infested with it. 

If your dog does become exposed to the algae, rinse him/her off immediately with clean water, before it has a chance to lick itself, and call your veterinarian. Dogs become ill when they ingest the toxins. If caught early enough, your veterinarian may be able to flush the toxins out before your dog becomes completely affected. If not treated immediately, the toxic algae can be fatal anytime from 15 minutes up to a couple of days after ingestion.

blue green algae

Here are a few common signs and symptoms your dog may have ingested toxic blue-green algae:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Neurological symptoms, including:
    • Weakness
    • Disorientation/confusion
    • Collapse/unconsciousness
    • Seizures
    • Breathing difficulties

Take care of your pets. Always have your dog(s) leashed when around non-familiar bodies of water and watch where they go when they do run freely. Share the dangers of blue-green algae with all of your dog-loving family and friends. Taking a few simple precautions will help ensure a wonderful summer with your family’s best friend.