Vet’s warning over deadly blue-green algae after dog dies of suspected poisoning

The British Veterinary Association is urging dog owner to take extra care when walking their pets near rivers and ponds after a cocker spaniel died of suspected blue-green algae poisoning

Dog owners should take care when walking their pets near ponds and rivers

Dog owners are being urged to keep their pets on a lead when walking them near rivers and ponds this summer.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA), has warned of an increase in toxic blue-green alga growth in the next few months.

It comes after algal bloom sightings in lakes, ponds or rivers in locations across the UK, including Millarochy Bay in Scotland, Pullar’s Loch in Lerwick, Shetland and around 50 other confirmed locations were identified by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s (UKCEH) Bloomin’ Algae app.

A cocker spaniel was poisoned by blue green algae after swimming in Anton Lakes, Hampshire, in April.

Blue green algae or cyanobacteria is a group that includes bacteria and can contain harmful toxins. Even small amounts can prove fatal for pets, livestock and birds.

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The majority of blooms are toxic and it is impossible to tell the difference visually


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The algae may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water.

Dogs can swallow the algae by drinking water from affected lakes, rivers, or ponds or by licking their skin after swimming.

It is possible for dogs to come into contact with the bacteria even if they don’t go into the water for a paddle, as toxic blooms are often blown to the edges of water bodies.

Cases peak in July and August, at the height of the summer season, and aren’t restricted to any one part of the UK.

President of the British Veterinary Association, Justine Shotton said: “Many dogs love nothing more than a paddle in a lake to cool off in this weather, but we’d urge pet owners to keep them on a lead during walks near water bodies confirmed to have algal blooms this summer.

“The majority of blooms are toxic and it is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry. It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of exposure. These commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures, and blood in faeces.

“They can appear within a few minutes or hours of exposure, depending on the type of toxin ingested, and can cause liver damage and ultimately be rapidly fatal if left untreated.

“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so dog owners should seek prompt veterinary treatment to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for their pet.”

Dr Linda May, a freshwater ecologist at UKCEH, said: “All reports of suspected blue-green algae are rapidly available to view via the Bloomin’ Algae app, so by submitting records, people are providing a useful early warning to pet owners and watersports enthusiasts.

“A photograph must be included with all reports so we can quickly check if the bloom is blue-green algae or something harmless.”

What owners should look out for:

  • Look out for any warning signs put up by the responsible national environment agency or local authority near water bodies.
  • Keep pets on a lead and by your side around water bodies known or suspected to have a blue-green algal bloom – don’t let pets swim in it or drink from it.
  • After your dog has gone swimming outdoors, you should wash it thoroughly with clean water.
  • Seek emergency veterinary treatment if you’re concerned your pet may have ingested toxic algae.
  • You can report blue-green algae sightings to the ASPCA by sending a picture. Bloomin’ Algae app. You can also set up notifications for confirmed sightings in your area.

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