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The dangers of Blue Green Algae

July 29th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized

Before you let your dog jump into that lake to cool off this summer, pay heed!

By. Dr. Justine Lee

Maybe I’m just a bit paranoid, but when it comes to swimming in lakes, you want to make sure to avoid ones that have that green scum layer on top of the lake. Why? It’s because during really hot summers and fall, there’s an increased likelihood of the lake developing a thick “bloom” of algae, which float on the surface of the lake.

Blue-green algae,called cyanobacteria, are bacteria found in freshwater ponds, lakes, streams, and brackish water ecosystems.

Note that not all types of algae are poisonous, but some types can produce toxins called microcystins and anatoxins. These toxins are so dangerous that they are actually poisonous to other species too: humans, cattle, horses, cats, etc. For this reason, you shouldn’t allow your dog (or child) to swim or drink water that has been potentially contaminated with blue-green algae.

While it’s impossible to be able to tell if it’s benign or poisonous algae on the pond or lake, it’s best to heed caution and avoid allowing your dog to swim in any body of water that has visible algae on the surface. That’s because even small exposures (as little as 1-2 licks), can potentially result in fatal poisoning.

Clinical signs of blue-green algae poisoning depend on what type of toxin (e.g., microcystin vs. anatoxin) is present.

With the blue-green algae that produce microcystins, symptoms include:

Not eating
Black-tarry stool
Pale gums
Jaundice (yellow) gums

With the blue-green algae that produce anatoxins, symptoms include:

Inability to walk
Excessive (eye) tearing
Muscle rigidity
Difficulty breathing or blue gums

The best way to prevent blue-green algae poisoning? Walk around the lake first before you let your dog dive in, and make sure to avoid it if it has blooms of algae floating on the surface.

When in doubt, whether you’re at the lake or not, make sure your dog always has a bowl of fresh water available so he or she isn’t tempted to drink from contaminated sources.

With any poisoning, the sooner you seek treatment the better the prognosis. With blue-green algae, immediate veterinary attention is important. This is a very serious poisoning!

Dr Louise says: If we are closed, please call our emergency clinic on Maple Grove Road, 519-650-1617

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