Dog walker

Beware of deadly blue-green algae when walking your dog

Vets have warned dog owners of the dangers of blue-green algae and urged people to take extra precautions when walking their pets near water bodies this summer.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, appears in lakes, rivers, streams and ponds in the hot weather and it can be harmful and potentially fatal to pets.

One dog has already died this summer after coming into contact with suspected blue-green algae at Loch Awe in the Scottish Highlands and there have been reports of algal blooms in water bodies across the country, including several locations in the Central Belt of Scotland, as well as in Derbyshire, the Midlands, Essex, Pembrokeshire and the Brecon Beacons, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reports.

What does it look like?

The algae may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water. Blooms of the organisms often build up around the edges of ponds and lakes, and may look like foam.

However, the algae may be present in a harmful form even if you can’t see it, so watch out for warning signs in the area.

Blue-green algae

What are the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning?

Dogs can swallow blue-green algae by drinking water from an affected lake, river or pond or when licking their fur after going for a swim.

Signs of exposure can appear within a few minutes or hours, and commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures, and blood in faeces. If left untreated, it can cause liver damage and be rapidly fatal.

“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so prompt veterinary treatment is the only way to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for your pet,” said Daniella Dos Santos, senior vice president of the BVA. “If you suspect your dog has been exposed to blue-green algae, please seek emergency veterinary treatment as soon as possible.”

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