You may have recently heard about the blue-green algae blooms which are affecting Lake Okeechobee and some beaches in South Florida. With all the news about beaches being closed, you may also be aware that the algae releases toxins which are hazardous to humans. Did you know that these toxins are also bad news for our pets?
An overgrowth of cyanobacteria, blue-green algae, is referred to as a bloom and occurs in warm weather. A few factors such as higher water temperatures and fertilizer runoff can increase the chances of blue-green algae blooms. Despite the appearance of the algae in the water, it is not possible to tell if any toxins are being produced by the algae. Therefore, the only safe course of action is to treat any water containing the blue-green algae as potentially harmful.
Humans and pets can be affect by the toxins through drinking the water, having contact with the water, or breathing in spray contaminated with algae. Symptoms vary according to amount and type of exposure. Signs of poisoning can occur in as little as 30 minutes. In the worst cases, death may happen within the first hour. Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, pale mucous membranes, seizures, muscle tremors, trouble breathing, and drooling may be seen in dogs with exposure to the algae’s toxins.
If any pet is suspected of having contact with blue-green algae, it is strongly advised that the pet be taken to a veterinarian immediately. The speed at which the toxins can invade the body make every minute a matter of life or death. Even with supportive care and treatment, most dogs do not survive.
Cats generally do not come in contact with algae contaminated water. Unless you’ve got a well-trained and well-traveled cat, cats will rarely visit the beach. Swimming is not a favorite hobby for cats either making their exposure to lakes and ponds minimal. Also most cats prefer to drink fresh water; this would keep them from drinking water with algae in it.
Blue-green algae can be found in any water source under the right conditions. Water that collects in containers outside and sits undisturbed for an extended period of time can provide a place for the algae to form. So whether you are out at the beach or outside around your home, watch for the presence of algae in the water and take every precaution to keep your pets and yourself safe.