Algal Toxins and Pets

By D.Ernes – Lake Management Committee

Some of you may have seen the recent articles in the paper and on the news about pets (mainly dogs) dying after exposure to algae in lakes and ponds. I want to relay some information I have found on this issue.

First, the articles are talking about exposure to toxins that can be released from cyanobacteria [CB], which most people refer to as blue-green algae. As an organism, CB has been around as long as water has been on earth. It is present in a great many lakes in Ohio including ours. But why is this an issue with dogs?

Unlike us, dogs cannot read beach warning signs, or e-blasts and have no issues drinking water that has green swirls in it. The EPA website says “When in doubt, keep pets out”. Additionally, dogs (and other animals as well) may be more susceptible to the toxins that may be present. The most common toxin, microcystin, can cause liver damage that can be fatal in dogs. Here are some things that you should know.

1. This is not something new. There have been reports of animal deaths related to ingestion of lake water as early as 1878. It has become very visible in our 24/7 news environment.

2. Symptoms of exposure include: diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, weakness, seizures and breathing difficulties to name a few. If you notice these symptoms, take your pet immediately to the vet. Exposure can be fatal after a few hours to several days depending on the size of the pet and the quantity ingested. There is no cure, but treatments have been shown to be successful.

3. The Veterinary Merck Manual indicates that the greatest effect is from ingestion of a concentrated bloom. The amount of water ingested that can be fatal can vary from a few ounces to several gallons. For those of you with a health background, it states that the toxins have a steep dose-response curve where as much as 90% of a lethal dose can be ingested without measurable effect.

I have been unable to find any references regarding exposure limits for pets to toxins like there are for humans. So, if you see that there is a bloom on the surface of the water (often seen in the early hours of the day), keep your pet away from it. If they go in, don’t panic. Just get them out, rinse them off and keep an eye out for symptoms. If you send them outside, make sure they drink clean water before they go out, so that they are not thirsty. Have clean water available to them when they are outside so they are not tempted to drink from the lake. Take care of our furry friends and …

BE LAKE (And PET) RESPONSIBLE

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