Algae and your dog

Written by Dr. Colleen Fisher  | Published on: 8/15/2021

The dog days of summer are here, and our pooches are feeling the heat! As loving dog owners, we are looking for different ways to keep them cool. Playing and swimming in local lakes, rivers, and ditches can be a terrific way to give dogs a break from hot temperatures. But keep in mind not all bodies of water are healthy. Over the last 15 years, at least 246 bodies of water across Canada have shown toxic levels of something called blue-green algae, which affects both dogs and their humans.

Blue-green algae is not algae at all

The stuff we think of as blue-green algae is actually a kind of bacteria known as cyanobacteria.
  • Blooms of cyanobacteria will often look like flecks and splotches of bright green paint floating just below the water surface. Red-blue and tan blooms may also be seen.
  • Toxins from the bacteria may not be present in all areas of a bloom or may be found where the water looks clean.
  • Blooms are more likely to occur in standing or slow-moving fresh water as well as in backyard ponds and sloughs.
  • Hot, dry weather promotes the formation of cyanobacteria blooms.

What do I need to know to keep my dog safe?

  1. Keep your dog leashed around stagnant water. Stay away from water that looks slimy, foamy, or has mats of coloured algae. Supply dogs with bottled water when camping or traveling.
  2. Dogs are more likely than other species to ingest cyanobacteria because of their play habits. Dogs don’t need to drink directly from a bloom to become sick. Splashing about, playing ball, and fetching sticks from shore can lead to swallowing tainted water.
  3. Rinse your dog with fresh water after swimming or playing. We want to prevent accidental ingestion when dogs lick their paws or belly.
  4. Clinical signs can look like heat stroke. Vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, weakness, and loss of consciousness may be seen right away or within a few days. In many cases, the effects are deadly.

Emergency treatment is a must

Cyanobacteria toxins poison the liver, brain, or both. Emergency veterinary care may prevent organ failure if started immediately and before dogs show irreversible changes.

Pet insurance can help with the cost of vet visits

Emergency medical treatment for cyanobacteria poisoning and other toxin exposure is eligible for coverage under all Petsecure plans. Learn what’s covered by Petsecure and get a free quote today.