Warning to dog owners over highly toxic blue-green algae that can kill in ‘as little as 15 minutes’

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) says animals can be exposed to the toxic algae even if they don't go in the water

Dog owners are being warned over a toxic bacteria that lives in freshwater during hot weather which can have fatal effects.

Blue-green algae is often found on the edge of lakes or ponds and contains extremely harmful toxins that can stop a dog’s liver from functioning correctly

As the weather is forecast to heat up over the weekend, owners are urged to be aware of the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning if their dog has been swimming or paddling in open water, such as rivers and lakes.

What is blue-green algae? 

Blue-green algae is a term that describes a group of bacteria called cyanobacteria, and it is found in freshwater bodies such as lakes, ponds, canals, rivers and reservoirs.

The chemicals produced from the bacteria are highly toxic to dogs and are also dangerous to other animals, including cats, horses, birds and cows, and can even be harmful to humans when ingested in small quantities.

Not all blue-green algae is poisonous, but bodies containing algal blooms should be avoided.

The algae appear as a green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of the water and dogs can swallow it by drinking water from an affected body of water, or while licking their fur after going for a swim.

Dogs can even come into contact with the bacteria even if they don’t go into the water as toxic blooms can be blown to the edges of bodies of water.

What are the symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning? 

The types and effects of blue-green algae vary, but common symptoms include:

  • dribbling
  • tiredness
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea 
  • convulsions 
  • problems breathing 
  • organ failure 

Signs often start within the hour but can occur within a few minutes or even be delayed by a few days.

Some types of blue-green algae can have fatal effects and can kill a dog in as little as 15 minutes to an hour after drinking contaminated waters

If caught early enough, a vet will attempt to make your dog vomit to try flush the toxins out of the body. There is no antidote, but if medical intervention occurs early this gives your dog the best chance at survival.

Sadly, blue-green algae poisoning often eventually causes fatal liver failure, so it is important owners are vigilant.

How you can I protect my dog?

Dog experts Kennel Store has issued advice to dog owners on how to keep their pets out of harms way. Top tips include:

  • Keeping your dog away from bodies of water that you suspect to contain blue-green algae
  • Do not allow your dog to swim or paddle in waters that contain blue-green algae
  • Avoid letting your dog drink water that could contain blue-green algae. Wind often blows blue-green algae to the edges of ponds and lakes and higher concentrations of toxins can reside here, where your dog is more likely to drink.
  • Be aware of warning signs and hazard notices during dog walks and follow the advice provided

If you are worried about your dog and they begin exhibiting signs of blue-green algae poisoning, you should contact your vet immediately. The effects of blue-green algae can come on extremely quickly, and it is important your vet intervenes and can advise in a timely manner for the best outcome.”