Generally, algae are perceived as a relatively harmless eyesore. However, certain strains of it can be very dangerous. Blue-green algae are one such variety. It's toxic to both humans and animals, causing serious and potentially fatal damage to the liver, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys and nervous system. Pet dogs are at particularly high risk because they're more likely to come into contact with infected water than human adults who know better.
Blue-green algae are prevalent across hot, humid climates likes Australia, and they reach their highest bloom in the late summer. So, now the sunny season it's here, it's time to take extra precautions to keep your pooch safe from harmful bacteria.
Keep Your Dog Away From Stable Water
Above all else, the best way to keep your dog safe from blue-green algae is to keep them away from standing water. Toxic algae look and smell unpleasant to humans, which keep most people safe from coming into contact with infected water. Dogs, however, are actually attracted to the pungent smell and taste of this algae. As a result, they're likely to ingest it if you don't keep them well away. When you're near stable water like ponds or lakes, remember to keep your dog on his or her leash. If your pooch enjoys swimming to cool down and have fun during summer, it's best to take them to the nearest beach, as blue-green algae is a freshwater bacteria that doesn't grow in moving saltwater like oceans.
Know the Symptoms of Algae Poisoning
Sometimes, your pup can get into an infected water source without you even realising. That's why, no matter how well-leashed you keep your dog, you also need to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of algae poisoning. The most common and noticeable first signs are diarrhoea and vomiting. Soon, this turns into weakness and disorientation, and can quickly develop into seizures, loss of consciousness and difficulty breathing. Generally, symptoms begin within 15 to 30 minutes of your dog ingesting blue-green algae, but don't get complacent too early—they can also start several days after exposure. Knowing these symptoms is crucial because your dog's best chance of survival after a poisoning incident is to get 'flushed out' as soon as possible.
Know Your Local Vet Clinic
Make sure you know the phone number and address of your local vet clinic just in case you need to take your dog there for poisoning treatment. Make sure you call the vet while on your way to the clinic, as they may be able to advise you on first aid you can perform during the car ride. At the clinic, depending on the severity of your dog's poisoning, the vet may induce vomiting, flush the stomach with a tube or perform emergency surgery.