The majority of us love a quick-dip when the sun is shining - and so do our dogs. Many of us will take our dogs somewhere where they can have a swim themselves.
At this time of year rivers, streams and even estuaries can grow a layer of blue-green algae, which often forms after a prolonged period of summer sun. The algae will often appear green or brown and will sit on the surface of the water.
This algae, known as Cyanobacteria, is extremely dangerous to our dogs and should be avoided at all costs. If ingested this can be fatal to your dog.
The algae contains high levels of dangerous toxins which not only effect humans (causing rashes and severe discomfort) but if swallowed by your dog can be fatal - and quickly!
The toxins within the algae have been to show to contain Microcystins and Anatoxins. Microcystins can lead to liver damage (and even liver failure), vomiting, diarrhoea and jaundiced gums (mucous membranes). Anatoxins can lead to neurological issues such as muscle tremors, seizures and even paralysis. Nasty!
It’s pretty simple. Don’t let your dog anywhere near water containing algae as although some forms of algae may be harmless it really isn’t worth the risk.
In some locations where blooms have been historically found warnings are placed alongside waterways. Keep an eye out in your area and potentially change your walking-location if you see the warning where your dog may jump in.
If you suspect your dog has ingested algae-contaminated water contact your vet immediately, whilst keeping a close eye on your dog and whether they are showing any signs of algae-poisoning. If your vet is closed, go to a 24-hour emergency vet as time really is the essence!
Nothing replaces professional veterinary help, however, there are some ‘tools’ you can carry with you just in case you suspect your dog has indeed swum in or drunk the algae which you can use whilst rushing them to the vet.
Hydrogen Peroxide. This can be purchased by most pet stores and is the recommended option by the Kennel Club if for whatever reason you need to make your dog vomit. It’s worth noting that inducing vomiting should be done under the supervision of a vet but in this case when worried about being in contact with algae then you may not have time to do that. If you can administer hydrogen peroxide within 2 hours of swallowing the algae then use a syringe and give 1ml of hydrogen peroxide per pound of body weight. It can often be difficult to get your dog to swallow this, so a good tip is to hold their head slightly tilted in your lap and squirt the solution into the side pouch of their mouth. Your dog should vomit almost immediately, if not wait 15 minutes and try again.
Activated Charcoal. Charcoal can be used in this scary scenario as the charcoal binds to the toxins which can in some cases help remove the toxins from the body. Even if you are not 100% sure, administering activated charcoal creates no negative side-effects and is recommended just-in-case! Administer, as with hydrogen peroxide, 1ml per one pound / 0.5 kilo of body weight. Activated charcoal is readily available to dog owners by way of gels (such as Carbonate Oral Suspension) or Toxiban® and was developed specifically for the treatment of toxicity. Activated charcoal can also be purchased as a standard powder and added to your dogs normal food.
NOTE - If your dog has begun to show signs of a seizure do not administer anything orally and get straight to the vet.
Not all dogs die from algae poisoning but it is highly likely that if digested by the dog and not treated immediately then this is highly likely to result in a fatal outcome!
It’s lovely to jump into cold water on a hot, humid and sunny day but if your region has any history of green-blue algae then avoid the water at all costs. It really isn't worth the risk.