Blue-green algae. Why is it dangerous to our dogs?

With the long hot summer days, natural water sources are heating up. Warm waters and high nitrates make a perfect breeding ground for blue-green algae.

Despite the name, blue-green algae are not technically algae. Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria called cyanobacteria. When the bacteria multiply it can form blooms. The blooms are what cause the blue/green colour.

Dogs may be more likely to ingest blue-green algae than us. Many are used to drinking from natural water sources and retrieving toys from water. This makes them particularly susceptible to blue-green algae poisoning.

Health effects

The toxins (cyanotoxins) produced by bacteria (cyanobacteria) can have the following health effects in dogs. The primary organs affected are the liver and the nervous system.

  • Liver damage/inflammation- This can also cause pale gums/jaundice
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Seizure
  • Drowsiness /disorientation
  • Respiratory paralysis  
  • Muscle Tremors

It is important to contact a vet immediately if you suspect blue-green algae poisoning.

The toxins can accumulate in the liver. The destruction of the liver can cause blood loss and hemorrhagic shock which can be fatal.

How to keep your dog safe

  • Keep dogs on lead to prevent them entering water that may have blue-green algae bloom. If it gets onto their coat whilst swimming, they may end up ingesting it when they wash.
  • Don’t let dogs drink from lakes, rivers, ponds and similar water sources.
  • Don’t let dogs walk alongside shores or edges of water that have suspected blue-green algae. The wind can blow the blooms to the edges of water.
  • Be aware of warning signage that may have been placed around water sites.
  • Get them to a vet as soon as possible if you suspect blue-green algae poisoning. A vet may be able to flush the toxins from the body.

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