Blue-Green Algae Poisoning: Summer Perils for Dogs—Cyanotoxin Poisoning

Summertime brings with it a number of health hazards for dogs. Among them is the danger of poisoning from blue-green algae.

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are common in stale or stagnant water. Consequently, it can appear in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and other bodies of standing water.

Waters affected by blue-green algal blooms are usually of poor water quality. Frequently, these waters contain large amounts of organic matter and minerals that support plant growth, especially the algal variety. Algal blooms are most common in hot, humid weather. Often, the algal bloom will be most profuse on the windward side of the lake, pond, or reservoir.

Blue-Green Algae Poisoning: Summer Perils for Dogs—Cyanotoxin Poisoning

Identifying toxic bloom

Summer Perils: Blue-green Algae

Usually, it can be difficult to identify a toxic algal bloom.

However, often the water will have a greenish, pea-soup type of appearance.

Not all algal blooms are toxic. However, if there is any doubt about the quality of the water in question, it is best to keep your dog away from the area.

How does a dog get the poisoning?

Dogs become poisoned with the toxins found in blue-green algae when they swim in or drink from affected waters.

Blue-green algae contain several toxins:

  • hepatotoxins (a toxin affecting the liver)
  • neurotoxin (a toxin affecting the central nervous system)

The two hepatotoxins are microcystins and nodularins. The neurotoxins that specific species of blue-green algae produce include:

  • Microcystis
  • Nodularia

Other species of blue-green algae, most notably  *Anabaena*, *Aphanizomenon * and *Oscillatoria, * produce the neurotoxin specified as anatoxin-a or anatoxin-as.

What does the poisoning look like?

Symptoms depend on the type of blue-green algae present in the water and the type of toxin the algae produces. 

Symptoms commonly seen with the hepatotoxins include:

  • depression
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness
  • abnormal coloration of the skin and gums
  • shock
  • death resulting from liver failure

In contrast, the most common signs in dogs exposed to the neurotoxin are?

  • muscle rigidity
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • paralysis
  • respiratory paralysis
  • death

A dog might suffer skin irritation from contact with the blue-green algal blooms. Some dogs come down with gastrointestinal and respiratory problems.

How quickly does it happen?

The onset of clinical signs is generally fairly quick, usually within a few minutes to a few hours of ingestion. 

Treatment is symptomatic, aimed at treating the individual clinical signs and providing supportive care. By large, the outcome is often fatal. There is no specific antidote available for any of these toxins.

Related articles:
Cyanotoxin Poisoning in Dogs: What Happens in a Dog’s Body with Cyanotoxin?

Further reading:
Blue-Green Algae Poisoning

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