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Water activities are a favorite pass time in warm weather. Our dogs often accompany us on these excursions. Recent events in Austin, Texas at Lady Bird Lake serve to remind us there are potential deadly dangers for our dogs.

Three dogs have died after swimming in Lake Lady Bird. The latest was kayaking with his owner on the lake and an hour later was dead.  Toxic algae blooms are suspected to be the reason. Officials have now warned all pet owners in the area that this lake is off-limits. They are testing the water quality to see if it’s the algae blooms causing illness and death in pets.

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Algae is not uncommon in natural waterways and not all algae is toxic. Blue-green algae is not a true algae but photosynthetic microorganisms. Often referred to as ‘pond scum’, it generally grows in lakes, ponds and slow moving streams. What triggers a toxic bloom is believed to be several factors such as warm temperatures and excess nutrients (phosphorous and nitrogen in fertilizer) from agricultural and urban runoff. Sometimes these bacteria produce poisonous chemicals called cyanotoxins, including those known as microcystins.

Summer is toxic algae season. According to the pet poison helpline even very small exposures may result in fatal poisoning in dogs so it is best to avoid exposure. The only way to determine the presence of toxic algae bloom is by testing.

In a report from The Environmental Working Group comes this statement:

“The bottom line is, if you test for microcystins, you’ll probably find them,” said Soren Rundquist, EWG’s director of spatial analysis. “Hundreds of lakes and other resources Americans rely on for tap water and recreation are contaminated – sometimes even when there is no visible toxic algae bloom.”

Dogs exposed to toxic algae need immediate veterinary care as the anatoxins result in neurotoxicity and death follows quickly due to respiratory paralysis. There is no antidote for the toxins produced by blue-green algae. Treatment includes anti-seizure medication, oxygen and aggressive care by your veterinarian.

If your dog has been exposed to blue-green algae common signs to watch for:

Vomiting
Diarrhea
Blood in stool or black, tarry stool
Pale mucous membranes
Jaundice
Seizures
Disorientation
Coma
Shock
Excessive secretions (e.g., salivation, lacrimation, etc.)
Neurologic signs (including muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, paralysis, etc.)
Blue discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes
Difficulty breathing
Death

Algae poisoning is dangerous to humans as well as pets. It can cause great damage to the liver, kidney, and nervous system as well as severe vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, angry skin rashes and other allergic reactions. Immediate medical attention is required if ingestion of toxic algae is suspected.

Source:  Wide Open Pets

Source: Pet Poison Helpline

Source: EWG

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