For many dog owners, they never think twice about algae. It happens when it's hot and makes ponds and lakes scummy enough to keep people out of the water, but certainly not their pets. However, there are some algae blooms that are actually toxic for both animals and people. Even touching them is harmful. This summer, the toxic blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, blooms are at an all time high causing some cities (like Toledo, Ohio) to have to go without water for a few days. Due to negligence of the danger, hundreds of dogs in the United States have been killed from it as well.
It is likely that over 200 dogs have died from contact to these deadly algae blooms, but because cyanobacteria causes a wide range of symptoms that are caused by several different factors, many veterinarians often attribute the toxicity to other causes.
Like most algal blooms, they can often be found in bodies of water that are warm and shallow. Ponds, lakes, streams and even large puddles that are rarely disturbed by boats or swimmers and receive a lot of sunlight are perfect targets. Even Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes was not immune from severe blooms. Since this summer has been so hot, it has been a major problem.
Although cats, horses, birds and cows can also be poisoned, it is believed that dogs are attracted to the smell of agal scum and are quickly poisoned by drinking the water. It is still advised to not let dogs swim or wade in affected water. If they are exposed on their fur of paws, owners should bathe them immediately, but should also wear gloves while doing it as humans are more susceptible to contact toxicity.
Symptoms of blue-green algae exposure in dogs includes lethargy, weakness, pale mucus membranes, disorientation, excessive salivation and tear production, muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, paralysis, seizures, respiratory distress, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody, black or tarry stool, jaundice, shock, coma, and death. With such a lengthy list of symptoms, it is easy to understand why it is often misdiagnosed.