Vets urge caution after increase in reports of toxic blue green algae

20 July 2018

An increase in reports of toxic blue green algae in several locations across the UK this summer is prompting the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to urge pet owners to take extra precautions while walking their dogs in the vicinity of affected water bodies.

Blue green algae blooms may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water and can contain toxins that can be harmful for animals if ingested, even in small quantities. Dogs can swallow this algae by drinking water from an affected lake, river or pond or while licking their fur after going for a swim.

Symptoms of exposure can appear within a few minutes or hours, depending on the type of toxin ingested, and commonly include: vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures and blood in faeces. If left untreated, it can cause liver damage and ultimately be fatal within days.

The presence of blue green algae has been confirmed in water bodies in Scotland, the Lake District, North Lincolnshire and East Northamptonshire, among other locations, this summer.

British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz said:

“We know that some dogs enjoy nothing better than a paddle in a cool lake while on a walk in this hot weather, but my advice to pet owners would be to keep your dog on a lead during walks near water confirmed to have toxic algal blooms. While not all blue green algae are poisonous, it is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

“Prompt veterinary treatment is key to tackling the effects of the toxins and ensuring a good chance of recovery, so if you suspect your dog has been exposed to blue green algae, rush it to your local vet without delay."

Top tips to keep your dog safe:

  • Look out for any warning signs put up by the Environment Agency or local councils near water bodies.
  • Keep pets on a lead and by your side around water bodies known or suspected to have blue-green algal bloom – don’t let them swim in it or drink from it.
  • If your dog has been swimming outside, wash it thoroughly with clean water afterwards.
  • Rush your pet to a vet immediately in case you’re concerned it may have ingested toxic algae. There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so prompt treatment is essential to ensure that your pet has a good chance of recovery.

 

Related BVA policy

BVA Media Office