The British Veterinary Association is urging pet owners to take extra precautions when walking their dogs in the vicinity of water bodies, after a spike in reports of toxic blue green algae in several locations across the UK this summer.

Blue green algae or cyanobacteria are a group of bacteria that can contain dangerous toxins which can be harmful and even fatal to our pets, livestock and birds if ingested even in small quantities.

The warning comes as at least one case of a dog death linked to blue green algae exposure was reported earlier this summer, in a British Bulldog in the Lake District.

Blue green algae blooms may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water. Dogs can swallow it by drinking water from an affected lake, river or pond or while licking their fur after going for a swim.

Spotting the symptoms
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 rapidly fatal.

British Veterinary Association President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“We are hearing of increasing numbers of blue green algae sightings across the UK during this warm summer. We know that some dogs enjoy nothing better than a paddle in a cool lake while on a walk, but we’d urge pet owners to keep their 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.

“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so prompt veterinary treatment is the only way to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for your pet. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to blue green algae, seek emergency veterinary treatment as soon as possible.”

Advice for pet owners
The British Veterinary Association has issued the following advice for pet owners:

  • 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.
  • Seek emergency veterinary treatment in case you’re concerned it may have ingested toxic algae.
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