Dog owners are being warned to keep their pets on leads around lakes and rivers due to a potentially fatal toxic algae.

Blue-green algae is a term which describes a group of bacteria, called cyanobacteria.

It can be hard to see blue-green algae unless it has collected together, therefore it can pose a risk to dogs. When you do see large patches of blue green algae, it’s common to see green flakes, brown dots and greenish bundles.

It can often resemble foam and can be found at the edge of lakes or ponds. It’s often found where the water doesn’t flow and isn’t fresh, where rainfall is much less frequent, which allows the bacteria to build up.

The Bolton News:

There could be dead fish in ponds and lakes that have a high concentration of toxic bacteria, and you should not let your dog drink from water containing deceased animals.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) have warned dog owners about the dangers in the past, asking them to take extra precautions when walking dogs near bodies of water.

BVA President Justine Shotton said: “Many dogs love nothing more than a paddle in a lake to cool off in this weather, but we’d urge pet owners to keep them on a lead during walks near water bodies confirmed to have algal blooms this summer.

“The majority of blooms are toxic and it is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

“It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of exposure.

“These commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures, and blood in faeces.

“They can appear within a few minutes or hours of exposure, depending on the type of toxin ingested, and can cause liver damage and ultimately be rapidly fatal if left untreated.

“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so dog owners should seek prompt veterinary treatment to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for their pet."

While dog experts Kennel Store have advised dog owners on how to keep dogs safe and highlight the possible dangers of blue-green algae.

They said: “Dogs love cooling down in bodies of water like rivers and lakes, particularly on hotter days. But it can be hazardous for our dogs to go swimming in waters when bacteria such as blue-green algae is around.”

This is their advice.

Why is blue-green algae dangerous?

Patches of blue-green algae contain extremely harmful toxins which stop a dogs liver from functioning correctly. Although not every type of blue-green algae is dangerous, it’s important to be cautious when walking near bodies of water to prevent your dog from becoming unwell.

Exposure to blue-green algae is often fatal, and for dogs that do survive they can be left with long lasting health problems. Some types of blue-green algae can have fatal effects quickly and can kill a dog in as little as 15 minutes to an hour after drinking contaminated waters.

Symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning

If your dog has been swimming or paddling in water and they start to show any of the following signs, contact your vet immediately and tell them you are concerned about blue-green algae:

  • Seizures/fitting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Collapsing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confused or disoriented
  • Dribbling

If caught early enough, your vet will attempt to make your dog vomit in an attempt to flush the toxins out of the body. There is no antidote, but if medical intervention occurs early this gives your dog the best chance at surviving.

Sadly, blue-green algae poisoning often eventually causes fatal liver failure, so it is important owners are vigilant.

How to protect your dog from blue-green algae

  • Keep your dog away from bodies of water that you suspect to contain blue-green algae.
  • Do not allow your dog to swim or paddle in waters that contain blue-green algae
  • Don’t let your dog drink water that could contain blue-green algae. Wind often blows blue-green algae to the edges of ponds and lakes and higher concentrations of toxin can reside here, where your dog is more likely to drink.
  • Note warning signs and hazard notices during dog walks and follow the advice provided.