Danger for dogs lurking in the water?

Posted By elaine on September 28, 2009

Snoopy enjoys her favorite activity, swimming!

Snoopy enjoys her favorite activity, swimming!

An algae in waterways across the U.S. is being blamed for the deaths of dozens of dogs.  Many ponds, lakes, and creeks are full of  ugly, smelly and potentially deadly blue-green algae, that is made worse  by drought and fertilizer runoffs from farm fields that cause the algae to “bloom”.   While it may not be as common in Colorado as it is in the Midwest, blue-green algae is around.  In fact the algae was blamed for the death of some cattle near Rocky Ford in 2007 according to a report by CSU.

Aquatic biologists say it’s a problem that falls somewhere between a human health concern and a nuisance, but will eventually lead to more human poisonings.  No people have died in the U.S. from the algae’s toxins, but many have gotten sick.  Dogs however have not been so lucky.  The scum on the water has killed dozens of dogs over the years – including at least four in Oregon, three in Wisconsin and one in Minnesota just this summer.

Keep your dogs away from stagnant, yucky water!

Keep your dogs away from stagnant, yucky water!

Wisconsin wildlife experts are warning duck hunters with dogs to be extra cautious this fall, telling them if the water is pea-soup green, be sure to have clean water to wash them off and to not let the dogs drink from the water.

While I couldn’t find a report in which dogs in Colorado have been officially diagnosed with the poisoning, being cautious around yucky water is a good idea.  Stagnant water is often the cause of Giardia, a parasite which can cause digestive issues in your pet.  Also recently I posted a story about a woman that lost her dog mysteriously after taking him to swim in Chatfield Reservior in Denver.  She could not afford extensive tests to determine what had killed her little dog, but the symptoms were similar to what the blue-green algae poisoned dogs went through.

The signs of algae toxicity in dogs vary, depending on whether they are triggered by nervous system toxins or liver toxins.  Signs of the presence of liver toxins include: Weakness and/or lethargy , pale mucous membranes , bloody diarrhea , mental instability and eventual death.  Signs of the presence of nervous include: Muscle tremors, convulsions, labored breathing, difficulty moving  and eventual death .  Scary stuff,  and worse; it is hard to cure and even if you do there are lasting effects, so the best  plan is prevention.

Now lets not get to the point we are afraid to let our friends enjoy  their favorite activities… swimming and wading.  Common sense just says if the water is stagnant and nasty, avoid it, especially if they have a bluish-green scum on the surface and around the edges.  If it is clear I personally think it is worth it do let my dogs have a little fun.  I do however always wash my dogs after a swimfest.  This way I make sure they didn’t pick up any parasites, get sand in their coats, or have any floating chemicals on them.  Besides long haired dogs tend to matt and mildew if let to “air dry” and they often smell like a big trout, so in the tub they go!

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