Posted by: Vicki Burns | August 20, 2012

Blue-Green Algae Causes Dog Deaths- Help Spread This Warning

I’m glad to see some news this summer on Canadian mainstream media about the serious threat that blue-green algae poses to dogs. It has concerned me that so many people have been unaware of the potentially lethal effects that it can have on dogs.

As well, I’ve been amazed to hear anecdotally about people at Grand Beach in Manitoba who don’t seem to understand the serious health threats to humans as well. Someone told me a story about people wading through a wide swath of foamy blue-green algae to get to deeper water where the algae was not so visible. Considering that some of the blue-greens contain microcystin toxins that are damaging to the liver, as well as causing nausea, headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, and muscle  weakness, it seems quite foolhardy to be wading right into it.

blue-green algae at Minaki, Ontario 2011 – courtesy of Todd Sellers

Getting back to the threat to dogs though, one of the reasons it is so lethal for our canine friends is that they tend to lick themselves when they get out of the water, thereby ingesting the toxins. Many other American and British jurisdictions seem to track dog deaths and report them which is not happening much in Canada yet. In Britain, I found this warning in the Nottingham area that confirms 10 dog deaths between 2008 and 2010. In Minnesota during the 2007 summer season, which was considered a drought, they reported 40 cases of canine poisoning. Last year in 2011, there were 5 dog deaths and 17 people ill as a result of blue-green algae around Milford Lake in Kansas.  These are just a few of the reports I found while researching this subject.

In Canada, I’m not aware of any formal reporting mechanism for dog deaths due to blue-green algae poisoning and this may be why so many people here are still ignorant about the dangers of letting their pets go near the waters infected with that type of algae. As a dog lover though, I certainly know the heartache one would suffer if a beloved pet died in such a preventable manner. I hope we can get this warning out there more widely.

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