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Toxic Algae Found in Lakes

Posted In: Canine Health & Wellness

On hot summer days, you may be tempted to let your dog cool off in a lake or river. But, you should be on the lookout for blue-green algae because it can be dangerous for you and your dog. While it isn’t too common for Missouri waters to develop blue-green algae, recently one public park in the St. Louis area had to shut down lake access temporarily because toxic algae was discovered.

What is blue-green algae?
Blue-green algae is actually not an algae. It is a bacteria that contains toxins. The bacteria can grow quickly and form “blooms.”

How can you tell if there is blue-green algae in the water?
There is no way to tell if a bloom is toxic by looking at it, and toxins can be present in the water after the bloom is gone. If you notice surface scum, water that appears discolored, or surface water that looks like spilled green paint, you should suspect that blue-green algae may be present and avoid the water.

You and your dog can become sick if you swallow water with blue-green algae. Skin contact and breathing in water droplets can cause illness as well. Dogs are at a greater risk of exposure since they tend to ingest water when swimming or playing in it.

What are the side effects?
Possible side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, rash, eye irritation, cough, or headache. In dogs, symptoms may develop within minutes of exposure and may include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficulty breathing, and seizures. Contact your veterinarian right away if your pet has any of these symptoms.

Whether you are visiting your favorite local lake or taking a trip with your dog to an out-of-town park, be aware of the potential hazards, and stay out of the water if you think there may be blue-green algae.

The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at two locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.