Vets warn of toxic algae risk to dogs

Vets are warning dog owners to be on the alert for potentially toxic blue-green algae when walking their dogs close to affected water bodies.

This summer there have been reports of blue-green algae at locations including Southampton, Edinburgh, Cornwall, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

Algae occurs naturally in inland waters, and during long periods of warm weather it can multiply and form blooms. Contact with algae — which may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water — can be extremely harmful if ingested, even in small quantities.

Dogs may swallow it by drinking water from an affected lake, river or pond or while licking their fur after going for a swim.

Symptoms of exposure can appear within a few minutes or hours, and commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures and blood in faeces. If left untreated, it can cause liver damage and death.

Last month a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was reported to have died after swimming in a lake at Delamere Forest in Cheshire which was later closed because of the presence of blue-green algae, the BBC said.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) advised owners to look out for warning signs put up by the Environment Agency or local councils near lakes and rivers. Keep dogs on a lead around affected water — 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. And take your dog to a vet immediately if you are concerned it may have ingested toxic algae.

“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so prompt veterinary treatment is essential to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery,” said Daniella Dos Santos, junior vice president of the BVA.

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