Beware of blue-green algae

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria)

With the weather really warming up, conditions are becoming favourable for blue-green algae blooms. It is most common in non-flowing fresh water such as lakes and ponds during hot weather, but can also occur at other times of the year.

They are not actually algae, but the organisms got this name because they often give the appearance of algae when they clump together in bodies of water.

The bacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye unless they clump together. When this happens, blue-green algae can look like green flakes, greenish bundles or brown dots in a pond, lake or stream.

When the algae blooms, it can look like a blue-green scum has appeared on the surface of the water.

Although not all species are toxic, many blue-green algae contain or produce a variety of toxins. Exposures in animals usually occur when they drink water from ponds or water bodies where the algae have bloomed. In dogs exposures have occurred as a result of the animals swimming in infested water bodies and also from grooming after skin exposures. The toxins produced by the blue-green algae can have a high acute toxicity and exposures frequently result in fatality. Clinical signs are widely varied depending on the toxin(s) involved but can include gastrointestinal signs, hepatic failure and neurological changes.

The best advice to owners is to keep dogs away from lakes and ponds that you know, or suspect may, contain blue-green algae.

If there is any suspicion that a dog has been exposed to blue-green algae, owners can call the Animal PoisonLine on 02071 137 866.

Read more advice by the Blue Cross