How Does Toxic Algae Affect My Pet?

A guide on how to avoid and deal with toxic algae blooms.

Sep 26, 2023By Alex Guse
how does toxic algae affect my pet

When summer rolls around, and the paddleboards and water toys are taken out of storage, it seems to be a wonderful time for everyone. But it is also a time to be weary of your pets. If you own a pet, it is vital to know about algae, where to find it, and how it affects your animal if they come into contact. If you are not well-versed in the subject, do not worry, you have come to the right place to get all the information you need.

Toxic Algae; What is it?

Source: Austin American Statesman

Algae is a plant that lives in water and, much like other plants, uses sunlight to produce food, which is why much of the algae will sit on top of the water to feed. While some of it is harmless (if not a little gross), other types of algae contain toxins that can cause a myriad of reactions in both humans and pets.

If the conditions are right, these plants will produce in mass numbers known as an algae bloom. These blooms can happen both in fresh and saltwater but usually occur when the water is stagnant and unmoving.

These large bodies of collected algae or sometimes called blue-green algae, are made up of phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms contain cyanotoxins which is the portion of the algae that damages your pet's innards and ability to be a good dog.

Some factors associated with the blooms are water clarity, nutrient levels, and heat. If you are in a warm area and are seeing large pools of slime-like material, you are probably looking at a toxic algae bloom. Do not approach; you and your pet can get very sick from ingesting or coming into contact with the slime monster.

Where are Harmful Algae Blooms Usually found?

Source: Britannica

This is the thing about the algae; it can be found across the United States and nearly everywhere worldwide if the conditions are right.

As I stated, these blooms are a product of hot weather and nutrient-rich water. It does not discriminate between fresh water and salt water; nearly any body of water can be a host for this plant. The nutrients in the water can come from several different places, but pollution is a common source.

The algae can be found in saltwater bays and estuaries, water treatment plants, freshwater reservoirs, streams, lakes, and even drinking water facilities. There are very few bodies of water that cannot host this toxic fauna.

If you do see some sort of algae build-up at your local dog park or fishing hole, it is important to notify the wildlife management in your area, as much of it goes unnoticed due to people not reporting it.

If you are bringing your pet around water, it is vital to be on the lookout.

How Does it Affect My Pet?

Source: Friendship Hospital for Animals

Toxic algae can be dangerous just by touching it, but when it is ingested, it can become fatal. Dogs are generally associated with algae poisoning because, let's face it, not many people take their cats to the pond to swim some laps. However, that does not make it less dangerous for them, so be thoughtful if you have a backyard pond.

The ingestion can occur in various ways, including direct contact, but also by animals drinking the water or eating something that has been in contact with the algae.

Some symptoms of toxic algae poisoning include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, lethargy, and tremors. If enough toxins are cycled into the bloodstream, it could prove to be fatal.

If your dog is in the vicinity of a body of water that may contain toxic algae check for these symptoms regularly before it may be too late.

Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Pet Safe

Source: Old Town Crier

You can do many things to deter your pet from getting toxic algae poisoning.

Be aware. This is the number one factor in pets getting sick, is that their owner is blissfully unaware of how dangerous it can be. It may be cute to see Skipper come out of the water looking like a swamp thing, but you don't want that to be the last memory you have.

Avoid bodies of water that are known to have harmful algae buildups. Usually, if it has been a problem in the past or if the water quality is questionable, it will be marked with a warning sign. If you see the sign, time to find a new place to walk the dog.

If you must walk by a suspicious lake or pond, keep your pet friend on a leash. If your dog is leashed, it makes it a lot harder to enter the water.

If your pet does come in contact with the substance, immediately wash it with clean water as thoroughly as possible and then proceed to your veterinarian. If they do not show any signs of being sick, you should still contact them to get a professional opinion.

Toxic algae blooms are a dangerous part of being a pet owner, so if you are taking your pet to a body of water, be prepared and be aware, and you may just save your dog's life.

Alex Guse
By Alex Guse

Alex is the proud owner of Chester the puggle (beagle pug mix); his first dog was Zion, an Australian shepherd, which translated into a love for animals at an early age. He has since owned many pets, from dogs to reptiles and everything in between. His true passion for animals comes from being an outdoorsman. He finds that nature is where knowledge and respect for wildlife are paramount!