Heat, humidity and low levels of rain and stagnant waters have created the perfect environment for a very toxic substance in our nation's lakes and streams - blue-green algae.
Just this past week, according to Indy Channel, 'the Board of Animal Health said toxins released by blue-green algae are likely what caused two dogs belonging to Larry and Marge Young to die last week after the dogs played in Salamonie Reservoir in Northern Indiana.'
The Wabash, Indiana couple's two other dogs became ill and are being treated for liver failure.Indiana state officials have found high blue-green algae levels in seven Indiana lakes, including the Salamonie, where record levels were discovered.
Blue-green algae is toxic to cats, dogs, horses, cows, birds and humans, and can be found in all parts of the country and the world. Signs to watch for with blue-green algae toxicity are:
- Blood in stool or black, tarry stool
- Pale mucous membranes
- Excessive secretions (e.g., salivation, lacrimation, etc.)
- Neurologic signs (including muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, paralysis, etc.)
- Blue discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes
- Difficulty breathing
According to the Pet Poison Hotline:
Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) are microscopic bacteria found in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds and brackish water ecosystems. They can produce toxins (such as microcystins and anatoxins) that affect people, livestock and pets that swim in and drink from the algae-contaminated water.
Blue-green algae grow and colonize to form “blooms” that give the water a blue-green appearance or a “pea soup” like color. It also looks like blue or green paint on the surface of the water. Because the algae float, they may be blown by the wind into thick, concentrated mats near the shore, thus making them easily accessible to livestock, pets and people.
Algal concentrations vary throughout the year, but are most abundant during periods of hot weather in mid- to late-summer months and are most likely to be found in nutrient-rich water. While most blue-green algae blooms do not produce toxins, it is not possible to determine the presence of toxins without testing. Thus, all blooms should be considered potentially toxic. Very small exposures, such a few mouthfuls of algae-contaminated water, may result in fatal poisoning.Unfortunately, there is no antidote for the toxins produced by blue-green algae, so immediate veterinary attention is imperative!
Why is there blue-green algae in our rivers, ponds and stagnant streams?
Many believe that it is caused by excessive phosphate and nitrate caused by chemical and animal waste run off from farms and factories.
Though the impact by larger farms and factories can contribute greatly to the problem of contamination of our rivers, lakes and ponds, there are ways you can help reduce your contribution and help create safer water. We recommend these tips:
- Conserve water. The less water you use, the less run off into drains and gutters you will contribute.
- Pick up the doo. The less animal waste creates less harmful nutrients that can contribute to water contamination.
- Reduce the use of fertilizer. And be sure to utilize only organic. Better yet, utilize your compost to fertilize your plants and garden.
- Utilize natural cleaners and phosphate free detergents.
The best advice? Keep your dogs away from stagnant, scummy, pea soup looking rivers and streams during the heat of the summer months, and only allow your dog to enjoy water from fresh, free flowing and running streams and rivers that are far away from farm and factory land.
Photos courtesy of the American Red Cross and IDNR/Outdoor Indiana.