What Every Pet Owner Should Know About Blue-Green Algae

We’ve had a beautiful but hot summer so far in the Greater Moncton Area. Due to warm temperatures, blue-green algae are collecting along the banks of ponds and water sources all across our city and surrounding areas.

What is blue-green algae?

Although it’s commonly referred to as blue-green algae, it’s actually bacteria (scientific name: Cyanobacteria) that produces harmful toxins to people and animals.

Typically grows rapidly in blooms under the right conditions; warm weather, polluted or rich in nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), shallow and slow-moving water. Every bloom can be different. You might be able to see the bloom, although they are not always visible. Fresh blooms often smell like newly mown grass, while older blooms may smell like rotting garbage.

What harm can it cause?

Harmful toxins are released from the blue-green algae when the bacteria cell breaks open or die, possibly caused by bad weather. This toxin can kill an animal within half an hour of exposure or ingestion, targeting the liver, central nervous system, kidneys, respiratory tract, and skin.

Common signs of toxicity:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Blood in stool or black, tarry stool.
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Shock
  • Excessive secretions
  • Neurologic signs
  • Blue discolouration of the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Death

How to prevent blue-green algae toxicity:

  • Avoid shallow, slow-moving water source as best as you can.
  • Avoid swimming, drinking or contact around ponds.
  • Read all updates and statements from your city and environmental department.
  • Attention to warning signs and updates at the park entrance.

What to do when exposed to blue-green algae:

If you notice any of the signs of toxicity, contact your local emergency veterinarian and follow their instructions. If your pet has a recent history of swimming outdoors and is presenting with signs of toxicity, they will direct you to their hospital for immediate emergency treatment.

Written by Monica Blanchard, RVT