Dear Homeward Bound: Should I worry about blue-green algae?

Dear Homeward Bound,

I’ve been hearing a lot about blue-green algae these days and how it can be dangerous to dogs. What is it and why is it dangerous?

Curious

Dear Curious,

There are lots of reports of this scary phenomenon these days.

We did some research to find out some more information for you and learned that the “algae” is not actually a type of algae but a bacteria known as cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria isn’t visible to the naked eye, but it often gives the appearance of algae when it clumps together in bodies of water. This bacteria is often found in non-flowing freshwater during hot seasons with little rainfall. Toxic algae can also grow in backyard pools and decorative ponds if they aren’t routinely cleaned (akc.org/expert-advice/news/blue-green-algae-symptoms-tips/).

It is dangerous to dogs — and humans too — because it is toxic to different organs in the body. Dogs are more likely to get poisoned by it because they play in water and often drink it or grab tennis balls or other items out of it. The best way to protect your dog is to keep him or her leashed around bodies of water, especially if they are foamy or have “mats” of scum on the surface. Do not let your dog drink pond, lake, or river water. Always pack your own water for him or her.

If you have any concerns that your dog may have drunk water that is contaminated with blue-green algae/cyanobacteria, call your veterinarian immediately for professional advice.

Jessica Danyow

Homeward Bound

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