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Blue Green Algae Poisoning in Dogs: What You Need to Know

Kelli Rascoe | June 30, 2021

With summer officially here, pet owners are out enjoying everything the season has to offer with their furry friends. Whether you’re hitting the lake or traveling with your dogs, toxic blue green algae poisoning in dogs is affecting dogs from coast to coast. Naturally, as a pet owner your number one priority is the safety of your pets. Read on to learn more about blue green algae poisoning in dogs and how to keep your dog safe this season.

Dark brown dog jumps into the lake from a pier

Blue green algae poisoning in dogs: what every pet owner should know

Trupanion veterinarian, Dr. Caroline Wilde weighs in on the popular question of what is blue green algae poisoning in dogs

What is Blue green algae?

“Blue-green algae is a bacteria (cyanobacteria) that grows in slow-moving or stagnant water, like ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and slow-moving streams. It can appear as a blue-green film on the surface of the water, and the toxin can persist even after the algae are no longer visible. Also, these bacteria reproduce most rapidly at higher temperatures, and are therefore most common in late summer/early fall. Not all blue-green algae are toxic, but there are some that produce substances that are toxic to the dog’s liver and nervous system, and there is no way to tell just by looking whether or not the algae is toxic.” For more on blue green algae, read here.

How does blue green algae poisoning occur in dogs?

While you want your dogs to get outside and have fun this summer, it’s important to consider how this condition takes place in dogs. “Blue green algae poisoning in dogs occurs when the toxin is absorbed through the intestines after ingestion of contaminated water while swimming or through licking their fur after swimming in contaminated water,” says Wilde. In addition, there’s not a definite timeline for poison to take place and effect your dog. For example, your pet does not have to be in the water for a set amount of time for toxicity to take place. In essence, it could take just a few minutes if in contaminated water. Naturally, toxins can appear in some unlikely places, for more on pet hazards read here.

Brown and black dog standing by the lakeshore

The most common clinical signs of blue green algae toxicity

If you feel your dog may be experiencing signs of toxicity upon being in a lake, pond, or reservoir, consider the following –

  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Shallow or difficult breathing
  • Sudden death

Wilde continues, “Dogs should be bathed after swimming to wash off any potential algae, and if you are concerned that your pet has ingested blue green algae, you should seek veterinary care immediately.”

Blue green algae poisoning in dogs: Trupanion historical claims data

We sat down with our Trupanion data team to look at our historical claims data for blue green algae toxicity. While the data shows 19 pets claimed for toxic blue green algae ingestion, the states impacted vary by region. In addition, the highest paid claim so far is $917.

Consider the following list of pet claimed by state:

  • British Columbia - 4 pets
  • Alberta - 3 pets
  • New York - 2 pets
  • Colorado - 1 pet
  • California - 1 pet
  • Florida - 1 pet

Treatment plan for blue green algae poisoning in dogs

Most importantly, blue green algae toxicity should be taken very seriously. In fact, “the best course of action is to avoid stagnant water where blue green algae proliferates, and if there is any question regarding the safety of the water, I would recommend avoiding it,” points out Wilde. While there’s no way to know if a body of water is contaminated, there are resources available for pet owners. “I would also recommend checking local public health websites to see if the body of water has been tested. Although a negative test does not rule out potential exposure,” states Wilde.

A boy sits with his arm around his Golden Retriever

Safety first for your best friend

Blue green algae poisoning can affect dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages. While it might be hard to resist a summer swim, it you’re at all unsure of the water conditions, it might be a chance to choose another sun summer dog-friendly activity. Consider taking your pup for a walk, partaking in a pet-friendly game of fetch, or enjoying some nice rest and relaxation in the comforts of your own home.

We love informed decisions. See our policy for full coverage details.

A dog and cat snuggle

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A WORD FROM TRUPANION

Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.

This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.