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Forget Bloomin’ Onions, Bloomin’ Algae is in our Outback!

Once again, there have been reports of blue-green algae intoxications in pets in states Nationwide. Deaths have occurred in dogs this summer in Texas and North Carolina and blooms have been spotted in our Northern California waterways too. Many animal owners don’t realize the significant threat these toxins can pose to their pets when they spend time cooling off in local lakes and rivers. During this recent spike in blue-green algae cases, we want to make sure you have everything you need to know to keep pets safe...

Dogs that enjoy swimming and playing in lakes and ponds may be exposed to blue-green algae. Hunting dogs are especially predisposed due to increased exposure outdoors.

The algae are found naturally in water. Not all algal blooms are toxic. The algae bloom when the bacteria start to quickly multiply in warm, slow-moving water, usually in late summer or early fall. Stagnant ponds and lakes with fertilizer or septic runoff are a sure breeding ground, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The blooms can resemble scum, foam or mats.

The California State Water Resources Control Board monitors harmful algal blooms and offers an incident report map showing locations where they have been voluntarily reported. (Visit: https://mywaterquality.ca.gov/habs/where/freshwater_events.html.


This Summer, California Water Board scientists have issued danger advisory for harmful algal blooms at multiple locations including the Stockton Channel and McLeod Lake; multiple waterways in the Bay Area and San Jose; at San Luis Reservoir in Merced County and as far north as the Klamath River near the Oregon state line and south in San Diego County.

In 2017, 18 cyanotoxin-related dog deaths were reported in California, according to the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

What is Algal Bloom?

Algal blooms wreak havoc on animals and people by manufacturing cyanotoxins – among the most potent poisons known to nature, according to the CDC: Neurotoxins that attack the nervous system; liver toxins that can cause organ failure; and other toxins that cause vomiting, seizures or death. With temperatures in the triple digits recently, the hazardous bacteria have ideal conditions in which to thrive.

How to Spot It

Water containing toxic algae blooms will often have the appearance of a pea-green paint or will appear as if there’s slime on the surface. If certain wind conditions are present, the film will often concentrate along the shoreline in areas where animals may drink or swim. It can take only minutes for the toxins to take hold.

Symptoms of Intoxication

Dogs can develop poisoning when they drink from or even simply swim in contaminated water sources. Licking the slime from their coats can introduce toxins directly into their systems. The effects on canines are sudden, the symptoms many and severe.

Signs of blue-green algae toxicity include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Stumbling
  • Disorientation
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ultimately death

Death can follow within minutes to hours of exposure as a result of respiratory paralysis. Livestock that grazes around affected ponds or lakes and is able to drink from them are often found dead near the water source.


Aggressive, immediate treatment is necessary to help treat this quick-acting, potentially fatal poison!


There is no antidote for this serious toxin. Treatment includes hospitalization and supportive therapy including anti-seizure medication, oxygen, and intravenous fluids.

Stay Alert!

Prevention is key when it comes to any pet toxin:

  • Don’t allow your pets to drink from stagnant ponds, lakes or other bodies of water that have bluish-green scum on the surface or around the edges.
  • Take caution before allowing your pet to jump into a body of water and be sure to rinse your pet thoroughly with fresh water after going for a dip.
  • Many public health departments test the water frequently in areas that are known to have outbreaks and will post signs when there is a problem—so vigilance is also important.

If you suspect that your pet ingested something potentially toxic, please call our hospital immediately.

Dr. Hayden Webster

“August is a gentle reminder for not doing a single thing from your new year resolution for seven months and not doing it for next five.”
Crestless Wave

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