Warm weather months means heading to the lake to cool off. Pet owners are advised to watch out for harmful algae blooms this summer.
Last year Oregon recorded its first confirmed case of a dog death due to algae toxin. The fatality happened in Southern Oregon after a dog was playing in a creek bed, then suddenly became ill and died. At least two more dogs in the same area died during the same time period. It is believed the animals drank pooled water that contained toxic algae.
Prevention is critical to avoiding this lethal threat to your dog. Once an animal gets into bloom-affected water and symptoms develop, there are few treatment options beyond supportive care. Death usually occurs rapidly and owners are left in shock and sorrow.
Here’s how you can protect your pet:
- Be aware that algae blooms can happen anytime but usually occur when temperatures are warm, often starting in May.
- Know that algae blooms can grow in any fresh water, whether it is a lake, river, creek, pond or even a stagnant pool at the water’s edge.
- Watch for the warning signs: blooms may appear as a thick foam or scum on the water, and can be bright green, blue-green, white or brown.
- Only a fraction of Oregon’s fresh waters are routinely monitored for algae blooms. If the water looks suspicious, stay out!
- Don’t let your pet drink or swim in water affected by an algae bloom.
- If your dog goes in the water, don’t let him lick his fur, and wash him with clean water as soon as possible.
- Symptoms develop quickly. If your dog is weak, vomiting, drooling, staggering or has convulsions, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Many of Oregon’s lakes are monitored for blue-green algae blooms. The Department of Human Services Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance (HABS) program issues health advisories when one is detected. You can check to see what advisories are in effect at healthoregon.org/hab. You can also sign up on the Web page to receive e-mail alerts whenever an advisory is issued.
The HABS program also collects reports of suspected or confirmed animal illness or death due to algae. Reporting is voluntary but veterinarians and dog owners are asked to call 971-673-0440 with any reports.