Toxic algae: 'Don’t let your pet drink or swim in the water'

Toxic algae: 'Don’t let your pet drink or swim in the water'

EUGENE, Ore. - Attention, dog owners: If you plan to take your furry friend near Oregon lakes or rivers this summer, bookmark this story.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, is capable of creating toxins that can make people and animals sick. Two dogs from Eugene died from the stuff in 2009 after visiting a creek in Douglas County.

And the icky stuff is already turning up in Oregon waterways this summer, including Lane County's Cougar Reservoir.

Not just rural lakes and rivers are at risk: last year, a City of Eugene park was placed under a warning.

Oregon's Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance program provides updates to the public regarding bodies of water that are experiencing blue-green algae blooms. You can track current advisories on the Oregon Health Authority website.

The program also announces when the blooms have disappeared and the water is again safe.

But not all lakes and rivers are tested. State and federal agencies focus on developed recreational spots.

So if your fishing hole or swimming spot is off the beaten path, inspect the water before you get in.

If it's scummy, is blue-green, peasoup green, yellowish or brown in color, there's likely an algae bloom.

“Poisonings are most likely to occur during warm, sunny weather when algae blooms are more intense and dense surface scums are present," according to Dr. Laird Goodman of Murrayhill Veterinary Hospital in Beaverton, Oregon Veterinary Medical Association president.

"Before you head out for a day on the water, check the health advisories for cyanobacteria blooms issued by the Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance program," Goodman said. "And if you find thick, brightly colored foam or scum at a lake, pond or river, don’t let your pet drink or swim in the water.”

Exposure to blue-green algae can result in the following symptoms in humans:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, and cramps
  • Skin irritation
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart problems

In dogs, acute, life-threatening symptoms from blue-green algae toxins often develop rapidly may include:

  • Drooling
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Staggering
  • Convulsions

If your dog does go in the water:

  • Don’t let your pet lick its fur.
  • Wash your pet with clean water as soon as possible.
  • If your dog shows any of the above symptoms after being in bloom-affected water, call your veterinarian immediately.

Death in dogs can occur within 4 to 24 hours after exposure.

Treatment is primarily supportive in nature. Your veterinarian may administer activated charcoal slurries to absorb the cyanobacterial toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. Because the toxins are excreted rapidly from the body within a few days, animals that survive the initial tissue damage have a good chance for recovery.