Blue-green algae toxicosis is a life-threatening condition. Immediate medical attention following contact with cyanobacteria is the only way to increase chances for survival.*
Even with early treatment, the prognosis is very poor; as such, prevention is of the utmost importance.
Cyanobacteria poisoning is more common during the summer months and in warm climates. Exposure can occur in any size body of water, including troughs and buckets.
Hunting dogs are at a higher risk of poisoning as they are more likely to enter into contact with contaminated bodies of water.
Waterways in the proximity of industrial areas and farmland are more likely to contain dangerous levels of cyanobacteria due to elevated temperatures and high nitrogen levels.
The ingestion of a toxin produced by some species of cyanobacteria causes blue algae toxicosis. Dogs enter into contact with cyanobacteria by swimming or drinking algae-contaminated waters.
Blue algae toxicosis symptoms start within 5-20 minutes of ingestion and progress rapidly.
Diagnosis is based on symptoms and history of exposure to infested bodies of water. Due to the rapidity and severity of symptoms, stabilizing and initiating treatment is crucial.
Once the animal is stabilized, further diagnostic tools include:
The first step in treatment is stabilization. Once stabilized, treatment options include:
Note: induction of vomiting should only be performed by a veterinarian. There is no safe way to induce vomiting at home.
If treatment is successful, follow up monitoring is required to ensure that delayed symptoms of organ damage are developing. Long term monitoring may be suggested as algae can be carcinogenic.
Prognosis for blue algae toxicosis is very poor, and surviving animals have a high chance of suffering from life-long organ damage.
There are a few cases of dogs with only mild symptoms recovering, but this toxicosis is nearly always fatal.
Even if treatment is initiated rapidly, death is still likely if the amount of toxin ingested is large.
Blue algae toxicosis is not contagious, but is nearly always fatal. The only way to ensure pets are not exposed to blue algae is by preventing access to contaminated waters. Strategies include:
Waters contaminated with blue algae may look turgid (swollen) and still, with noticeable algae blooms on the surface, but algae contamination is not always obvious.
Blue algae poisoning is most common in hot climates and summer months.