What the conscientious outdoor dog should know!
By now most dog lovers have seen the stories about the risks posed by exposure to Blue-Green Algae. “Algae” is a bit of a misnomer, as the actual threat is a specific type of bacteria called “cyanobacteria”. Cyanobacteria can often look like Algae when it clumps up in slow moving water. “Blooms” of cyanobacteria occur in slow moving and stagnant freshwater such as ponds, retention ponds, drying out creeks, and even improperly maintained birdbaths and backyard ponds. The conditions that lead to the risk are sun, warm temperatures, and low rainfall. In addition a high nitrogen content favors formation of these bacteria, so water with runoff from fields or pastures provides a higher risk. These conditions are possible anywhere, and this summer seems to be favoring harmful algae blooms around the country.
Some types of cyanobacteria produce neurotoxicants, which causes central nervous system signs such as seizures. These are faster acting, with signs showing up within minutes. Others have hepatotoxicants, causing liver failure. These take a little longer to show signs, with clinical signs beginning to develop within hours. Some blooms will contain a mixture of these toxicants.
How can you keep your outdoor companion safe from Blue-Green Algae? Avoid letting dogs swim in or drink from stagnant water and from water than appears to have algae growth, cloudy water etc. Blue-Green Algae is described as slimy, paint-like green film. Stick to water activities in moving water! Moving creeks and streams do not favor growth of bacteria.
What should you do if you are concerned your dog has ingested Blue-Green Algae? Rinse the coat immediately and call Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. Vomiting can be induced, but do NOT induce vomiting if your dog is showing neurologic signs (such as seizures and ataxia). Quickly consult with a veterinarian.
Remember that Algae blooms are not the only hazards to active, outdoor exploring pets during the summer! Here’s a few more tips to keep your canine adventurer healthy this summer!
- Leptospirosis is another hazardous bacteria found in slow moving water. It is spread by urine of affected mammals. Dogs who have exposure to wet soil, slow moving water, or do a lot of outdoor activities should be vaccinated for Leptospirosis. Pets can recover from this disease with immediate and aggressive therapy, but it can be fatal. In our area, we see several cases of leptospirosis each year.
- Heartworm Disease is spread by mosquitoes. Heartworms mature in the large vessels around the heart and cause cardiopulmonary problems. Treatment is very expensive, but preventative given monthly is very effective.
- Tick Borne illness is another threat to active, outdoor dogs. Lyme disease is just one of a few different illnesses dogs can get from tick bites. The most effective prevention is routine use of a tick preventative. Be sure that the medication you have chosen is effective against all ticks in your area. If you aren’t sure, check with your veterinarian.
- Beware of heat stroke. Highly motivated dogs won’t know their limits and will quickly overheat on hot days. Dogs with short noses, such as Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and French Bulldogs overheat even with minimal exertion.
- Hot pavement can cause burns and ulcerations on paw pads. If you can’t leave your hand on the pavement for an extended period, the pavement is too hot for your dog’s paws.
Outdoor activities are such a good outlet for energy and brain power! It’s good to get out, be active, and to explore new places with our canine companions. Outdoor activities can be done safely and effectively if we as guardians to these active dogs are aware of our surroundings and take precautions to keep our dogs safe from some of these hazards!
So, get out! Explore! Enjoy the great outdoors, just be aware! If it looks questionable, stay out! Check with your veterinarian for more information on keeping active pets protected!