A range of deadly algae has been the cause of several dog deaths across the Southern United States, per WebMD.
A dog died in Texas last Wednesday after venturing into a shallow pool near a river while three others met their end in Wilmington, North Carolina following a visit to a pond the following day. On Saturday, another died after taking a swim in Lake Allatoona in Georgia.
The toxic blue-green aquatic plant, also referred to as cyanobacteria, has become a nationwide concern for dog owners. It is found in both fresh and salt water and has toxins that can be fatal to canines within minutes, hours or days of exposure. The algae is mostly harmless to humans, primarily because humans won't consume it, or at least they know they aren't supposed to. However, they can be deadly if ingested.
Dogs, on the other hand, aren't blessed with such wisdom and are way more susceptible as they are likely to lick their fur after a bath or simply drink from the water.
According to University of Miami marine biology and ecology professor Larry Brand, the primitive algae evolved roughly 3.5 billion years ago. Veterinarians claim the plants have been killing animals for over 100 years and Brand says it's become more common as of late.
“What people see typically is they can float up to the surface and form a kind of scum,” he explained. “They’re usually greenish in color with bluish tints. It’s thick, gooey stuff; people know not to drink it.
“On a global scale, they’re getting worse, so you get more incidences of dogs dying.”
Rising temperatures brought on by climate change is a contributor as algae tend to thrive in warmer weather but an increase in untreated sewage and the use of fertilizer for agriculture is considered to be among the main causes.
David Dorman, a toxicology professor at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says that the algae produce two types of toxins, one that brings on neurological problems and another that causes liver failure.
“One of the first cases of algae killing a dog was in 1920,” he claims. “It’s a problem that’s been around for a long time, and it’s all too common. Dogs will lick them from the water, lick them off their fur, and they will sometimes eat them off of these other surfaces and can readily be poisoned that way."
Twitching, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness are all symptoms of a dog having ingested the toxic plant.
Dog owners should be on the lookout for discolored water or dead floating fish if they're planning to allow their pet into a body of water. The algae may give off a foul odor but it isn't always visible, sadly.