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Published on July 23, 2018. Last modified on July 23, 2018
Cyanobacteria occurrences increasing in inland waters
The occurrence of HABs appears to be increasing in inland waters of California, which has led to an increase in the public’s concern regarding potential health impacts to humans and animals, particularly dogs. HABs are responsible for illnesses and deaths of dogs, livestock, and wildlife every year in California. In 2017, state and local agencies posted 141 public health alerts at waterbodies throughout California. Reported HAB-related incidents last year included 25 domestic animal deaths, numerous fish and wildlife incidents, and 8 human incidents. Most blooms occur in spring to fall, but can begin earlier or continue year-round in some locations. The first indication of a HAB-related hazard in a local waterbody often originates from animal owners and veterinarians.
Resources are available to assist veterinarians to respond to incidents of suspected HAB-related illness in animals. The California Water Boards provide limited funding for confirmatory testing of HAB-related poisonings in canines, and can assist with HAB identification and early response in suspected exposure areas. State or local agencies can post warning signs at hazardous waterbodies to prevent additional animal poisonings.
Please use one of the following options to report HAB-related animal illnesses and mortalities (suspected or confirmed) to the centralized state database. Your reports will alert us of your need for assistance and will expedite state efforts to track the frequency, distribution and impacts of HABs in California:
- Online: Freshwater Bloom Incident Form
- Telephone: 1 (844) 729-6466 (Toll free)
- Email: CyanoHAB.Reports@waterboards.ca.gov.
Reporting a HAB-related animal incident through any of the options above will trigger a multi-agency coordination effort consisting of the following:
- The California Water Boards will contact your office to coordinate the available assistance for confirmatory testing in canines. They will also gather information on the suspected exposure area in order to investigate the associated waterbody and coordinate with other government agencies involved in HAB response.
Common SignsCommon signs to watch for:
- Vomiting/Being Sick
- Diarrhea/Bloody Stools
- Pale mucous membranes
- Excessive Drooling
- Paralysis, Tremors
- Difficulty breathing
Sadly, blue-green algae poisoning often eventually causes fatal liver failure.
These symptoms are commonly seen with other illnesses too, which are often less serious, but you should always call your vet if you are worried your pet is sick.
Why is blue-green algae dangerous to dogs?
Blooms of blue-green algae can produce harmful toxins which stop a dog’s liver from functioning properly. However, not all types of blue-green algae are dangerous.
Sadly, exposure to toxic blue-green algae is often fatal, and can also cause long term health problems in dogs that survive after drinking or swimming in algae-contaminated water. Some types of blue-green algae can kill a dog just 15 minutes to an hour after drinking contaminated water.
Dogs who have been swimming in water can get the algae caught in their fur, and can ingest it while cleaning themselves later on.
Concentrations of the algae vary throughout the year and may not always be harmful - but you can’t tell simply by looking at them whether or not they are dangerous, so it is best not to run the risk of allowing your dog to come into contact with water where the algae may be present.