The British Veterinary Association has issued its annual warning to pet owners to take extra precautions when walking dogs around freshwater bodies, as warm weather conditions spark concerns about an increased risk of toxic blue green algae growth over the coming months.
The warning follows on the heels of a few recent news reports about algal bloom sightings in lakes, ponds or rivers in locations across the UK.
Blue green algae, or cyanobacteria, are a group of bacteria that can contain dangerous toxins which can be harmful and potentially fatal to pets, livestock and birds if ingested even in small quantities.
The algae may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water. Dogs can swallow it by drinking water from an affected lake, river or pond or while licking their fur after going for a swim.
It’s possible for dogs to come into contact with the bacteria even if they don’t go into water for a paddle, as toxic blooms are often blown to the edges of water bodies.
According to trend data supplied by Professor Alan Radford and his team at SAVSNET, University of Liverpool, suspected or confirmed cases reported by veterinary practices peak in July and August, at the height of the summer season, and aren’t restricted to any one part of the UK.
BVA president Justine Shotton said: “Many dogs love nothing more than a paddle in a lake to cool off in this weather, but we’d urge pet owners to keep them on a lead during walks near water bodies confirmed to have algal blooms this summer.
“The majority of blooms are toxic and it is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry.
“It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of exposure. These commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures, and blood in faeces.”