Warm weather toxic algae surge a ‘threat to pets’

The unusually warm weather has caused a surge in toxic algae.  Picture: Emma Mitchell
The unusually warm weather has caused a surge in toxic algae. Picture: Emma Mitchell
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The hot summer being experienced across Scotland has led to a surge in toxic algae blooming in rivers and lochs, with scientists warning of a danger to pets and humans.

The warm weather has provided good conditions for blue-green algae, which has the potential to poison people and animals if they come into contact with surrounding water.

Two dogs have reportedly already been killed over the summer after drinking water containing the organisms while out for walks and being poisoned.

Humans who swim in water affected by the algae can experience skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and muscle and joint pain – but there is no evidence it causes death.

• READ MORE: Scottish dog owners warned about outbreaks of fatal algae

Scientists are now urging people who spot the wispy green algae blooms in rivers and lochs around Scotland to report them so they can be dealt with by authorities.

Professor Laurence Carvalho of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Edinburgh said the algae was thriving in the hot conditions, with dogs often attracted by the smell.

“Not only has it been very warm but it has also been very dry, which means they have not been flushed out of water courses by rain,” he told the BBC.

His team has created a smartphone app called Bloomin’ Algae, allowing users to submit pictures of possible colonies so they can be passed to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

“The app provides an early warning system and speeds up the process of local authorities or landowners putting up signs at sites where there is blue-green algae, to warn the public of the risks.

“It will also help us understand the drivers of growth of these algae, such as the impact of climate change,” he added.

The issue is not confined to Scotland. Earlier this month similar algal blooms were also reported in Ullswater, Coniston Water and Windermere in the Lake District.