Scottish dog owners warned about outbreaks of fatal algae

Dog owners have been warned of a potentially fatal algae. Picture: Contributed.Dog owners have been warned of a potentially fatal algae. Picture: Contributed.
Dog owners have been warned of a potentially fatal algae. Picture: Contributed.

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With recent conditions favourable for outbreaks of blue-green algae and several cases of the potentially fatal substance recently being reported around Scotland, vets are warning dog owners to be aware of where their pets drink water whilst enjoying the outdoors.

The foam-like substance can be found in canals, lakes and areas of stagnant water and is thought to occur through a combination of warm temperatures and heavy rain washing fertiliser off fields into the waterways.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can grow rapidly and starves fresh water of oxygen. It is a risk to human and animal health as consumption can lead to symptoms including convulsions and liver failure.

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Reports have already suggested blue-green algae has been sighted in Linlithgow Loch and Adam Charleston, veterinary surgeon and owner at Vets4Pets Livingston, is hoping this early warning will help dog owners be aware of the signs of an eruption of the algae.

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Adam said: “There are many different types of algae and most do not produce toxic compounds.

“But, exposure to blue-green algae can be fatal to dogs, death can occur within a few minutes or few days, depending on the type of exposure.

“Whether it be a reservoir, canal or lake, if it’s covered in bright green slime it can be potentially very dangerous for humans, pets and wildlife.

“Our advice is for pets and their owners to keep away from areas of water they think are affected by blue-green algae and report it to the Environment Agency.

“If an owner thinks their dog may have drunk from or swum in an area where blue-green algae is present, then the pet should be taken to a vet immediately.”

In the UK there are more than 200 incidents of blue green algae every year. Not only is it dangerous to dogs and fish it can also harm wild animals if they drink the toxin-contaminated water, causing neurological and digestive problems.

“When there is too much of it in the water, also known as an algal bloom, the fish are effectively suffocating,” added Adam.

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“The algae blankets out the light and takes up the oxygen, which cuts off the supply for everything living in the water.

“Many of the recent reports have come from dog owners who encounter the slime-covered ponds and lakes on their walks, and we’re hoping vigilant dog owners can help make others aware of any new outbreaks of blue-green algae.”