Vets are warning dog owners to keep their pets away from toxic blue green algae.

There has been a spike in reports of the algae on the surface of waterbodies already this summer. 

Blue green algae or cyanobacteria are a group of bacteria that can contain dangerous toxins which can be harmful and even fatal to our pets, livestock and birds if ingested even in small quantities.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued the warning following the death of a dog as a result of blue green algae exposure.

Blue green algae blooms 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.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of exposure can appear within a few minutes or hours, depending on the type of toxin ingested.

They include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Drooling
  • Disorientation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizures
  • Blood in faeces 

If left untreated, it can cause liver damage and ultimately be rapidly fatal.

What are experts advising?

British Veterinary Association president Daniella Dos Santos said: “We know that some dogs enjoy nothing better than a paddle in a cool lake while on a walk, but we’d urge pet owners to keep their dog on a lead during walks near water confirmed to have toxic algal blooms.

"While not all blue green algae are poisonous, it is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so prompt veterinary treatment is the only way to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for your pet. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to blue green algae, seek emergency veterinary treatment as soon as possible."

• Look out for any warning signs put up by the Environment Agency or local councils near water bodies.

• Keep pets on a lead and by your side around water bodies known or suspected to have blue-green algal bloom – don’t let them swim in it or drink from it.

• If your dog has been swimming outside, wash it thoroughly with clean water afterwards.

• Seek emergency veterinary treatment in case you’re concerned it may have ingested toxic algae.