Pet Owners, Beware of HABs
August 23, 2018

Humans aren't the only ones impacted by health risks associated with harmful algal blooms (HABs). Animals, especially domestic dogs and cats, can experience many adverse effects from exposure to HABs, which range in severity and types of symptoms. Due to their inquisitive nature, pets have no hesitation about swimming in algal blooms or ingesting algae in the water, on the shore or through self-grooming. Although not all blooms produce dangerous toxins, ingestion or even just contact in some cases to toxins can have a significant impact on animals. Due to their smaller body mass than humans, lower levels of toxins can have more severe, sometimes fatal, effects on animals.

The types of toxins pets can be exposed to fit into three categories: liver, nerve and skin toxins. Health effects can include seemingly normal actions, like inactivity, disorientation or mild skin rashes, or more severe seizures, vomiting and complete loss of appetite. Keeping your dog away from HABs will keep them healthy and save you money on veterinary treatments.

These tips will help you keep your pet healthy and safe around bodies of water.

  • Know how to recognize HABs: Blooms are very diverse in color, size and location. However, HABs often are blue, green or red-brown in color, thick and foamy, and found in calm waters exposed to warmth and sunshine.
  • Keep your pet on a leash: Keeping your pet close and controlled ensures that they won't get into impacted waters, unless you allow them to.
  • Clean up after your pet: Pet waste contains nutrients that, when accompanying runoff, can contribute to the development of HABs.
  • Monitor your pet's behavior after potential exposure to HABs: Symptoms of poisoning can show up anywhere from minutes to days after exposure, so stay alert if you think your pet came in contact with a HAB.
  • Don't be afraid to call for help: If you think your pet is sick, contact veterinarian or an emergency hotline, like Pet Poison Control.