Summer is upon us, and unfortunately, that means we'll start seeing blue-green algae in Central New York lakes and waterways. That algae can be fatal to pets.

Blue-green algae in the form of "algal blooms" led to the temporary closure of a number of waterfronts last summer, because the blooms can be harmful to humans. Symptoms in humans can include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Skin or throat irritation
  • Allergic reactions or breathing difficulties

Symptoms can resemble a regular gastrointestinal upset.

In pets - especially dogs - the algal blooms can be deadly.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, algal blooms can be harmful to pets, especially dogs - which are more likely to spend time in the water. The algae can stick to their fur and be ingested when the animal grooms itself. If exposed, rinse your pet or livestock with clean water.

Symptoms - which can occur 30 minutes to a few hours after exposure include:

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Stumbling, seizures, convulsions, paralysis
  • Disorientation, inactivity, excessive tiredness
  • Fast heart rate, and difficulty breathing

Seek veterinarian medical assistance if your animal shows any signs of distress. The algae can release a fast-acting nerve or liver toxin that can be dangerous for pets.

Experts recommend that you take the following steps to keep your dog safe:

  • keep your dog on a leash by shorelines, if possible
  • don't let your dog wade, drink the water, or eat/walk in beach debris
  • if your dog goes in affected water, rinse them immediately with fresh water and dry them thoroughly
  • look closely for any signs or symptoms of exposure
  • notify the Health Department if you see a suspected hamful algal bloom (HAB)

The DEC keeps a list of affected lakes and waterways - so be sure to check that if you're headed out - especially with your dog.

Remember, just because a waterway ISN'T on that list, doesn't mean there isn't harmful algae present. Keep an eye out for floating "scum" or discolored water.

You can more information about pets and harmful algal blooms from a brochure available at local parks, or you can download it here.

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