This past week there have been several reported cases of fatal canine exposure to algal blooms in NC waters. In the interest of keeping our furry friends safe, here is some information on the threat and how to keep your pet out of harm’s way.

What Is Causing It

  • Cyanobacteria: a group of organisms that thrive in warm bodies of water.
  • These organisms produce various toxic compounds.
  • When ingested, these compounds can lead to neurologic or liver symptoms within minutes to hours of exposure. This leaves little to no room for medical response, and thus exposure is often fatal.

What To Look For

  • In heavy bloom, water may have a pea-green film that covers the entire surface or accumulates at the water’s edge. This is no guarantee, however, as these bacteria could be present in the water in lower concentrations that are invisible to the naked eye.
  • Algal blooms can form in salt or freshwater, but are more likely to occur in stagnant freshwater including decorative ponds or improperly sanitized swimming pools.
  • Algal bloom is facilitated by high nitrogen content, likely from run off from local farms or fields (manure, fertilizers) especially after periods of heavy rain.
  • More prevalent during prolonged periods of warm temperatures (water temperatures over 75 degrees F).
  • Symptoms of exposure may include: diarrhea, vomiting, weakness or staggering, drooling, difficulty breathing, convulsions or seizures.

What To Do

  • Avoidance is likely the best policy. With no guarantees, the safest option may be keeping your pet out of fresh water sources entirely during periods of prolonged high temperatures, especially when there has been lots of rainfall.
  • Should your pet go in the water, follow these few steps to reduce the potential of toxic exposure:
    • Prevent your pet from ingesting water as much as possible.
    • Rinse your pet off with fresh water immediately after swimming, before they could potentially lick bacteria off their fur.
    • If you have any questions, call your vet!
    • If your pet begins demonstrating any abnormal symptoms shortly after being in the water, begin moving directly toward your nearest emergency veterinary facility (see list below).
  • Consider safer alternatives such as filling a kiddy pool or setting up a sprinkler in the backyard. With Summer drawing to an end, we hope you and your four-legged companions find a safe way to enjoy the beautiful weather.

Emergency Veterinary Services

Veterinary Specialty Hospital (VSH) of Cary
6405 Tryon Rd.

Quartet Animal Emergency Hospital
6910 Carpenter Fire Station Rd.

NC State Vet School Emergency Service Raleigh
1052 William Moore Dr.

For more information on Algal blooms and reported cases: