Heartbroken owner warns of toxic substance found in the UK waters after death of beloved pet.
The Kennel Club urges vigilance when walking dogs near water after first scientifically confirmed case of blue-green algae death.
A heartbroken owner and The Kennel Club are urging dog owners to be vigilant when near bodies of water this summer, to help protect their pets from lethal blue-green algae.
Blue-green algae, otherwise known as cyanobacteria, is a substance that can be found in water sources such as streams, lakes, rivers, estuaries and the sea, particularly in mid-late summer, and especially after heatwaves. Under certain conditions, the substance can multiply rapidly, forming large “blooms” which can contaminate and pollute the water, and can produce toxins that are deadly to dogs.
There are different types of toxins produced by blue-green algae so the signs of poisoning vary, but they can include dribbling, tiredness, vomiting and diarrhoea, convulsions, problems breathing and organ failure. While symptoms usually appear within an hour it can sometimes be delayed by a few days, so owners should always contact their vet immediately if they believe their dog may have been affected.
Jan Egginton from Worcestershire experienced the devastating consequences that blue-green algae can cause, when her beloved two-year-old Flat Coated Retriever, Cove, was exposed to the substance at the side of Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor. The pair were walking alongside the reservoir while on a training holiday with six other dogs and their owners when Cove stopped near some dead fish near the side of lake. Despite Jan’s husband reacting quickly to move Cove away from the area, the rapid effects of the substance had sadly already set in and Cove passed away less than 45 minutes later.
Analysis led by Dr Andrew Turner, from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) confirmed that Cove was exposed to anatoxins, which are found in such blue-green algae blooms, causing rapid poisoning and ultimately resulting in Cove’s death, the first time in the UK that such an incident has been scientifically confirmed.
Following her heartbreaking experience, Jan is warning other dog owners of the dangers of walking near water, particularly those who may be travelling further afield to new areas this summer.
Jan says, “Cove was unforgettable. He was so much more than just a dog. “My husband first realized all was not well when Cove started staggering as he walked back from the lake, and by the time I’d caught up with them, he was already paralysed. The frightening aspect to me is that something so dangerous, that was not even in the water, can kill your dog in 45 minutes. We are so careful with our dogs, we think about them in everything we do; we know all of the poisonous foods and plants, and were very aware of blue-green algae, but one lick of the fish was enough.
“If Cove’s story can make others more aware of the dangers not just in, but also around the water and saves lives as a result, then the pain of sharing his story will be worthwhile.”
With the summer holidays on the horizon, The Kennel Club is advising owners to be aware of how to identify blue-green algae, and to not let their dogs swim or drink from it, or enter it themselves. The signs of blue-green algae can include:
Water that appears a different colour, often resembling pea soup, although it can even be red, brown or black
Blooms are not always large and can sometimes be seen in smaller areas close to the shore
The water may smell musty, earthy or grassy and you may sometimes see foam along the shoreline
If you think your dog has been poisoned by blue-green algae, take your dog to the vet urgently, and if possible, call ahead to the vet to let them know – cyanobacteria poisoning requires rapid treatment.
Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club said: “Cove’s story is incredibly distressing and a heartbreaking experience for his owners. Blue-green algae is very dangerous to both dogs and humans and it’s important that owners take preventative measures to avoid the worst. There are signs to look for to identify whether it is the toxic substance, but if in doubt, don’t go near water such as ponds, streams, lakes and rivers, especially at this time of year.”
For further information and advice, please visit thekennelclub.org.uk/bluegreenalgae
Incidents of blue-green algae should also be reported to the Environment Agency via its 24-hour incident hotline: 0800 80 70 60.