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Blue-green algae toxicity

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Cross posting this from another list for folks whose dogs swim in lakes.



FWD: Toxic Algae poisoning



Wed Jun 27, 2007 4:01 pm (PST)



It is with a very heavy heart that I write this and I apologize for

its length. Please, PLEASE pass this around.


On Monday, June 25, 2007 I took my healthy 9 month old Border Collie

Vita swimming at approximately 6:30 p.m. Vita and two other BC‘s

spent about an hour and a half diving off the dock, chasing the Water

Kong, and running around. The temperature that day was just over 90

degrees, but none of the dogs looked particularly winded or hot.


Vita emerged from the water and looked as if she was going to vomit.

She threw up lake water three times. I wasn’t particularly

concerned as she took in a lot of water from retrieving and swimming

so much and had seen other dogs do that in the past without



After the third time throwing up, she lay down and closed her eyes.

Her tongue was hanging out of her mouth and I began to suspect she

may have heat stroke. I immediately placed ice on her stomach and

checked her gums. They were pink. I took her temperature which was

101.9, still normal. I then called my Vet who said these conditions

did not indicate heat stroke and said I needed to get emergency

medical attention right away.


Vita was not responsive and when I picked her up to put her in the

car she was limp and her eyes were still closed. Her breathing was

slow and her heart was racing. I arrived at the emergency clinic

only a half hour from the time she showed signs of distress. The ER

Vet asked me what sorts of things Vita had been doing all day. I

explained that she was crated as I was gone for the latter part of

the afternoon and that upon coming home, the only other place she

went was to the lake.


Vita’s eyes were fixed and dilated and the Vet suggested there was

already brain damage. After administering an IV and oxygen, the Vet

called me in and said Vita was not responding and that it appeared

that she was suffering from some kind of toxic poisoning. Her heart

rate was 200. He mentioned that he had recently seen a couple of

dogs who died from Blue Green Algae Toxicity. I told him that the

lake had what appeared to be algae blooms on the surface of the

water. Neither of the other two dogs showed any of the signs that

Vita had and that neither dog took in as much water as Vita

apparently did. We decided to put her on a ventilator overnight and

give her a "chance" to pull through.


When I got home I did a Dogpile.com search of "Blue Green Algae

Toxicity in Dogs" and found some very disturbing information.


-Blooms can occur at any time, but most often occur in late summer or

early fall. They can occur in marine, estuarine, and fresh waters,

but the blooms of greatest concern are the ones that occur in fresh

water, such as drinking water reservoirs or recreational waters.


-Some cyanobacterial blooms can look like foam, scum, or mats on the

surface of fresh water lakes and ponds. The blooms can be blue,

bright green, brown, or red and may look like paint floating on the

water. Some blooms may not affect the appearance of the water. As

algae in a cyanobacterial bloom die, the water may smell bad.


-Some cyanobacteria that can form CyanoHABs (Harmful Algal Blooms)

produce toxins that are among the most powerful natural poisons

known. These toxins have no known antidotes.


-Swallowing water that has cyanobacterial toxins in it can cause

acute, severe gastroenteritis (including diarrhea and vomiting).


-Liver toxicity (i.e., increased serum levels of liver enzymes).

Symptoms of liver poisoning may takes hours or days to show up in

people or animals. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and



-Kidney toxicity.


-Neurotoxicity. These symptoms can appear within 15 to 20 minutes

after exposure. In dogs, the neurotoxins can cause salivation and

other neurologic symptoms, including weakness, staggering, difficulty

breathing, convulsions, and death. People may have numb lips,

tingling fingers and toes, or they may feel dizzy.


Vita had indeed exhibited salivation and signs of weakness,

staggering, difficulty breathing and vomiting.


At 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 I called the Vet and was told

that they took Vita off the ventilator a couple of times during the

night and that she was not breathing on her own. I told him to

discontinue the procedure and to let her go.


I called the DNR here in Michigan and was told that Blue Green Algae

didn’t usually appear this time of year and I told the agent that

the conditions were that of late summer in Michigan, very hot for the

last two days and reminded him that Blue Green Algae can appear at

any time. He told me not to panic or to alarm other people. I told

him that had someone else panicked, we wouldn't be having this

conversation right now.


Later that morning I found out from a neighbor that her two young

boys had vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps last week and her

Doctor suggested she bring in a water sample. I do not know if she

did or not.


I also talked to a woman from a neighboring county whose neighbor’s

dog ingested a lot of water from a pond and died suddenly a couple

weeks ago.


As of this writing, Wednesday, June 27th, I have not heard anything

from Michigan State where I took Vita for a necropsy and toxoligical



For the time being, I would strongly suggest you watch your dogs when

swimming in small lakes and ponds as the potential threat of toxic

poisoning from Blue Green Algae is prevalent. Had I known that algae

of any kind was toxic, you can be sure my dogs wouldn’t be swimming

anywhere and that Vita, whose name quite ironically meant "life" in

Latin, would be alive today.


Missing you more than you can imagine.

May you rest in peace, Red Top Vita

09/05/06 - 06/26/07


Bob Tatus

5997 Mabley Hill Road

Fenton, Michigan 48430




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Bob, I am so sorry to read about your losing Vita....



I live near Fenton; you can be sure that I will be watching closely where my dogs go from now on, since we will have some of the same water conditions. I have never heard of this happening before and had no idea that it could happen.


Virtual hugs to you, and much petting to dogs and cats.

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No need to worry about most algaes, blue green is not even a plant, its a micro-organism (mis-named). The nasty smell it eminates is also a toxic gas that is believed to have been one of the major causes of extinctions world wide. Blue green algae is found in more stagnant waters and rarely in anything with movement, 90% of blue green "blooms" can be felt as a slightly slimy, almost oily, coating on your hand if it is dipped into the questionable water.


Hope this helps folks, its one of the few micro-organisms us botanists look at, and its not nice stuff.

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Our lakes and streams in WI have also been over run with algae this year due to the hot temps we have been having.


I am so sorry for your loss and hope that your call to the DNR can help someone else. Have you thought about calling your local newspaper in hopes to get the word out more wide spread?


Sending prayers your way.

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Note that this was first posted on Sheepdog-L and as far as I know Bob T. is not on this forum, but I'm sure he appreciates your well wishes anyway. Also, a number of folks have posted to that list with their own sad stories. Apparently losing dogs to blue-green algae poisoning isn't as rare as we'd hope. In some of the subsequent posts, information was given saying you can't even necessarily tell by looking if a pond contains the toxin released by the blue-green algae. So if you're in an area where conditions for blue-green algal "blooms" exist, please be careful.



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There is a fact sheet posted on the web site of the NOAA Great Lakes Sea Grant laboratory in Ann Arbor (I worked there when I was an undergrad and it was called the Great Lakes Fisheries Research Laboratory). Evidently the spread of zebra mussels may have changed inland lake water conditions in a way that promotes growth of cyanobacteria.


Great Lakes Sea Grant Lab Bulletin on Algal Toxins


I searched for test kits to detect algal toxins, and there actually are a few. I think they are monoclonal antibody tests and are probably quite sensitive and specific. In all cases, you had to call the company for a price quote, so these are probably pretty expensive (?). However it might be possible to convince the Michigan DEP or a town or county agency to do some testing of local lakes, particularly if pets have died in lakes where children may swim.






Strategic Diagnostics


It's very scary!

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Bob asked me to post this for him.




Since I'm not a member of the border collie boards, I can't respond

to all the messages of comfort there. If you could, would you please

post the following on my behalf...


Thank you all for your kind messages and outpouring of love.

I'm simply amazed at the number of messages I've received,

both online and phone calls. It is staggering to know that

my warning has reached all across the United States and

Canada and how little any of us knew about the dangers

of Blue Green Algae. I've lived on this lake for the better

part of my life and had no idea of the dangers lurking in

the very place my dogs loved to play.


If one dog has been spared this horrendous death, then

Vita will not have died in vain.


I assure you that once the results of the necropsy and

toxicology tests come back, I will let everyone know.


Most gratefully,

Bob Tatus

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This is very disturbing, and to make it worse for me. Last wednesday, the day Bob T posted this message, I was at the lake and in a spot where the water was pretty still I saw Lance eat something nasty looking. It was dark in color and slimy looking. I called him out and we moved to a different location. Im really worried that it may have been this cyanobacteria. It has been 3 days since then and Lance seems normal. Does anyone know if there is something I could feed him that would help cleanse his system if it was something really dangerous?

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To my knowledge the only thing that would work for cyanobacteria is a high dose of carbon near the time of ingestion, or a heavy salt water drink to induce vomitting. After a few days the toxins would have showed at least some negative symptoms. But if you're still worried your vet could do a tox-screen and see if there is anything odd.


Hope all the puppies are well!!!


This site might help a little, they may also be able to direct you folks to someone who can tell you the safety level of your nearby water.

Algal Alert Info

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To my knowledge the only thing that would work for cyanobacteria is a high dose of carbon near the time of ingestion, or a heavy salt water drink to induce vomitting. After a few days the toxins would have showed at least some negative symptoms. But if you're still worried your vet could do a tox-screen and see if there is anything odd.


Hope all the puppies are well!!!


This site might help a little, they may also be able to direct you folks to someone who can tell you the safety level of your nearby water.

Algal Alert Info


Im going to take him in for a check-up at the vet. Im still really worrying about that gunk I saw him take a gulp of. It was a really small (like 5" wide) puddle of sludge floating on the surface of the water. He does have a bit of the runs, other than that he seems normal. I keep thinking what it would be like to lose him, and I think it would really kill me. I imagine waking up and not seeing him at the foot of the bed, where he has slept every night for 6 months or so.


... I looked up pictures of the "blooms" and was relieved to see that none of the pics look anything like what Lance got into. I dont think it was blue-green algae anymore. It looked more like a couple little puddles of gooey oil. Who knows, maybe thats what it was. There are lots of watercraft on that lake in the summer. Blue-Green Algae Bloom Pics

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Some brown algae blooms look like floating blackish brown gunk, or pads like sponges. Its a normal algae tho and is safe to eat. Blue green algae is a misnomer, it is actually a photosynthetic bacteria that is believed to be the ancestor of plants, it was named as an algae because of its life cycle and photosynthetic component, but is infact a bacteria. The true algaes can cause some digestive problems as they're somewhat hard to digest (they're commonly used in diet pills for this reason *bleh*) but very very few of them cause anything more serious.

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