There have recently been a number of reports of confirmed and suspected appearances of blue-green algae on lakes and ponds around the UK. During the pandemic the Environment Agency were unable to test any bodies of water as their laboratories were closed; however, they have restarted and are testing areas there could be.
Blue-green algae is most commonly found in non-flowing fresh water such as lakes and ponds during hot weather, but can also occur at other times of the year.
They are not actually algae, but the organisms were given this name because they often give the appearance of algae when they clump together in bodies of water.
The bacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye unless they clump together. When this happens, blue-green algae can look like green flakes, greenish bundles or brown dots in a pond, lake or stream.
When the algae blooms, it can look like a blue-green scum has appeared on the surface of the water.
Although not all species are toxic, many blue-green algae contain or produce a variety of toxins. Exposures in animals usually occur when they drink water from ponds or water bodies where the algae have bloomed. In dogs, exposures have occurred as a result of the animals swimming in infested water bodies and also from grooming after skin exposures. The toxins produced by the blue-green algae can have a high acute toxicity and exposures frequently result in fatality. Clinical signs are widely varied depending on the toxin(s) involved but can include gastrointestinal signs, hepatic failure and neurological changes.
Laurence Carvalho, of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “The public can play a crucial role in providing a rapid, early warning to pet owners about outbreaks of blue-green algae.
“If people report sightings via the Bloomin’ Algae app with a photograph, we can quickly check if it is blue-green algae or something harmless, with correct and incorrect reports plotted on an interactive map in the app.
The best advice to owners is to keep dogs away from lakes and ponds that you know, or suspect may, contain blue-green algae.
If there is any suspicion that a dog has been exposed to blue-green algae, vets can call us for advice on 02073 055 055.
Owners call call our Animal PoisonLine on 01202 509000