Blue-green algae occur in both freshwater and marine environments and are either floating (planktonic) or bottom-dwelling (benthic). Under favourable conditions blue-green algae may form massive growths or visible growths or blooms (most commonly in late spring, summer and early autumn). Exposures in animals usually occur when they drink from water bodies where the algae have bloomed; dogs are often affected when they swim in infested water bodies or groom themselves afterwards.

Although not all species are toxic, many blue-green algae produce toxins that can have effects on different body systems. Clinical signs therefore vary depending on the toxin(s) involved, but can include gastrointestinal signs, liver failure and neurological signs.

Cove was a 2-year-old Flat Coated Retriever who sadly died within 45 minutes of exposure to cyanobacteria at Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor in Somerset. His owners are keen to raise awareness in any way they can to prevent other owners from going through the same heartbreak.

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have released full details of the case, published in November’s Toxins. The full article is published in the special issue Cyanobacterial Toxins: Toxins Production and Risk Assessment, and can be read here.