Summertime Algae Can Raise Concerns for Dog Lovers

Pet owners planning outings to our nation’s lakes, rivers, and streams should add a new item to their safety checklist: algae.

Many of our lakes, rivers, and bays are becoming overloaded with nutrients from a wide range of sources. Excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus fuel the growth of algae, sometimes into an explosion of vast—and sometimes toxic—colonies of slime.

Most algal blooms make playing in the water unappealing; however, there are some real risks if dogs swim in, wade through, or drink from water with algal blooms. Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that can sicken pets, causing everything from mild eye irritations and diarrhea to more extreme health problems, including liver poisoning and even death.

Here are some tips to help cut the risks of your dog’s exposure:

  • When in doubt, stay out. Don’t let your dog swim, drink from or wade in water that is discolored, where the water has a strong smell, or where you see foam, scum, or mats of algae.

  • “Closed” means “closed.” Follow posted advisories.

  • Rinse it off. If your dog swims in scummy water, rinse it off immediately. Do not let him lick the algae off his fur.

  • Seek veterinary treatment right away if you think your pet may have been poisoned by a harmful algal bloom.

  • Report suspected incidents to your Public Health Department.

For more information, visit

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During the summer of 2010, the Ohio Department of Health investigated several dog deaths related to a severe harmful algal bloom in Grand Lake St. Marys in Western Ohio. Blooms can pose health risks to humans, pets, and wildlife.

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Originally published in AKC FAMILY DOG.

To read more from FAMILY DOG, click here. 

Photo by Linda Merchant-Masonbrink, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency