Dog owners are warned to steer well clear of stagnant ponds* when catching some late summer sun with their pet. According to a leading veterinary charity, this is ideal weather for highly toxic ‘blue-green algae’** to bloom. This can kill if dogs drink contaminated water or swim in it and then groom themselves.

Senior Veterinary Surgeon at PDSA, Elaine Pendlebury, said: “Toxins produced by, or contained within, some types of algae are extremely poisonous and death is common and rapid – symptoms occur within 15 minutes to one hour of exposure. Death can happen within 10 to 30 minutes of this and usually within 24 hours of swallowing the toxin.”

Algae can be more concentrated at water edges and even small amounts of water can contain lethal doses. In some instances, dogs have been found dead at the edge of the water.

The first signs of a problem include severe vomiting which may contain blood which then can lead to more serious symptoms. With the more toxic algae, breathing difficulties, collapse and death can develop within 15 minutes of exposure to the toxin. Although affected dogs can survive if treated quickly, clinical effects may show over a longer period of time and they may develop kidney or liver failure.

Elaine concludes: “Blue-green algae is particularly prevalent at this time of year, especially with this late summer sun we are currently enjoying. So we want dog owners to be aware of just how dangerous it can be. Dogs are particularly at risk when they drink from watering holes like ponds where the algae has spread rapidly, usually when it is sunny and the water has a high temperature.”

* Owners should beware of any stagnant pools. Algae can live on the surface or the bottom of the water, so the pond won’t always have a scum on the surface.

** Though known as blue-green algae, it can vary in colour – some are red and some are black as well as blue-green.