Make sure to educate clients on the dangers lurking in ponds and lakes this summer

2019-7-17 river_655x325 Algae bloom - blog.jpg

For many pet owners, summer means relieving the heat by letting their pups swim in lakes, rivers, or ponds. Along with the standard water-safety tips you give your clients, such as close observation, equipping the pet with a life jacket, and post-swimming ear cleaning, there’s something else you might want to mention. Pet owners spending time near lakes, ponds, and reservoirs this summer also need to be aware of the potential dangers of colorful water, which may actually be harmful algal blooms. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae—simple photosynthetic organisms that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects.”

HABs occur for a variety of reasons and can be present in both saltwater and freshwater. The toxins in the algae, which are common in lakes and ponds, can lead to problems ranging from skin irritation and seizures to liver failure. Humans can also experience debilitating or even deadly illnesses from exposure to HABs.  

These harmful algae blooms are most common during periods of high heat. As we head into the hottest time of the year, be sure to educate pet owners on how to keep their pets safe.

Encourage clients to exercise caution by looking for posted warning signs and learning how to recognize these blooms to keep their pups (and themselves) safe. Point them to this state-by-state harmful algal bloom monitoring resource. Consider posting notices of any local outbreaks in your practice as well.

If a pet is exposed, owners should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of HAB exposure. Alert clients that dogs who drink water contaminated by this harmful algae, or who groom the algae off their coats can exhibit a range of signs, including:

  • Uncoordinated walking
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

Advise clients to bring their pet to a veterinarian immediately if they notice any of these signs.

For more client-education resources, check out 101 Essential Tips: Dog Health & Safety by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed.

About the author

Jason Nicholas, BVetMed (Hons), is a veterinarian with extensive experience in both emergency and general practice. Nicholas’ insights and tips won’t just help your clients spare their pets from avoidable illness, injury, and suffering, they’ll also help enable a better, safer, longer relationship with their pets. He is also a regular contributor to radio and TV segments, newspaper articles, and a variety of pet-related websites.

Photo credit: © iStock/Konoplytska