Nova Scotia vet warns dog owners about toxic blue-green algae in lakes


HALIFAX – Dog owners in Nova Scotia should be on the lookout for blue-green algae in lakes and ponds this summer after two dogs died from potential exposure to the bacteria, said a veterinarian at the clinic that treated the fatally ill animals.

Juanita Ashton of Elmsdale Animal Hospital said one of the two Golden Retrievers died and the other was suffering from seizures and diarrhea when they arrived at the clinic north of Halifax.

The cause of the illness has not yet been confirmed, but she said symptoms corresponded to exposure to toxic blue-green algae blooms.

“The big risk for dogs is that they usually ingest a lot of water when they go swimming in them,” she said. “If they ingest enough of it, it is potentially fatal.”

Residents of the area around Grand Lake, near Enfield, Nova Scotia, have been told of the potential danger in the water after one person was hospitalized and two dogs died last week.

Blue-green algae produce toxins that pose a range of threats to the health of humans and animals.

Dogs can develop mild rashes or suffer from organ failure and death, Ashton said.

If a dog is consuming enough bacteria, vets can offer supportive treatments, but “it’s very difficult to bring these dogs back to normal health,” she said.

While the older dog had died before arriving at the clinic, the younger puppy was extremely ill, Ashton said.

“It was so devastating,” she said. “They were quite simply the best pet owners. They were very responsible.

The Nova Scotia Department of the Environment has said people with wells 30 meters or less deep and located within 60 meters of the lake should not use their well water for drinking, bathe or cook until further notice.

A department official said the water was tested for pesticides, organics and petroleum hydrocarbons, but the toxin produced by blue-green algae is the most likely cause.

“A photo was taken on the first night … and it has this pretty vivid color, suggesting that it is blue-green algae,” Deputy Environment Minister Julie Towers said on Friday during ‘a briefing, adding that it was coming on a series of hot days.

The frequency and size of blooms may be linked to climate change, she said.

“Algae, like any plant, react to heat. We warm up. We are seeing the effects of climate change, ”Towers said. “I suspect we’re going to have more flowers in more locations.”

For dog owners, Ashton said it’s important to keep an eye out for bright green scum on lakes and ponds, especially during a heat wave.

Toxic blue-green algae can range in color from bright neon green to turquoise, olive green, or even red, according to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment website.

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The flowers may look like fine clippings of grass in water or a large carpet of foam on the surface. Algae can be seen floating on the surface or suspended in the water.

“When there are hot days, no wind, that’s when bacteria like to form above the water,” Ashton said. “In Grand Lake, it’s a big giant lake, so it won’t be everywhere on that lake, but it could be on the shore. “

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 13, 2021.


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