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Keep Dogs on a Lead Near Lakes or Ponds Warns the British Veterinary Association

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued a warning to dog owners to keep their canine pals on a lead while walking near rivers and ponds as deadly blue-green algae poses a risk during the summer months in many locations around the United Kingdom.

The warning comes after recent reports of sightings of algal bloom in Scotland (Millarochy Bay, Pullar’s Loch along with around 50 other locations across the UK according to the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s (UKCEH) Bloomin’ Algae app. A Cocker Spaniel died in April of suspected blue-green algae poisoning after swimming in a lake in Hampshire.  

A group of bacteria, Blue green algae, or cyanobacteria, consist of dangerous toxins which can be potentially fatal to pets. Dogs that swim in lakes or ponds with these algae present, or dogs that swallow it or which have been in contact with algae that has brushed up against their coat can end up in great danger.

According to Professor Alan Radford and his team at the University of Liverpool where trend data is analysed, suspected or confirmed cases reported by veterinary practices peak in July and August, at the height of the summer season, and aren’t restricted to any one part of the UK.

British Veterinary Association President Justine Shotton said: “Many dogs love nothing more than a paddle in a lake to cool off in this weather, but we’d urge pet owners to keep them on a lead during walks near water bodies confirmed to have algal blooms this summer. The majority of blooms are toxic, and it is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

“It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of exposure. These commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures, and blood in faeces. They can appear within a few minutes or hours of exposure, depending on the type of toxin ingested, and can cause liver damage and ultimately be rapidly fatal if left untreated.

“There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so dog owners should seek prompt veterinary treatment to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for their pet.”

Dr Linda May, a freshwater ecologist at UKCEH, explained:

“All reports of suspected blue-green algae are rapidly available to view via the Bloomin’ Algae app, so by submitting records, people are providing a useful early warning to pet owners and water sports enthusiasts.

“A photograph must be included with all reports so we can quickly check if the bloom is blue-green algae or something harmless.”


Look out for any warning signs put up by the responsible national environment agency or local authority near water bodies.

Keep pets on a lead and by your side around water bodies known or suspected to have a blue-green algal bloom – don’t let pets swim in it or drink from it.

If your dog has been swimming outside, wash its coat thoroughly with clean water afterwards.

Seek emergency veterinary treatment if you’re concerned your pet may have ingested toxic algae.

Report sightings of suspected blue-green algae with a photograph via the ‘Bloomin’ Algae’ app. You can also set up notifications for confirmed sightings in your area.

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