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When we see green, scummy water, we know better than to drink it or even swim in it. But the same is not true for many dogs, and that green scum could be a toxic blue-green algae bloom, which can be fatal to animals.
Several dogs have died this summer after swimming in water contaminated by blue-green algae. Most of the deaths have been in southern U.S. states such as North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia. However, dog deaths in Minnesota and Colorado also are suspected to be the result of toxic blue-green algae.
Toxic - Algae - Blooms - US - Canada
Toxic algae blooms can occur throughout the U.S. and Canada, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They come in different colors, including red and brown, and can occur in fresh or salt water. The blue-green algae making headlines recently is also known as cyanobacteria.
"Cyanobacteria generally blooms in warm, still waters. That's why we see surges in the summer," said Tara Hammond, V03, a Tufts critical care veterinarian at Tufts VETS in Walpole, where she oversees the emergency room and the intensive care unit. But toxic algae blooms can occur at any time of year under the right conditions. Blue-green algae prefers water with high amounts of certain nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Cyanobacteria - Shimmer - Smell—think - Plants - Algae
Cyanobacteria often appear green with a blue shimmer, and usually have a foul smell—think rotting plants. The algae may appear thick and scummy, or it may look like spilled paint on the surface of the water. Sometimes toxic algae blooms are small and may not be easily seen, which can make it more difficult for dog owners trying to keep their pets safe.
"Generally, if there's green slime in the water, it's pretty suspicious, and you don't want your dogs to go in," Hammond said. Not all algae blooms are harmful, though....
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