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Stanley's Story- Toxic Cyanobacteria Exposure To Dogs

“I lost my precious boy Stanley on August 22, 2023. He died within 12 hours of playing at the water’s edge.”

 Jenny decided to take her dog, Stanley, a French Bulldog to the local lake to enjoy time together by the water. They spent about 30 minutes there and were able to enjoy the beautiful sunset together.

While at the lake, Stanley played with a giant rock at the water’s edge. Being a short Frenchie, he was wet up to his belly. Upon their return, Jenny gave Stanley a bath.

dog poisoned blue green algae

The sound of vomiting from Stanley woke Jenny around 3 in the morning. Jenny quickly got up and took him to the bathroom. His vomit was thick and foamy, which concerned Jenny. Stanley continued to throw up two more times that night.

Stanley ate breakfast in the morning, but followed it with another foamy vomit.

“I called the vet as a precautionary measure. I left early because he was “off.” They thought he might have gotten something stuck in his throat,” Jenny told us.

dog killed by harmful algae bloom

On the 8 minute car ride to the vet, Stanley began to decline rapidly. Jenny carried him in and they immediately rushed him straight back. 

“I told them we were at the lake at sunset the night before. While preparing for x-rays, she rushed back in saying they are doing CPR. I rushed back to be with him. His tongue went from a healthy pink to a solid black. It was awful. The vet called me back the next day and said all the vets conferred and felt it was cyanobacteria.”

Stanley’s cause of death was respiratory paralysis.

blue green algae dogs symptoms

“I have found that people here in Colorado think cyanobacteria is common knowledge, but there are some like me that have never heard of it. The scary part is our local lake looked clear.”

The lake Jenny is referring to is Windsor Lake in Colorado. There were no warning signs of cyanobacteria at the beach. Jenny reached out to the county and local community to notify and advocate for warning signs to be posted for others.

Turns out, this lake did experience shut downs periodically because of cyanobacterial blooms. Sadly, no warning signs were up at the time of Jenny and Stanley’s short visit to the lake.

Cyanobacteria does not always present itself with a blue-green film. It can lay at the bottom in the sediment. This unfortunately doesn’t make it any less dangerous to those using and enjoying the water.

Jenny reached out to share her tragic story not long after her loss. Her hope was, and is that others would gain awareness of the severity of cyanotoxin exposure.

What is cyanobacteria?

Cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, are a type of bacteria that can be found in lakes, ponds, and rivers. They are photosynthetic organisms that use sunlight to produce energy, similar to plants. Cyanobacteria can form harmful algae blooms, which are large accumulations of these bacteria that can be visible to the naked eye.

Some species of cyanobacteria produce toxins called cyanotoxins, which can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested or exposed to in high concentrations. These toxins can cause a range of health issues, including gastrointestinal problems, skin irritation, and even liver damage. It's important to be aware of harmful algal blooms and take precautions to avoid exposure to them. Read more about cyanobacteria here

cyanobacteria film at pond surface

Symptoms of Cyanobacteria Poisoning in Dogs

Cyanobacteria poisoning in dogs can have various symptoms, which can range from mild to severe. Some common symptoms include:

1. Vomiting: Dogs may experience frequent vomiting or have difficulty keeping food down.

2. Diarrhea: Diarrhea is another common symptom of cyanobacteria poisoning in dogs. The stool may be watery or contain blood.

3. Excessive drooling: Dogs may drool excessively due to the cyanotoxins.

4. Difficulty breathing: Cyanotoxins can affect the respiratory system, leading to difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.

5. Weakness and lethargy: Dogs may appear weak, tired, or lethargic. They may have difficulty walking or standing.

6. Seizures: In severe cases, dogs may experience seizures or convulsions.

It's important to note that these symptoms can vary depending on the level of exposure and the specific toxins present in the cyanobacteria bloom. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to cyanobacteria or is showing any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary care.

How fast can a dog get sick after exposure to cyanotoxins

Dogs can get sick relatively quickly after exposure to cyanotoxins. The onset of symptoms can occur within a few minutes to a few hours after exposure. However, the severity of the symptoms and the time it takes for them to appear can vary depending on the level of exposure and the specific toxins present in the harmful algae bloom.

It is important to seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect your dog has been exposed to cyanotoxins or is showing any symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning.

What is the prognosis for animals poisoned from toxic cyanobacteria

The prognosis for animals poisoned from cyanobacteria can vary depending on the severity of the exposure and the specific toxins present in the cyanobacteria bloom. In severe cases, cyanobacteria poisoning can be fatal for animals.

If the poisoning is caught early and immediate veterinary care is provided, the prognosis can be more favorable. It is crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention if you suspect your pet has been exposed to cyanobacteria or is showing any symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning.

What can I do to help prevent cyanobacteria poisoning to my pet?

To help prevent cyanobacteria poisoning in your pet, here are some steps you can take:

1. Stay informed: Research information about the lake or water body you plan to visit. Look for any recent articles or reports about cyanobacteria blooms in that specific location. This will help you determine if there is a potential risk.

2. Visual inspection: Before allowing your pet to enter the water, visually inspect it for any signs of cyanobacteria. Look for a bright green or blue film on the surface of the water or dark green film on rocks. These can be indicators of cyanobacteria presence. While there are many forms of cyanobacteria that have varying appearances, these are some of the most common warning signs.

3. Foul odor: Pay attention to any foul odor coming from the water. While not all odors indicate cyanobacteria, it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid water with a strong, unpleasant smell.

4. Follow local advisories: Check for any local advisories or warnings regarding cyanobacteria blooms. Local authorities or environmental agencies may issue alerts or close certain areas due to high levels of cyanobacteria.

5. Keep your pet away from stagnant water: Avoid letting your pet drink from or swim in stagnant water, especially if it appears discolored or has an unusual smell.

6. Provide alternative water sources: Bring fresh water for your pet to drink during outdoor activities. This will help prevent them from drinking potentially contaminated water.

7. Seek immediate veterinary care: If you suspect your pet has been exposed to cyanobacteria or is showing any symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning, such as vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, weakness, lethargy, or seizures, seek immediate veterinary care.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to cyanobacteria poisoning. By staying informed, visually inspecting the water, and taking necessary precautions, you can help protect your pet from potential harm.

When in doubt, stay out!