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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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Dog owners warned about toxic algal scums after reported dog poisonings in the west

Autopsies were not able to determine if algae was to blame for the dog deaths.

An example of a benthic cyanobacteria accumulating on a lake shoreline.
An example of a benthic cyanobacteria accumulating on a lake shoreline.
Image: EPA

DOG OWNERS ARE being warned to take specific precautions to keep their dogs safe from algal scums in Irish lakes, following reports that a number of dogs died of poisoning

Some algae that can develop on the surface of ponds and lakes can produce toxins that can be fatal to dogs.

The blue-green algae can sometimes wash-up or accumulate on shorelines and in humans it can cause skin rashes and illnesses

Dangerous algae are more common during calm summer weather and, following the deaths of a number of dogs in the Mayo/Galway region, investigations were carried out into whether algae was to blame.

While water quality is a big factor in the formation of algae, it can be found in relatively unpolluted lakes and rivers so it is not possible to predict in advance where a problematic algae bloom may occur.

It is understood that autopsies carried out on the dogs were inconclusive in determining whether algae was to blame for the harm to the dogs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that algae can pose a danger to animals and points to a previously confirmed incident when a dog died in 2016 from eating algae.

PastedImage-70061 An accumulation of algae on a lake shoreline that was toxin producing. Source: EPA

The EPA says it not the lead agency in relation to animal or public health related issues and that all reports or queries concerning animal deaths associated with algal blooms should be made directly to local authorities.

Despite this, the EPA has given some advice to both dog owners and other members of the public about how to deal with the problem.

“The public should avoid walking dogs in areas where algae form obvious scums or accumulations on lake shorelines. Reporting of suspected incidents to local authorities and taking photographs to document the problem would be very beneficial, so that warning notices of increased risk can be erected where relevant,” the EPA said in a statement.

Dog owners are being advised to take a number of other precautions:

  • If dogs encounter algae, hose them down to prevent them from cleaning their coats.
  • Feed and water a dog before a trip to a lake to reduce chances they consume algae.
  • Toxins in the algae are fast-acting and, if a dog encounters an accumulation, owners are being told to inform a vet as soon as possible.
  • When presenting to a vet, photographs of the algae are useful as are notes of the dog’s activities.

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Rónán Duffy

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