Despite the fact that we owe our very existence to cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), it’s still incredibly toxic to humans, fish, and even dogs! Blue-green algae isn’t even technically a type of algae, but a type of bacteria. Scientists however didn’t know this until the 60’s. Cyanobacteria is native to Central Texas waters (as well as numerous other places). In order for the bacteria to bloom, two things have to happen; a warm winter turns into a hot summer, and the area goes into a drought and there’s not much water flowing through the Highland Lakes. 

Where is Blue-Green Algae Found in Texas

More recently (July 19th, 2020) the deadly algae has been found in the Austin area. The City of Austin monitors Red Bud Isle, Vic Mathias, Festival Beach, and the mouth of Barton Creek every week. Blue-green algae can be active in 77 degree water, so recent water temperatures have put the area in even more danger for the toxins. You can monitor the harmful algae on Lady Bird Lake by checking out this page. 

What does Blue-Green Algae Poisoning Look Like?

Because the algae’s toxins haven’t been released into the water, the danger comes from ingesting or coming in contact with the algae itself. Which is why you should be careful about where your dog swims and drinks water from. It is also important to give your pup a good rinse after swimming in a lake, because they could ingest the algae by licking their fur. Signs of blue-green algae poisoning will show up minutes or even hours after coming in contact with the toxins. Symptoms in dogs may include: excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, foaming at the mouth, jaundice or enlarged liver, blood in urine / dark urine, stumbling, loss of appetite, abdominal tenderness, progression of muscle twitches, and respiratory paralysis. You should take your dog to a vet as soon as you see any of these symptoms as they can quickly become deadly very quickly. 

Spotting Toxic Algae and Keeping Your Dog Safe

A big question is obviously “how do I know what toxic blue-green algae looks like?”. The toxic algae can appear as foam, scum or mats on top of the water. Despite its name, the algae will vary in color. It can be blue, vibrant green, brown or even red. Sometime the algae will even be mistaken for paint on the surface of the water. The algae also often gives off an awful smell, which is partially why animals are so attracted to it. The best way to keep your dog safe is to double check where they’re swimming. Algae like this doesn’t just grow in lakes, it can also be found in decorative ponds and backyard pools that aren’t sanitized properly. Never let your pup swim in places where it is illegal to swim (it’s illegal for a reason), and it’s always a good idea to be safe rather than sorry and bring water from home for your pooch to drink. 

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