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Protecting Your Dog from Harmful Algal Blooms: Information and Resources

Published on: 08/15/2019
Primary Contact(s): quay.dortch@noaa.gov
Keeping your dog safe from habs. Where are harmful algal blooms (HABs)? Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are commonly found in fresh and marine waters. The most common freshwater HABs are cyanobacterial blooms (cyanoHABs), also known as blue-green algae. You can't tell if a bloom is toxic by looking at it, but signs include: surface discoloration like green, brown, red or blue tint, thick, mat-like accumulations or scum on the shoreline and surface. HABS Effects on Dogs: Dogs may be exposed to toxins by drinking the water, eating washed up mats or scum of toxic cyanobacteria, digesting toxic fish or shellfish, and by having skin contact with water. Dogs are often attracted to algal scum odors. After leaving the water, dogs can also be affected by grooming their fur and paws. Signs of poisoning: Signs of poisoning can occur within minutes to a few hours after exposure. Common signs of poisoning include: repeated vomiting • diarrhea or bloody stool • abdominal swelling that is tender to the touch • bluish coloration of skin • stumbling, seizures, convulsions, paralysis • excessive salivation/drooling • disorientation • skin rashes What to do: When possible, don’t let your dog wade, drink the water or eat/walk in a lake or beach with a HAB. If you suspect your dog has been exposed, please remove them immediately, don’t let them lick their fur or paws, and rinse/wash them thoroughly with fresh water. Please closely monitor for any signs and immediately seek medical assistance if you observe any of the above signs of poisoning. KNOW WHERE TO GO: Check your local lakes & beaches: While NOAA and the EPA share jurisdiction over HABs, generally, freshwater blooms like cyanoHABs fall under EPA's purview and NOAA has responsibility over marine HABs. The two agencies share responsibility for the Great Lakes. State, tribal, and local governments monitor for HABs and their toxins at coastal waters, lakes and reservoirs and streams. Check your state and local public health agency websites for information about lakes and beaches in your area. FOR MORE INFORMATION: NOAA offers forecasts and emailed bulletins about HAB conditions in the nation’s ocean and coastal resources, and the Great Lakes. To learn more, please visit: https://go.usa.gov/xV4JC To learn more about freshwater HABs and their toxins, visit the EPA at: https://www.epa.gov/cyanohabs. You can also watch a video on how to protect your dog from HABs here: https://bit.ly/2Znqhv2

Infographic: Keeping Your Dog Safe from HABs. Transcript here | Download graphic here

HAB 101: Harmful algal blooms — commonly called HABs — are found in every state in the U.S., and their occurrence is on the rise. The most common freshwater HABs are cyanobacterial blooms (cyanoHABs), also known as blue-green algae. CyanoHABs produce multiple toxins, including liver, nerve, and skin toxins, which can affect human and animal health. The most common HAB toxins in the U.S. are microcystins, a group of liver toxins that can cause gastrointestinal illness in humans, and mortality in pets, livestock, and wildlife. CyanoHABs occur naturally, but human activities like nutrient pollution, introduced species, and water flow modifications play a role in their more frequent occurrence and intensity.

Resources on HABs and Dogs: NCCOS funded New York Sea Grant to produce the Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms brochure, which provides information on how dogs can be exposed to HAB toxins, dog symptoms that may follow exposure, and how to reduce your dog’s risk of exposure. Other resources on this topic include the Environmental Protection Agency’s video Protect your pooch from harmful algal blooms and the Center for Disease Control’s Reference Brochure for Veterinarians.

CyAN — An App that Shows HABs in Freshwater Lakes: The Cyanobacteria Assessment Network mobile application, or CyAN app, shows the location of cyanoHABs in over 2,000 of the largest lakes and reservoirs across the United States. While it was created to help local water quality managers and public health officials make decisions about recreational and drinking water safety related to cyanobacteria, it can be used by fishermen, boaters, tourists, and lake-side communities to plan trips, and by ranchers and pet owners to keep pets and livestock away from potentially toxic waters. The CyAN app was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with NOAA, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Federal Legislation and NOAA’s Role: Congress passed the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA) in 1998 and most recently reauthorized the Act in 2018. HABHRCA designates NOAA as the lead federal agency responsible for advancing our country’s ability to detect, monitor, assess, and forecast HAB and hypoxia events in coastal marine waters. NOAA and EPA share jurisdiction for the Great Lakes, and EPA has jurisdiction over activities that occur in inland freshwater areas other than the Great Lakes. NOAA supports EPA and other federal agencies in addressing freshwater HABs outside the Great Lakes by providing satellite imagery of blooms and partnering to develop tools for detection, forecasting, and mitigation.

For additional information on HABs, contact Quay Dortch (Quay.Dortch@noaa.gov).

To learn more about NCCOS research on coastal HABS, please visit the following webpages on the NCCOS website:

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