News & Advice

Visiting lakes this summer – beware of toxic algae

Nov 21, 2021 | Dogs, Pet Health

If In Doubt- Keep Out of the Water – Warning / Kia tuapato of toxic algal blooms this summer.

Several species of blue-green algae, which normally live in our waterways, can bloom and produce toxins. These blooms typically occur in late summer when conditions are right and can be extremely dangerous to pet and human health.

Algae blooms can be either seen as solid black or brown mats attached to rock surfaces or floating in rivers and streams as well as a change in the water colour (“pea soup” appearance) in lakes and estuaries. Sometimes the water is still toxic even though it looks clear.

The solid algae mats particularly are attractive to dogs as they produce a musty smell. Dogs don’t even have to enter the water to get poisoned if the water levels have dropped leaving mats drying on the banks.

Symptoms of poisoning can mimic a variety of diseases. The time to onset and duration of symptoms can be variable. Signs may include vomiting, lethargy, muscle tremors, rapid breathing, paralysis and seizures. Only a small amount of algae can cause toxicity signs. In some cases, dogs can die within 30 minutes of ingesting algae.
There is no specific diagnostic test or antidote for the poison and the prognosis is very poor.

The best way to prevent poisoning is to prevent exposure. Before heading out:

  • Check social media before setting out –  Waikato Regional Council has already issued a warning this year further south near Taupo. Information regarding algae levels may also be recorded here.

  • Check for posted warning signs at waterways
  • Check for visual and smell signs
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • Bring your own drinking water and  bowl for your dog
  • Take your dog for Veterinary attention ASAP if worried after a visit
  • Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if worried for human health
  • Do not eat seafood or drink stream water  from affected areas
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