Hitting the lake is a fun summertime activity that many of us enjoy here in Central Oregon. We are fortunate to have so many wonderful lakes right in our backyard. While it is nice to be able to just head out to a lake anytime, it is important to be aware of cyanobacteria blooms, a harmful bacteria that can be toxic to pets (and humans) in the right environment.Cyanobacteria can be found in some of our local waterways under the right conditions.
Cyanobacteria, blue-green algae, is a bacterium that can be found most commonly in ponds, freshwater lakes, wetlands, and other slow-moving bodies of water. According to the Oregon Health Authority, direct sunlight, warm water temperature (typically over 75 degrees) stagnant (or slow-moving water), and naturally occurring nutrients are the perfect breeding ground for cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria growth creates blooms which can produce cyanotoxins, a toxic bacterium that can be deadly to our pets. It is impossible to tell if a bloom contains cyanotoxins or not. As many respectable sources say, “when in doubt, stay out!”.
What does cyanobacteria look like?
Water that contains cyanobacteria may appear thick, foamy, or slimy. It can manifest in a blue-green, brown, red, or even white color.
How can cyanobacteria be harmful to my pet?
Because it is impossible to know if cyanobacteria have had the right conditions to produce cyanotoxins, it is imperative to always err on the side of caution. Do not allow your pet to go into any bodies of water that may contain this bacterium. Do not allow them to drink, play or wade in the water. If you suspect that your pet came into contact with infected water, rinse them off with fresh water and seek veterinary care immediately as cyanotoxins are often deadly (there is no antidote for the toxin). Toxicity can occur from a pet simply licking cyanotoxins from their fur. Life threatening signs to look out for to indicate that toxicity may have occurred include: weakness/collapse, gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc.), drooling, respiratory issues, decreased appetite, paralysis, tremors/convulsions, and liver failure. Even with aggressive medical treatment.
The Oregon Health Authority has a great website that lists current cyanobacteria advisories in our state.
The Oregon Health Authority also offers a free subscription service that can notify you of current toxic blooms throughout the state. A link to subscribe is included below. It important to enjoy summertime in our beautiful area. It is also important to be aware of some of the hidden dangers that can pose a threat to you or your furry friends.
LINK FOR SUBSCRIBING FOR ALERTS RELATING TO CYANOBACTERIA: