Waterfowl season is on its way, and with it comes a threat to hunting dogs that you might not have known about: cyanobacteria. Also known as "blue-green algae," this oldest known form of life on Earth (no kidding!) comes in forms that are beneficial...but others that can be quite harmful, particularly when conditions are right to cause an "algal bloom." These kinds of blooms are common in early fall, as well as when an excess of nutrients can be found in the water body...and they release toxins that are very dangerous for dogs. Waterfowl hunters who will have retrieving dogs with them during the upcoming seasons should check water bodies for blooms before allowing their dogs in the water, according to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
The risk is small but very real. Each year, there are several reports of dog deaths around the country caused by cyanobacteria.
“While cooler weather may knock down existing blooms on some lakes, the same weather may stimulate blooms on other lakes,” said Angela Shambaugh, an environmental scientist with the Agency of Natural Resources. “As waterfowl season gets underway, waterfowl hunters should know to keep their dogs away from cyanobacteria blooms. Because many of them are out on the water well before daylight, they should consider checking conditions the day before.”
“Don’t let pets or livestock swim in or drink from areas where the water is discolored or where you see foam, scum or mats of cyanobacteria on the water’s surface,” she added.
The Health Department also has a fact sheet for veterinarians and pet owners.