An outbreak of death and disease in dogs in one state and outbreaks of toxins in many others has led health officials to warn people of the potentially fatal consequences of polluted water.
At least six dogs in the Tri-Cities area of southeast Washington were sick or died after coming into contact with the waters of the Columbia River, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting last week. Cyanobacteria, often known as blue-green algae, have been blamed by health experts. As a result, a section of the river coast near Richland was closed.
Blue algae outbreaks in late summer and early fall are common and have recently been documented in Nevada to North Carolina.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cyanobacteria are found in water year round, but warmer temperatures and higher nutrient levels during this time of year encourage blooms that can be dangerous. In addition, outbreaks in standing water are more common.
Low water levels caused by the ongoing drought are also causing blooms in some regions of the western United States, officials said. Shallow water moves more slowly and is more sensitive to high temperatures.
A message from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area warned of an epidemic there Thursday.
⚠️Toxic algal blooms have been discovered in Cottonwood Cove and Nelson Landing. Visitors are advised not to swim in these areas to avoid contact with the potentially harmful cyanobacteria pic.twitter.com/g1HnyQ9xTO
– Lake Mead (@lakemeadnps) September 23, 2021
Climate change and harmful bloom
(Photo: Joe Raedle / Staff)
In 2018, NASA and the Carnegie Institute for Science published research linking climate change to an increase in the frequency of algal blooms over the past 30 years.
Toxins produced by cyanobacteria can make people sick and kill animals in large quantities, such as those found during a bloom.
Related article: Hundreds of Americans have been hospitalized for toxic algal blooms in recent years, CDC says
(Photo: Lucas Pezeta)
Dogs are more likely to get sick due to their increased exposure, but cattle and other animals are also at risk.
Raelynn Farnsworth, interim director of Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that an animal is more likely than a person to drink from a green slime puddle, pond, or polluted spring.
Because disease and death can strike quickly, experts recommend immediate veterinary treatment if a pet has been exposed to cyanobacteria.
Some of the symptoms in dogs include excessive salivation, vomiting, fatigue, unsteady walking, difficulty breathing, convulsions, liver failure, and death, often within hours.
People can experience irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs when they come into direct contact with cyanobacteria or inhale droplets. If you drink polluted water you can also get stomach pain, headache, neurological symptoms such as muscle weakness or dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, or liver damage.
What should I do?
If you suspect your pet or other animal has been exposed to poisonous algae, cyanobacteria, or their toxins, the EPA recommends the following steps:
– Rinse the animal immediately with tap water to avoid licking algae or cyanobacteria from the fur.
– See a veterinarian immediately.
-Call an animal poison control center.
– Contact your local or state health authority if you suspect an illness is caused by algae, cyanobacteria, or their toxins.
Also Read: Poisonous Algae Blamed for Blocking Access in Some Parts of the California River
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