As air and water temperatures warm, New York Sea Grant is reminding people with dogs tht enjoy waterfront areas about the health risk posed by harmful algal blooms or HABs. Freshwater HABs are overgrowths of blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, that impact water quality and may produce deadly toxins.

David B. MacNeill, a New York Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist based in Oswego, NY, developed a Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms Fact Sheet after learning of increasing reports of canine illness and deaths in areas impacted by algal blooms.

‘Harmful algal blooms are an issue that impacts the entire Great Lakes region. Dog owners need to be more aware of the potential risk from HABs and learn ways to reduce that risk to protect their pets. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure where dogs and HABs are concerned,’ said MacNeill.

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can impact liver function, disrupt the nervous system, and cause skin irritation in dogs that ingest the toxins from drinking from lakes, ponds, and mudholes along infected waters; from cleaning wet fur; and from eating waterfront debris.

To develop the Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms Fact Sheet, MacNeill enlisted the aid of veterinarians and toxicologists with the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, US Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA National Ocean Service, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and Sea Grant Network colleagues.

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