Many of you may have seen the recent media coverage of the devastating cases of dogs dying from exposure to toxic algae in the news recently. It’s a very real, serious threat to the health of humans, pets and wild animals. Most of the following information comes from the website nwtoxicalgae.org. Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms in lakes, ponds, and other areas of standing water. It forms a thin oily-looking film (scum) and can look like spilled paint. Most blooms occur during summer and early fall, but can occur in cold winter months.
Cyanobacteria can produce many toxins, but there are two types common in Washington. The microcystins are a group of toxins that affect the liver. These are the most commonly found and most responsible for human and animal poisonings. Signs of acute liver disease include inappetance, vomiting and depression. The onset is within hours. Treatment is rarely successful and requires supportive care at a 24 hour facility. The other toxin is antitoxin-a. This affects the nervous system and may cause lethargy, muscle aches, confusion, memory impairment and death. It is fast acting and is attributed to the previous death of two dogs at Anderson Lake in 2006. There is no known successful treatment.
Not all blooms are toxic. You cannot tell if the bloom contains toxins just by looking. It requires laboratory testing. Luckily, there is a very informative website nwtoxicalgae.org that has pictures, a list of lakes currently experiencing toxic blooms and a method for sending in a sample of the water for testing. It also has a listing of the current Washington lakes that are affected and a link that allows you to search for previous reports of toxic blooms in any Washington lake. There are currently seven lakes listed with toxic values above the guidelines in Washington. The closest are Lake Minterwood, Rapjohn Lake and Northshore Parkway Apartment Ponds all in Pierce county. Lake Wilderness in Maple Valley has had blooms reported in the past (2011), but none currently.
The blooms tend to be patchy in the body of water, not distributed consistently throughout. Warning signs are posted that will let you know what activities can be done near or around the lake. Take them seriously! When in doubt, stay out!
On a cheerier note, it is not too early to be thinking about the upcoming holidays. Although we all look forward to the festivities that include indulging in the delicious goodies, preparing for the company of family and children and enjoying music and fireworks, Princess Meowington may not. Loud noises, strange people and boisterous children can be very frightening to both dogs and cats. Now is the time to start desensitizing to loud noises such as thunder and fireworks. There are several CDs on the market to help. Through a Dog’s Ear plays classical piano music that is proven to relax dogs. The Master’s Voice noise shy dog system CD is useful for desensitizing to both thunder and fireworks. Counterconditioning by giving Stinkerbelle treats while listening to the thunder or fireworks will be helpful as well. Applying a Thundershirt at bedtime can be useful to train Poopsie that the shirt means relaxation. Start now socializing Zsa Zsa by having friends come over. Instruct your visitors to ignore Tallulah at first, tossing treats and allowing them to approach first if at all. Safety is always a priority, so always allow Atilla a safe retreat. Anti-anxiety medications can be considered as well. These will help Sherlock Bones to learn faster. We will need to have a full exam and possibly bloodwork to discuss all of these options and see what would be the best approach for Mary Puppins.
Make sure that all of your guests understand that Mulligan does not need any human food treats. Chocolate toxicity depends on the weight of the dog and the type oof chocolate ingested. The higher the cacao content, the more theobromine (the toxin) is present. Symptoms vary from hyperactivity, vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and death. Grapes, raisins and currants are also toxic, causing acute kidney failure. Eating a fatty meal can cause pancreatitis that may require hospitalization with IV fluids. Bones or other indigestible items such as toys can be swallowed and become lodged in the stomach or intestines requiring surgical removal. No one wants to stop the holiday celebrations to make Chompers to the vet. Take some time now to prepare and we can all enjoy the festivities.
Hope this has been helpful. Next month I’ll try to demystify parasite control. So many products on the market – which one is best for Fluffernutter? Stay tuned!