Toxic Algae Warning

The GRRA medical team would like to take the opportunity to remind you to be on the lookout for toxic algal blooms as you go out and enjoy outside water sources with your furry family and friends.

Toxic green-blue algae (also known as cyanobacteria) incidents are on the rise. You may have heard of the recent deaths of beloved dogs in other parts of the country such as Texas and North Carolina. Unfortunately, this past weekend we were reminded our immediate area is also affected by these toxic algal blooms. After visiting and playing in lake Allatoona, a border collie died of toxic green-blue algae hours after playing. Authorities are testing the lake waters to determine any specific areas with dangerous toxin levels. More information on this specific story can be found in the following articles:

Algal blooms can affect both human and animal and algae that produce such blooms grow in all 50 states. Algal blooms refers to the rapid increase in the algae population in fresh or marine water systems. You may have seen the red algal blooms on the news that are affecting the Florida and Gulf coasts that make the water red and are making humans sick that enjoy those waters. The blooms in our area affecting dogs are called toxic green-blue algal blooms as they are a greenish-blue color. The algae release toxins into the water that can be ingested or otherwise taken up by a human or animal playing in them. Dogs, more than other pets, are especially vulnerable because they like to play in water, drink the water and algae, and lick it off their fur. With respect to dogs, the toxins can result in symptoms can arise as quick as 15 minutes after exposure. They are of larger concern now because of the increased heat, which stimulates the blooms. Below are some pictures of waters with green-blue algal blooms.

Toxic algae - 01
Toxic algae - 02
Toxic algae - 03
Toxic algae - 04

Photo credits: Georgia Environmental Protection Division Publication on Harmful Algal Blooms (link below) and Watchara Phomicinda/ Southern California News Group, USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism
Some Signs of a Toxic Algal Bloom
  • Discoloration of the water caused by the algal pigments (e.g. red, green (often vibrant), greenish-blue, brown)
  • Foam, scum, or mats on the surface of the water
  • "Paint" floating on the water (not actually paint but toxic algae)
  • Foul odor, which although repulsive to humans, can be attractive to animals
  • Dead organisms in the water
Symptoms of Exposure
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Neurologic signs (weakness, staggering, muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, paralysis, etc.)
  • Drooling (excessive secretions)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • Coma
  • Pale or blue mucous membranes
  • Blue discoloration of the skin
  • Jaundice
  • Blood in stool or black, tarry stool
  • Death
What to do if you Suspect Exposure to Toxic Algae or your Dog is Exhibiting Symptoms

If you suspect exposure and your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, get your dog to the nearest animal hospital immediately. Time is of the essence as the toxins work quickly. If you know your dog has just gotten into a harmful bloom, get them out as fast as possible, rinse your pet off immediately with fresh, clean water and soap if possible, and take immediately to the nearest animal hospital for any needed treatment or observation.

If it is a GRRA Dog – please refrain from taking to fresh water swimming areas until the summer has well passed. We don’t want to take any chances, knowing how hot and muggy the weather has been here in the Southeast this summer. If you should find yourself in a circumstance that anywhere sounds or feels like this scenario of toxic algae exposure, please contact medical@grra.com immediately or get in touch with the Medical team via the GRAA Medical hotline: 678-321-7387.

How to Prevent Exposure
  • Before allowing your pets to play in a water source, check the area and surrounding areas for signs of toxic algae.
  • If you notice any signs of toxic algae leave the area and don't let your dog swim, play in, or drink the water.
  • Even if you don't plan on letting your dog play in the water, don't let your dog play on the banks in the immediate area either. Your dog may ingest dried toxic algae present on the nearby shore.
  • Allow pets to only play in fresh clean and sanitized water sources, such as a fresh clean pool or sprinkler.
  • GRRA dogs should be kept away from and out of fresh or marine water sources until summer has well passed. We do not want to take any chances!

Additional information is available on the following sites: