blue-green algae
Dog Walkers,  Lead

Warnings issued for blue-green algae and bird flu threats

Dog walkers have been urged to be vigilant after the first scientifically confirmed case of blue-green algae dog death and bird flu outbreaks.

The Kennel Club has warned dog walkers to be cautious when near bodies of water this summer, as blue-green algae can be found in water sources such as streams, lakes, rivers, estuaries and the sea, particularly in mid-late summer, and especially after heatwaves.

Under certain conditions, the substance can multiply rapidly, forming large “blooms” which can contaminate and pollute the water, and can produce toxins that are deadly to dogs.

Recently, two-year-old Flat Coated Retriever, named Cove, was exposed to the substance at the side of Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor and died less than 45 minutes later.

There are different types of toxins produced by blue-green algae so the signs of poisoning vary, but they can include dribbling, tiredness, vomiting and diarrhea, convulsions, problems breathing and organ failure. While symptoms usually appear within an hour it can sometimes be delayed by a few days, so owners should always contact their vet immediately if they believe their dog may have been affected.

Owner Jan Egginton said: “My husband first realised all was not well when Cove started staggering as he walked back from the lake, and by the time I’d caught up with them, he was already paralysed.

“The frightening aspect to me is that something so dangerous, that was not even in the water, can kill your dog in 45 minutes.”

The Kennel Club is advising owners to be aware of how to identify blue-green algae and to not let their dogs swim or drink from it, or enter it themselves. The signs of blue-green algae can include:

  • Water that appears a different colour, often resembling pea soup, although it can even be red, brown or black
  • Blooms are not always large and can sometimes be seen in smaller areas close to the shore
  • The water may smell musty, earthy or grassy and you may sometimes see foam along the shoreline

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club added: “Blue-green algae is very dangerous to both dogs and humans and it’s important that owners take preventative measures to avoid the worst.

“There are signs to look for to identify whether it is the toxic substance, but if in doubt, don’t go near water such as ponds, streams, lakes and rivers, especially at this time of year.”

An an interactive map revealing the scale of toxic algae in the UK, created by the UK Centre for Hydrology & Ecology, can be found here.

Bird Flu outbreak

Scotland has experienced a fresh wave of bird flu, as council workers removed the bodies of 330 birds on Stonhaven beach, Aberdeenshire, on 10 July and a further 100 on 11 July.

In addition, Scottish Borders Council has issued a warning. The local authority said it was working with partner agencies following reports of dead seabirds being found in coastal areas, with avian influenza confirmed as the cause of death.

At the same time, bird charity RSPB Cymru said it was receiving “increasing reports” of dead birds being washed up on beaches on Anglesey’s western coasts.

RSPB Cymru staff have also reported several dead seabirds, including Herring Gulls, Guillemots and Shags, on Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island) off east Anglesey.

Dog walkers are advised to: keep dogs on short leads in coastal areas, do not pick up or touch dead or sick wild birds, do not touch wild bird feathers or surfaces contaminated with wild bird droppings, and any dead wild birds found should be reported to the Defra helpline on 03459 335577 or online via Report Dead Wild Birds.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the increasing number of H5N1 avian influenza detections among mammals raises concern that the virus might adapt to infect humans more easily.

In addition, some mammals may act as mixing vessels for influenza viruses, leading to the emergence of new viruses that could be more harmful to animals and humans, WHO added.

H5N1 viruses have recently been detected in domestic animals such as cats and dogs in several countries, with recent detections of H5N1 in cats announced by authorities in Poland.

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