Britain’s dog-killer algae hotspots revealed: Interactive map shows how toxic green ‘mashed potato’ algae is spreading across UK that is fatal for dogs as vets warn there is no known antidote
- Has your dog been poisoned? Email [email protected]
A interactive map shows the concerning spread of a toxic green ‘mashed potato’ algae across the UK that can kill dogs in just 24 hours – as vets warn that there is no known antidote.
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, is a group of bacteria that can contain dangerous toxins that can be harmful and potentially fatal to pets, livestock and birds even if only ingested in small quantities.
Experts have issued warnings about the alarming spread of the dangerous algae after reported dog deaths in Northern Ireland, Conwy and Exmoor – including Jan Egginton, whose beloved Cove died just 45 minutes after contact.
A ‘Bloomin Algae’ map developed by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) shows 188 confirmed places it is spreading – with 22 more possible cases.
The areas are mainly concentrated in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including near Edinburgh and Nottingham.
Use the map below to investigate sightings in your area and across the country.
To use the map, select the time period you want to see reported sightings of blue-green algae and click update. Correct sightings will show as green dots, plausible ones are yellow and incorrect ones are grey. Clicking on a dot will show further information on a report including its location, the sample date and pictures.
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Jan Egginton lost her beloved two-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever, Cove – just 45 minutes after contact with the algae
Experts have warned dog walkers to be on the lookout for a toxic algae that looks like ‘green mashed potato’ which can be fatal if ingested
Blue-green algae spreads in ‘blooms’ over lakes and rivers, transforming the water into a vibrant green colour and giving it an earthy or musty smell
The CEH has encouraged members of the public to send in possible sightings so environment agencies and local authorities can make others aware of the dangers.
Have you seen a potential bloom?
If you have seen a potential algae bloom, you can submit it on the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s website.
Has your dog been poisoned? Contact [email protected]
Meanwhile, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has urged pet owners to watch out for the algae near freshwater bodies, warning that there is no known antidote.
British Veterinary Association President Malcolm Morley said: ‘Toxic blue-green algae is very difficult to identify and, if ingested, can make dogs seriously unwell – and can even be fatal.
‘We’re urging pet owners to keep their dogs on leads near water bodies where blue-green algae has been confirmed or, if unsure if a water body is safe, to keep them away from it completely.
‘There is no known antidote for the toxins and prompt treatment is critical to help give a chance of recovery.
‘Symptoms can appear within a few minutes or hours of exposure, and commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures, and blood in faeces.
‘If you have any concerns or are worried your pet may have had contact with blue-green algae, speak to your vet as soon as you can.’
An adorable two-year-old flat-coated retriever called Cove (pictured) passed away less than 45 minutes after being poisoned by blue-green algae in Somerset
Vet Aoife Ferris (pictured) from Lakeland Veterinary Services said four deaths in northern Ireland may have been caused by the aggressive plant
A ‘Bloomin Algae’ map developed by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) shows 188 confirmed places where the algae is spreading
Noxious blooms of algae have covered large parts of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland across the summer
Lough Neagh supplies 40 per cent of Northern Ireland’s drinking water and sustains a major eel fishing industry, but it is being devastated by the algae
Algae on the surface of Lough Neagh as environmental campaigners hold a ‘wake’ to protest the lack of action
The Bloomin’ Algae app can be downloaded from both the Apple and Android app stores, so that if you spot an algal bloom, you can use it to send a photo and details of its location
One dog died in less than 45 minutes after being poisoned by the blue-green algae.
Jan Egginton lost her beloved two-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever, Cove, at the side of Wimbleball Lake in Exmoor, after coming into contact with the lethal substance in July.
Top tips for pet owners
Look out for any warning signs near water bodies.
Keep pets on a lead and by your side around water bodies known or suspected to have a blue-green algal bloom – don’t let pets swim in it or drink from it.
If your dog has been swimming outside, wash its coat thoroughly with clean water afterwards.
Seek emergency veterinary treatment if you’re concerned your pet may have ingested toxic algae.
Report sightings of suspected blue-green algae with a photograph via the Bloomin’ Algae app. You can also set up notifications for confirmed sightings in your area.
There are other ways to help your dog keep cool in the warmer weather: paddling pools can give them somewhere to cool off and you should always make sure they have access to clean water and shade if outdoors.
Source: British Veterinary Association
She was walking along the side of the reservoir when Cove stopped by some dead fish at the edge of the lake.
Cove passed away less than 45 minutes later – in what was the first confirmed case of its kind.
Another four dogs lost their lives in early June after coming into contact with a toxic algae bloom at Lough Melvin, a lake on the border of County Leitrim in northern Ireland.
Aoife Ferris from Lakeland Veterinary Services said the deaths may have been caused by the aggressive plant.
She told BBC News Northern Ireland: ‘Dogs are obviously very warm in this weather but I would urge any dog owner not to let their pet near any stagnant, lake water.
Freshwater lake Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland is currently devastated by the algae, which has formed uncontrollable blooms over the summer.
Yet another dog collapsed in Conway, Wales, back in May due to suspected algae poisoning from rock pools in Anglesey.
A Natural Resources Wales spokesperson said at the time: ‘We’ve received a report of possible blue-green algae in rock pools around Penmaen Park near to Penmaenmawr sail club.
‘Sadly, a dog has collapsed and died due to suspected algae poisoning. If you’re in the area, please keep yourselves and pets away from the water.’
The algae may appear as green or greenish-brown scum in lakes and ponds and often surfaces after dogs have been playing or children have been swimming.
Dogs may come into contact with it if they drink the lake water, lick their fur after swimming or even if they go too close to the shore of an affected water body.
Affected waters at Frampton-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. The algae growth is linked to excess nutrients in the water
A sign at Preston Marina in Lancashire warning the public about the dangers of blue-green algae
The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology says that a key way to spot the algae is to poke a suspected site with a stick and check to see whether it breaks into small particles or clumps.
If so, it is likely to be the algae. If it has tiny round leaves, it is more likely duckweed. If it has hair-like strands it could be harmless filamentous algae.
In humans, contact with blue-green algae can cause skin rashes, sickness, stomach pains, fever and headaches.
There have been some reports of more serious illnesses including liver and brain damage, according to the Blue Cross, but there are no confirmed human deaths.
The algae has caused the deaths of dogs, horses, cattle, birds and fish across the UK.
Vet Dr Cheri Honnas told MailOnline that safer alternatives for aquatic fun for dogs can include visiting dog-friendly pools or lidos instead.
WHAT IS THE DEADLY ALGAE?
Blue-green algae is a type of bacteria (called cyanobacteria) that shares some of the same characteristics as plants.
Blue-green algae exists all over the world and is found naturally in many inland waters, estuaries and the sea.
Blue-green algae generally grows in lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams when the water is warm and enriched with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen.
The algae is very small and can’t be seen with the naked eye unless it is concentrated into clumps.
It tends to look like green flakes, greenish bundles or brown dots in the water.
When environmental conditions are just right, blue-green algae can grow very quickly.
It is buoyant and floats to the surface, where it forms scum layers or floating mats.
An extensive growth is sometimes referred to as a bloom.
What are the health risks?
Blue-green algae is capable of producing several different toxins. People may be exposed to these toxins through contact with the skin (e.g. when swimming), through inhalation (e.g. when motor boating or water skiing), or by swallowing contaminated water.
These toxins can cause skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, fever and headaches.
Occasionally, the toxins can cause more serious illness such as liver and brain damage.
Children are at greater risk than adults of developing problems because of their lower body weight.
How can the health risks be minimised?
Not all blue-green algae blooms and scums are toxic but it is not possible to tell from appearance and so it’s best to assume they are harmful and take the following precautions:
- Do not swim in the water
- Do not swallow the water
- Avoid contact with the algae
- Do not eat fish caught from the water
- Observe and abide by any warning notices positioned around the water
Anyone who has come into contact with water containing blue-green algae should shower with fresh water immediately.
Anyone who has come into contact with affected water and has become ill should seek medical attention.
Source: Public Health Wales
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