Dangers of Fresh Water Swimming With Your Pets – What You Should Know About Blue Algae
Swimming can be a fun way to keep cool and exercise with your pets, but before you plan an outing to a local pond, river, or lake, it is important to recognize the dangers of fresh water swimming, particularly the effects of blue-green algae. By understanding the risks of fresh water swimming, you can easily take steps to keep yourself and your pets safe with every swim.
About Blue-Green Algae
Algal blooms can be very dangerous for pets. Blue-green algae, sometimes called blue algae, is particularly toxic, and is caused by cyanobacteria. Pets can be contaminated by swimming in or drinking water infested with blue-green algae, and can even become sick if they only lick their fur after dunking in contaminated water. The effects of blue-green algae range from vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation to convulsions, respiratory and liver failure, and even death.
Fortunately, blue-green algae is easy to spot, and therefore can be easy to avoid. It is most common in warm, stagnant water, and is therefore more common later in the summer as bodies of water have warmed. Look for water with a greenish tinge, and the color could be as strong as looking like a pond full of pea-green paint. The green scum may look foamy or could seem like an oil slick on the water’s surface. An algae-infested area may also have a musty smell. Depending on the winds, the algae could be spread throughout the water or may be pushed to the edges or just one area of the water.
Because blue-green algae can be fatal within just a few hours if the contamination is severe enough, it is critical to seek emergency veterinary care if your pet has been exposed. Depending on your pet’s reaction and overall health, as well as the degree of contamination, an IV, medication, or even oxygen therapy may be necessary. Pet owners should also be aware that blue-green algae is also harmful to humans, so any questionable bodies of water should always be avoided.
Other Fresh Water Swimming Dangers
Blue algae isn’t the only hazard pets may face when going for a swim. Depending on the body of water, different dangers might include…
- Venomous snakes that may bite if cornered or surprised by a curious pet
- Leeches and biting insects that can cause discomfort or may transmit diseases
- Brain-eating amoebas that can cause fatal infections
- Sharp glass, rocks, or broken branches that can cut pets’ feet
- Discarded fishing gear that could get tangled in fur or could cut a pet’s mouth
- Dead fish that might cause poisoning if a pet nibbles at the carcass
- Ear infections from water and its possible contaminants
- Drowning from exhaustion or getting caught in a current or tight space
Despite the risks, however, there are many bodies of water that are safe and comfortable for swimming with pets. So long as you are aware of possible hazards, you can take appropriate steps to keep your pets safe while you both enjoy a refreshing swim.
Keeping Your Pets Safe
No matter where you go swimming with your pets, even if you’ve been to the same spot many times, it is essential to stay alert and supervise your pet at all times to stay safe. Avoid swimming near fishing piers or popular fishing spots where lost gear may cause a threat, and be aware of your pet’s behavior for any signs of discomfort, pain, or exhaustion. Keep a first aid kit on hand so you can quickly treat any small problems, and know where the nearest emergency veterinarian is located in case of trouble.
After your pet has finished swimming, use a large, absorbent towel to help them dry off, paying particular attention to their ears and face. Also examine your pet carefully for any signs of pests, cuts, or other problems so you can take care of them right away.
With the proper precautions and good awareness of different risks, you can easily enjoy fresh water swimming with your pets. Both of you will appreciate the cooling splashes and gentle exercise of a good swim, and it can be fun to visit your favorite swimming hole all summer long – if you do it safely.