Deadly algae raise concerns for Hawaii dog owners

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Dogs are dying on the mainland from toxic algae after jumping in freshwater ponds and lakes. And it’s raising concerns for pet owners here.

The State Department of Health says there are no reports of the algae being in Hawaii. But it doesn’t mean it can’t happen here. There are also other risks that come with dogs jumping in ponds and lakes.

Blue-green algae have been blooming in freshwater ponds, lakes and streams on the mainland. The algae produce toxins in warm weather which can kill dogs within hours after jumping in the infested water.

Even veterinarians here are getting calls about it from local dog owners. But those we reached out to say they haven’t seen any cases. Although they say those who have ponds or even aquariums that aren’t clean in their yard should take precautions.

“If it’s filled with water and algae is forming and their dog happens to walk over and licks it or drinks and jumps in a pond, in a household pond, that could be a problem too,” said Dr. John Kaya from the Hawaii Kai Veterinary Clinic.

Some dogs just love jumping in the water and swimming pools and the ocean should be safe.

But owners who take their dogs hiking and let them jump in fresh water ponds also put their pets at risk of leptospirosis. It’s a bacteria that attacks the dog’s liver and kidneys and can be fatal if not treated.

“The bacteria survives in the water and enter through broken skin, so if they have a cut and of course if they drink the water for sure,” said Dr. Kaya.

Symptoms for toxic algae exposure include weakness, difficulty in breathing, and seizures.

For leptospirosis, weakness, poor appetite, and drinking lots of water. There is vaccine for leptospirosis and it’s recommended for dogs who regularly go out on hikes and jump in ponds.

“If there is a chance of exposure, better to get vaccinated and rinse your dog off after. Watch for signs of lethargy or anything cause there is a treatment for it,” said Dr. Kaya.

Unlike the cases involving toxic algae, leptospirosis is more gradual and dogs can recover fully with treatment.

Dr. Kaya points out that the vaccine does not protect your dog from all types of leptospirosis. Just some of the more common ones.

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