Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs)

Dangerous to Pets and People
Summertime is Primetime for Algae Blooms

Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) may make the water look bright green or like pea soup. NYSDEC photo

While all of us up north long for the warm weather and sunshine of summer, this year the average temperatures have been higher than usual for many geographic areas if the USA. The net results in area with high nutrient runoff to waterways has been of high concern.

In New York and many other northern states were heavy snow followed by summer rainstorms contribute to hi phosphate and nitrate runoff, algae blooms appear to be more common. Despite the drought many of us have experienced, certain areas of the country are experiencing HAB’s.

According the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, dogs, pets or livestock should be kept out of any surface scums or heavily discolored water, or should be rinsed with clean water if they are exposed to harmful algal blooms (HAB).

HABs can stick to and become concentrated on animal fur, creating a health risk when the animal grooms itself.

Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs). NYSDEC photo

This is particularly important because HABs may release a fast-acting nerve toxin that can be dangerous for pets, especially dogs that swim in blooms.

Seek veterinary assistance should your pet show any signs of distress after exposure to a bloom.

These signs include:
• Stumbling, seizures, convulsions, paralysis
• Excessive salivation or drooling
• Disorientation, inactivity or depression
• Elevated heart rate, and difficulty breathing

If you see or suspect any of these symptoms, particularly within 30 minutes to a few hours after exposure to an algal bloom, seek immediate veterinary care.

For people and pets, because it is hard to tell a HAB from other non-harmful algae blooms, it is best to avoid swimming, boating, otherwise recreating in, or drinking water with a bloom. DEC strongly recommend avoiding all contact with any floating mats, scums, or discolored water. It is not easy to tell by looking at it if a bloom will produce toxins or other compounds that can be harmful to human health or animals. Laboratory analysis of a water sample is needed to confirm the presence of toxins.

Before you go in the water, find out what waterbodies have blooms or have had them in the past. DEC maintains a HABs Notifications page of waterbodies that currently have blooms. Please note that if a waterbody is not listed, it does not mean that it does not have a bloom. It may have one that was not reported. Find out what waterbodies have had blooms in the past on the HABs Archive page.

For more info, including the latest affected NYS waterbody list, visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/77118.html.