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Veterinarian warns about deadly effects of blue-green algae on dogs

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Dr. Pete VanVranken, DMV said blue-green algae isn't anything new, but that he thinks it's under reported because of the quick, deadly effect once a dog has been poisoned by it. (WWMT/Callie Rainey)

A West Michigan veterinarian warned dog owners to choose wisely before letting their four-legged friends cool off in certain bodies of water, after recent reports of sudden dog deaths that could have been caused by blue-green algae.

Dr. Pete VanVranken, the founder of Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic in Battle Creek, said he doesn't believe blue-green algae is new, but that deaths linked to it are often under reported because of how short-lived an animal's life is once poisoned by the algae.

"Algae grows when the weather conditions are right. It's a weather related sort of thing. If you end up with some really hot weather, not a lot of water going in and out of the pond, it just gets sort of stagnant and as it gets stagnant you start to have the problem," said VanVranken.

He suggests dog owners avoid stagnant water, especially during droughts and only stick to fresh, moving water.

"Wind will blow it across the water as blooms, the dogs will inhale it or they'll get it on their skin when they swim in the pond, then they groom themselves afterwards. With all the algae being blown around, you’re going to get a mist coming off the blooms and I think that’s the thing you have to be careful of. It’s not just swallowing water," said VanVranken.

Kathleen Koerber said she won't stop taking her dogs to places where they enjoy swimming like Asylum Lake, but she said she is more cognizant of the situation after her sister informed her of the poisonous effects on dogs.

It's important to note that as of this report that no blue-green algae had been reported at Asylum Lake.

"Look for blue-green algae floating on the top. I haven't seen any here at Asylum Lake. It's a flowery, floating substance," said Koerber.

VanVranken said the best way to avoid a tragedy from happening is to take preventative measures.

According to Pet Poison Helpline some common signs to look for in blue-green algae poisoning are:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Death

"There is a skin component, a neurological component and liver component," said VanVranken.

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