Toxic blue-green algae can be deadly to pets: What you need to know

Animal experts are warning pet owners to exercise caution around bodies of water, now that at least three dogs have died in northern Alberta after exposure to toxins from the bacteria.

Cyanobacteria -- which can grow in lakes, rivers, ponds, and untreated backyard pools throughout most of Canada and the U.S. -- is the suspected toxin. While normally harmless in small amounts, the bacteria can be fatal when ingested in large amounts.

Dogs are especially vulnerable to exposure, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says on its website.

“Dogs will get in a body of water even if it looks or smells bad, including when it contains cyanobacteria,” the CDC says. “Dogs are also more likely to drink the contaminated water.”

Blue, red or brown algae can also be toxic, according to CNN.

It often looks like foam or scum on the surface of the water and can have an unpleasant odour.

If you spot algae in a body of water, leave the area and don't let your pets drink or play in the water.

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If your dog has already been exposed, rise the animal immediately in fresh, clean water, while wearing gloves for self-protection. Contact a veterinarian immediately.

Symptoms caused by toxic algae exposure can present in as little as 15 minutes or could take several days to show up.

They include:

  • Headaches

  • Diarrhea 

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Fever

  • Rashes