Love lakeside adventures with your best friend? You need to know about Minnesota’s harmful algae blooms

Dog by lake

No matter where you live, trips to a nearby lake or pond are a favorite summer pastime. If you have a water-loving dog, lakeside adventures are a great way to burn some energy and cool off.

While it may seem impossible for your dog to avoid glittering water on a warm day, it’s always a good idea to do a little inspection before either of you wade in. On especially hot days with a lot of sunshine, Minnesota lakes and ponds can produce harmful algae blooms, which put people and pets at serious risk for illness.

Blue-green algae

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

What’s an algae bloom?

According to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, blue-green algae isn’t actually algae. It’s a type of bacteria — called cyanobacteria — that thrives in warm, nutrient-rich water. It’s normal to find this kind of bacteria in lakes, but warmer weather and water temperatures higher than 75 ⁰F can cause the bacteria to grow rapidly, forming toxic "blooms."

These blooms can look like thick green paint or scum, and can range in size and density. They might also produce a swampy odor. Harmful algae thrives in shallow water and can often be found on a shoreline.

Not all algae is harmful, but it can be difficult to know the difference. There are ways to test for blue-green algae, but if you suspect your nearby watering hole might have a harmful bacterial growth, its best to keep out!

What kind of health risks are related to algae blooms?

Both humans and pets, especially dogs, can become sick after swallowing water containing high amounts of blue-green algae. Even breathing in airborne water droplets can cause illness. Within minutes of exposure to toxic levels of bacteria, animals can experience symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficulty breathing, and seizures. In animals with weakened immune systems, high levels of toxicity can be fatal.

Dog at lake

What should I do if my pet gets sick?

If you or your pets are experiencing adverse reactions to dangerous algae or bacteria in water, seek medical attention immediately. If your pet needs emergency veterinary care, contact your veterinarian or an Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Service (AEVS) clinic right away.

For more information on harmful algae blooms, call 651-757-2822 or 1-800-657-3864.

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline