There is currently a number of reports been seen in the media stating that there are high levels of toxic algae in some areas, including the death of a dog, that ingested toxic algae in the Hawkes Bay.
With the current spell of hot weather we’re experiencing, and with more predicted, it’s likely that levels of toxic algae and the risk it poses to people and dogs will increase.
Toxic algae in our rivers and streams
Algae is present in many of New Zealand’s rivers all year round, but in periods of warm weather and low water flow, toxic species of algae can outgrow other, non-toxic, species. Levels can change dramatically from one day to the next and aren’t necessarily consistent in all parts of rivers and streams.
Blue-green toxic algae – also known as cyanobacteria – is identifiable by a strong musty smell and presents as slimy brown/black mats in rivers and streams when wet, and light brown/white when dry.
- Water may appear cloudy and look like thick pea soup.
- Blooms are generally green or blue-green in color, although they can be brown or purple.
- A thick mat or foam may form when a bloom washes onto shore.
Whether it is wet or dry, the algae is harmful when ingested.
Symptoms of poisoning in animals
Things to look out for include lethargy, muscle tremors, fast breathing, twitching, paralysis and convulsions. In extreme cases death can occur within 30 minutes after signs first appear.
Stay up to date
If toxic algae is an issue in your region, we urge you to remind clients about the risk to dogs and to contact their veterinarian if they think their pet may have been poisoned by the algae.
Check your regional council website for current warnings on the toxic algae risk at popular rivers and lakes in your area.
The advice Horizons Regional Council’s Barry Gilliland has for the public is, “If you see it, it’s best to stay away”.