The last part of this blog series discusses Cyanobacteria, which is more commonly known as toxic blue-green algae. This algae can be found in freshwater lakes, streams and ponds, and some types can produce toxins that sicken cats, dogs, horses, cows and birds. It appears on the top of the water as if it were painted a blue-green color, and some types grow on rocks and sticks on the bottom of the body of water.
The floating algae tends to cause liver disease, which can be seen as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. The types of algae that grow on rocks along the bottom are more likely to cause neurologic signs (tremors or seizures), and can be very dangerous, very quickly. Some types of algae also cause skin irritation. Not all algae produce toxins, but because you don’t know just by looking if the algae is dangerous, try not to allow your dog to drink from algae-covered water and do not encourage them to fetch algae-covered rocks from the bottom of creeks and rivers. If there are signs near a creek, pond, or river indicating toxic algae in the area, keep your dog out of the water! And, of course, if you are worried your pet may be showing signs of toxicity, seek veterinary care immediately.
The next water-borne infection we want you to know about is an intestinal parasite called Giardia. Like other intestinal parasites, Giardia is transmitted by an animal ingesting feces from an infected animal. Because Giardia is a single-celled organism, not a worm, it can also be spread in water where an infected animal has defecated. Gross!
Signs of Giardia include diarrhea, which may come and go instead of being a problem all the time, and weight loss or failure to gain weight. Sometimes Giardia doesn’t cause any problems, particularly in adult dogs with healthy immune systems, but it can be passed to other animals in the house, particularly puppies, and rarely even to people.
Giardia is one of the parasites we check for when we send a fecal sample to the lab, so any time your pet is being examined for diarrhea, it is smart to bring a fecal sample with you to your pet’s visit. We also like to check a sample on all puppies and kittens, who commonly have parasites, including Giardia. We've been seeing a lot of this parasite lately, so do your best to limit exposure by keeping your dog from eating the poop of other animals, or drinking out of puddles and streams.
It's the tail end of the rainy season so what better topic than the dangers of standing water! This is going to be a three-part post, spaced out through the rest of the month.
The first hazard we would like to talk about is Leptospirosis, which can be spread from animal to animal but also to humans. Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. Risk factors for exposure to leptospirosis include drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, on rural properties or on hiking or camping trips, but even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs. The bacteria are transmitted through animal urine, particularly in a standing body of water, which your dog may drink or play in.
While exposure to the bacteria does not always result in illness, dogs can develop severe problems such as kidney and liver failure, which can even be fatal. To be safe, we recommend your dog be vaccinated against lepto if you go camping, hiking and to lakes or beaches, or if your dog has any exposure to wildlife. Because one of the more dangerous strains of leptospirosis is spread by rats, even dogs living in urban areas are at risk!
Is your dog vaccinated against leptospirosis? We offer the vaccine at our hospital and can make you an appointment if needed. If your dog has never been vaccinated against lepto then we will need to start with the first vaccine and follow up with a booster vaccine in 3 weeks. After that booster, the vaccine is repeated each year. We can send email reminders and postcard reminders that tell you what vaccines and when they are due, so that protection doesn’t fade.
Let us know if you have any questions about leptospirosis!
Our technicians and doctors write posts for this blog, hoping to keep our clients informed and entertained. We hope you find their topics helpful and fun to read about!
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ANIMAL HOSPITAL IN FAIRFIELD
200 Alaska Ave.
Fairfield, CA 94533
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