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'30 to 60 minutes and the dog is gone' : Local veterinarian explains dangers of toxic blue-green algae

On Aug. 14, Halifax Regional Municipality issued a public advisory for both Lake Banook and Lake Micmac due to the presence of algae blooms
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(stock photo)

UPDATE: On Tuesday evening, Aug. 14, Halifax Regional Municipality issued a risk advisory for both Lake Banook and Lake Micmac due to the presence of algae blooms. They are recommending residents avoid swimming in both lakes until further notice.

A Bedford veterinarian says it's rare to have an animal die from blue-green algal toxicity, but when it does happen, it's very quick.

This after Halifax Regional Municipality issued a public advisory Friday warning about suspected blue-green algae blooms in Lake Banook.

"One of the suspected algae blooms is just west of the Paddler's Cove facility at 300 Prince Albert Rd.," they said in the news release. "There may also be a second bloom located further west along the same stretch of shoreline, closer to the intersection of Prince Albert Road and Sinclair Street."

They are asking the public to avoid swimming or allowing pets in the affected area until they can confirm it's safe.

Last month, three dogs in New Brunswick died quickly after being exposed to toxins found in the algae.

Dr. Jeff Goodall of the Sunnyview Animal Hospital said anatoxins -- which are produced by cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae -- attack the nervous system.

"It's really quick, 30 to 60 minutes and the dog is gone," he told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show. "Any animal can be affected, large and small."

All it takes is for the animal to drink contaminated water, or even lick their feet after walking through it.

Goodall said hunting dogs are particularly at risk because of how much time they spend in stagnant lakes and ponds.

"The anatoxin will cause the animal to start to drool very quickly, they'll become unable to walk and they'll have respiratory compromised," he explained. "People will blame it on the heat, but it's actually the toxin kicking in. They become disoriented, tremors, paralysis and it's sadly over."

Humans are also at risk from blue-green algal toxins. If someone goes in contaminated water, it can cause eyes and skin to get itchy and irritated and may result in hives, rashes and blisters.

"And if you touch your fingers to your mouth after touching the algae, you can poison yourself," Goodall said. "You can't boil the water to make it any safer, the key is to avoid it."

Halifax Regional Municipality says if someone swallows or inhales contaminated water, they may experience headaches, fever, sore throat, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. 

"A bloom can appear as surface scum, foam or a mat and/or discoloured water and can be blue, blue-green, green, red, brown or yellow in colour," they say on their website. "Some look like paint streaks on the water, while others may not affect the look of the water."

Municipal staff will be testing the water in Lake Banook to confirm what toxins are present. Spokesperson Brendan Elliott told those results should be available by mid-to-late next week.


Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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