Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms: New York Sea Grant Brochure Alerts Pet Owners Of Potentially Lethal Toxins In NY Waters

The following article was first published in September 2014. Due to the timeliness of the topic, Sea Grant wants to share it again.

OSWEGO, NY – New York Sea Grant has announced the publication of Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms. Harmful algal blooms, also identified as HAB, especially in fresh water, are overgrowths of cyanobacteria, or blue green algae, that cause water quality problems in lakes and ponds, including the occasional production of potent toxins. These toxins can poison people, household pets, waterfowl and livestock.

Because HABs are increasing in many areas, the number of dog poisonings from cyanobacterial toxins is also on the rise. To keep canine companions safe around local waterways, this important brochure provides pet owners a safety checklist of symptoms of HABs poisoning and steps that can be taken if a dog is exposed to HABs.

Author Dave MacNeill, a NYSG extension educator from SUNY Oswego, began noticing more and more reports of dogs becoming ill from the toxins produced by HABs in the Lake Ontario area.

People might get sick, but dogs are actually dying, said MacNeill.

In compiling this brochure, MacNeill enlisted the aid of Dr. Karyn Bischoff, a toxicologist at Cornell University Veterinary College; Scott Kishbaugh of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation; Dr. Lesley V. D’Anglada of the USEPA; John Wickham, NOAA National Ocean Service; and colleagues in the Sea Grant network.

Bischoff explains that cyanobacterial poisonings are under-reported in domestic animals because people have not been aware of the problem.

Dr. Greg Boyer of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry who has researched HABs extensively, from blue green algae in upstate lakes to brown tide in Long Island bays, and Dr. Chris Gobler of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, an internationally known expert in HABs, were also consulted on the brochure.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research Funding provided funding for the development and printing of this publication that is also available for download at For more information, contact Dave MacNeill at New York Sea Grant at 315-312-3042.