Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms: NY Sea Grant Shares Risk Reminder for Pet Owners

OSWEGO, NY – As air and water temperatures warm, New York Sea Grant is reminding people with dogs that enjoy waterfront areas about the health risk posed by harmful algal blooms or HABs. Freshwater HABs are overgrowths of blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, that impact water quality and may produce deadly toxins.

The Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms Fact Sheet from New York Sea Grant is packed with information for pet owners.
The Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms Fact Sheet from New York Sea Grant is packed with information for pet owners.

David B. MacNeill, a New York Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist based in Oswego, NY, developed a Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms Fact Sheet after learning of increasing reports of canine illness and deaths in areas impacted by algal blooms.

The Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms Fact Sheet, online at, answers these critical questions:
. What are harmful algal blooms
. When are HABS most likely to occur
. What do HABs look like
. How do you know if HAB toxins are present
. What are signs of possible cyanobacterial poisoning in dogs
. How can you reduce the risk to dogs from cyanobacterial toxins
. How can I report a possible HAB in New York State, and
. How can I reach a 24-Hour Pet Poison Hotline.

‘Harmful algal blooms are an issue that impacts the entire Great Lakes region. Dog owners need to be more aware of the potential risk from HABs and learn ways to reduce that risk to protect their pets. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure where dogs and HABs are concerned,’ said MacNeill.

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can impact liver function, disrupt the nervous system, and cause skin irritation in dogs that ingest the toxins from drinking from lakes, ponds, and mudholes along infected waters; from cleaning wet fur; and from eating waterfront debris.

To develop the Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms Fact Sheet, MacNeill enlisted the aid of veterinarians and toxicologists with the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, US Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA National Ocean Service, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and Sea Grant Network colleagues.

MacNeill has organized several workshops to broaden the science and understanding of HABS by coastal stakeholders, including researchers, waterfront resource managers, community and public health leaders, marina operators and other business owners, and sportsmen and citizen groups.

‘The more we know and share about harmful algal blooms and their impact, the better we can address coordinated ways to minimize that impact on people, animals, the environment, and coastal communities,’ MacNeill said.

New York Sea Grant maintains Great Lakes offices in Buffalo, Newark, and Oswego, NY. For updates on New York Sea Grant activities, has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links.