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September 18, 2018

New York Sea Grant brochure alerts pet owners of potentially lethal toxins in NY waters


OSWEGO, NY – New York Sea Grant has announced the publication of Dogs and Harmful Algal Blooms. Harmful algal blooms, especially in the state’s fresh water, are overgrowths of cyanobacteria (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.

Water-loving dogs like Walter may be at health risk from algal toxins. The number of dog poisonings from these harmful toxins is on the rise.

Water-loving dogs like Walter may be at health risk from algal toxins. The number of dog poisonings from these harmful toxins is on the rise.

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 people’s 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/NYSDEC; 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 haven’t been aware of the problem. That could be changing since HABs have become more prominent in the news, as exemplified by, the recent microcystin bloom in Lake Erie that affected the water supply of Toledo, Ohio.’

“This brochure will be a great addition to New York Sea Grant’s outreach activities informing the public and management community of the rise and threats of freshwater CyanoHABs,” said John Wickham, program manager with NOAA National Ocean Service.

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

We generally think of New York’s freshwater resources as being the state’s two Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, and New York’s great river systems and their tributaries. However, in summer 2014, blue-greens have been detected in Suffolk County on Eastern Long Island.

Said Gobler, “NYSDEC now monitors and reports on blue-green algae blooms throughout the state.  Despite its small size and limited number of lakes, Suffolk County has consistently had more lakes listed by NYSDEC for blue-green algae than any other county in NY State.”

Wherever you may take your pet as you enjoy New York’s water resources, be sure to read this publication and pass it on.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research Funding provided funding for the development and printing of this publication.

The publication is available for download at http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/btide/pdfs/HABsBrochure-0814.pdf.

Find more information on harmful algal blooms on the New York Sea Grant website at http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/articles/t/harmful-algal-blooms-what-s-new.

For interested groups, multiple hard copies may be made available. Please contact MacNeill at 315-312-3042, [email protected]

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