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Dog owners urged to keep pets on lead around rivers and ponds due to increased algae risk

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging dog owners to keep pets on lead around rivers and ponds

DOG owners are being urged to keep their pets on a lead around rivers and ponds due to an increased algae risk.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warned pet owners to take extra precautions when walking dogs around freshwater bodies, as warm weather conditions spark concerns about an increased risk of toxic blue-green algae growth, which is potentially fatal to pets if ingested.

The warning comes after confirmed algal bloom sightings in lakes, ponds or rivers in around 50 locations across the UK, including Copeland Reservoir in Carrickfergus, Conlig Reservoir in Co Down and Craigavon Lakes.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are a group of bacteria that can contain dangerous toxins which can be harmful and potentially fatal to pets, livestock and birds if ingested even in small quantities.

The algae may appear as green or greenish-brown scum on the surface of water.

Dogs can swallow it by drinking water from an affected lake, river or pond or while licking their fur after going for a swim.

It is possible for dogs to come into contact with the bacteria even if they do not go into water for a paddle, as toxic blooms are often blown to the edges of water bodies.

Justine Shotton from the British Veterinary Association said they are urging pet owners to "keep dogs on a lead during walks near water bodies confirmed to have algal blooms this summer".

"The majority of blooms are toxic and it is impossible to tell the difference visually, so it is better to be safe than sorry," she said.

"It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of exposure. These commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, disorientation, trouble breathing, seizures, and blood in faeces.

"They can appear within a few minutes or hours of exposure, depending on the type of toxin ingested, and can cause liver damage and ultimately be rapidly fatal if left untreated.

"There is currently no known antidote for the toxins, so dog owners should seek prompt veterinary treatment to tackle their effects and ensure a good chance of recovery for their pet."

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