Blue green algae not a concern for Columbia dogs

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COLUMBIA - Columbia dog owners shouldn't worry much about blue-green algae because there has been only one incident in 30 years of the algae in a nearby lake, officials said.

Mike Griggs, Director of the Columbia Parks and Recreation department, said this algae is really not something to be overly concerned about. 

"I would say for most users no, it's not really that big of a concern," said Griggs. "We are checking them all daily and if we ever find something we will let them know but right now it's been decades and we've only had one outbreak."

University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center, Rolling Hills Veterinary Hospital - Keene, Peach Tree Animal Hospital, Pet Center Ltd, Horton Animal Hospital – Northeast and Forum and Columbia Pet Hospital all said they have not seen any dogs that have been exposed to the algae. 

Griggs said the algae will usually develop during the late summer months of August and September so this is the time to watch for it. He said last year they had an outbreak at Stephens Lake Park.

"First of all we closed the lake for swimming, we had allowed people to swim in there but we closed it for that and also we put up signs around there because we didn't want dogs drinking the water that are on leash walking around the park," Griggs said.

Blue-green algae is a bacteria called cyanobacteria. Griggs said that cyanobacteria is usually created by fecal matter and fertilizer being dumped in ponds and lakes.

"After a heavy rain I certainty wouldn't recommend for a dog to swim," said Griggs.

Colin Reich, Assistant Teaching Professor of Small Animal Emergency at MU, explained the symptoms dogs will show if they have been exposed. He said dogs will typically start to show signs within one to five hours after exposure.

"They can start vomiting, they might be weak, they will be very lethargic and they'll loose their appetite. Dogs will go into liver or kidney failure," said Reich.

But while Reich said it is serious, it shouldn't stop Columbia residents from allowing their dogs to swim, because the risk is low. 

"I would keep it in mind, take precautions, but it doesn't mean dogs shouldn't be allowed to swim in lakes and ponds," said Reich.

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