Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Blue green algae a threat to hunting dogs

This report, from the Wisconsin DNR, brings up an issue of
great potential importance to all hunters (not just waterfowlers,
because upland bird hunters end up near many water sources, too).
Read this and brush up on the signs to look for in the field, and
to look for in your dog should it ingest water loaded with
blue-green algae and become sick… 

MADISON, WI – The estimated 50,000 or more
Wisconsin waterfowl hunters whose favorite hunting partner has four
legs, a tail, and doesn’t mind swimming in cold water may want to
take some precautions against their friend coming down with serious
illness from ingesting water containing potentially toxic
blue-green algae.

“Working together with dogs is part of a long and rich tradition
for many waterfowl hunters,” said Kent Van Horn, DNR Migratory Game
Bird Ecologist. “Sometimes, care of these furry hunting companions
requires extra awareness. While not widespread, potential toxicity
from blue-green algae is still a concern for waterfowl hunting

Recent cases included three Wisconsin dog deaths from blue-green
algae poisoning reported in 2008, two in 2009, and thankfully none
in 2010.

With about 80,000 waterfowl hunters, Wisconsin has the third
highest number of waterfowl hunters in the country. About 60
percent of Wisconsin waterfowl hunters use dogs to retrieve their
harvested ducks and geese.

What is commonly referred to as blue-green algae are actually
cyanobacteria, microscopic organisms that are true bacteria. They
are present in all lakes, marshes, ponds and ditches across
Wisconsin but live unrecognized except for when the right
conditions develop and the cyanobacteria grow quickly, creating
“blooms” across the water surface that look like paint, thick scum,
or “pea soup.” When blooms occur, cyanobacteria can release toxins
that can cause illness and even death in many animals ingesting
them, including dogs and humans. While blooms of blue-green algae
occur most frequently in summer, blooms have been observed in
Wisconsin in fall and winter. During the fall waterfowl hunting
season, toxic bloom conditions can develop on warm fall days or on
lakes that are in fall turn over.

Cyanobacteria “bloom densities” can develop in surface waters
with high concentrations of nutrients, particularly phosphorus.
Blooms tend to grow when there is a lot of sunlight, the
temperature is warm, the water is shallow and there is little wind.
Sometimes when the wind kicks up, blue-green algae will pile up on
the windward side of the lake.

Hunters should be on the lookout for the following conditions in
the field: a green “pea soup” appearance, surface water blooms that
are green, blue, red, or brown in color, or foamy scum layers, mats
or blobs.

Hunters should adhere to the following advice of the
Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association to help protect their
dog’s health:

• Provide a good supply of clean fresh water for your dog to
drink while hunting.

• Don’t let dogs submerse themselves in water that has a

If your dog does get in water with a bloom, wash your dog
thoroughly before it starts to groom or lick itself.

Be sure to wear gloves when you wash your dog and avoid direct
contact with any “algae” present.

• After potential exposure, watch your dog for signs of
lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures. If
your animal shows any of these symptoms contact your veterinarian

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