Blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) are non-pathogenic photosynthetic bacteria that grow in outdoor water bodies and produce toxins such as microcystins, cylindrospermopsin and anatoxin-a. They can grow quickly and form large blooms, especially in warm weather.
Toxic blooms occur throughout California and are increasing in number, frequency and severity.
Dog and livestock deaths in California have been linked to blue-green algal toxins.
Animals can be exposed to blue-green algae and its toxins by:
CLINICAL SIGNS, DIAGNOSIS and TREATMENT: Limited funding may be available to cover physical examination of ill dogs with suspected poisoning.
BIOSPECIMEN COLLECTION, HANDLING and SHIPPING: Limited funding may be available to collect and analyze some of the suggested canine specimens.
REPORTING: Reporting confirmed or suspected cases will help prevent other animal and human exposures to blue-green algal toxins. Please complete the Illness Information Section on the Report Form available at https://drinc.ca.gov/cyanohab/. For questions call the State Water Resources Control Board at (844) 729-6466.
†Stomach, rumen or GI contents, water and, for anatoxin-a only, serum and urine. See the following pages for details. Necropsy is encouraged when applicable.
‡ Rankin et al., 2013, Toxins, 5, 1051-63 (78.4 mg/lb, mixed with water, PO, q 24 h).
*Merck Veterinary Manual
ANIMAL BIOSPECIMEN COLLECTION, HANDLING & SHIPPING
Domestic Animals – Diagnostic testing of tissues from animals with suspected blue-green algae toxicosis is available at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS), with the exception of small animal liver histopathology (see the table)
For current fees & analysis turn-around times: contact CAHFS - http://cahfs.ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-8700.
Live Animal: For biological specimen submission, download and complete the standard CAHFS submission form. See text below for possible funding.
*Turn-around time for analysis is approximately 10-14 days for all samples. Contact CAHFS staff for current information.
Submit samples on ice for overnight delivery to CAHFS.
Potential Funding Source for Canine Cases: For California Veterinary Medical Association members ONLY when testing is conducted at CAHFS. Funding may be available to cover costs of all the following:
Apply for funding by completing the Illness Information Section of the Freshwater Bloom Incident Report Form at https://drinc.ca.gov/cyanohab/
Dead Animal: Necropsy
Necropsy is highly recommended to assist diagnosis. For necropsies done at a private veterinary clinic, include on the CAHFS submission form the description of any gross abnormalities. CAHFS will conduct large animal necropsies and histopathology. CAHFS does not conduct canine histopathology.
Contact CAHFS (530-752-8700, http://cahfs.ucdavis.edu ) for non-livestock species necropsy availability, cost and turn-around time. CAHFS does not return carcasses to owners post-necropsy.
Dead Animal: For specimen submission download and complete the standard CAHFS submission form.
Include any lesions:
Large animal – send to CAHFS
Small animal – send to IDEXX, Antech or other private vet lab
* Analysis turn-around time is approximately 10-14 days for all samples. Contact CAHFS staff for current information. For samples sent to CAHFS, submit samples on ice with overnight delivery. For small animal liver samples, contact private lab such as: IDEXX — www.idexx.com/smallanimal/ or 888-433-9987 Antech — www.antechdiagnostics.com or 888-397-8378
Non-domestic Animals - CAHFS can analyze only the gastric contents of wildlife suspected of blue-green algae poisoning. Blue-green algal toxin analysis is not available through any other California State Agency at this time.
Download and complete the standard CAHFS submission form.
For additional assistance contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435. Available 24 hours/day, 365 days/year. There is a $65 consultation fee.
Technical information in this fact sheet was reviewed by veterinarians from the California Department of Public Health Veterinary Public Health Section, California Department of Food and Agriculture Animal Health Branch and CAHFS Toxicology Laboratory.