Algal bloom poisoning

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Cyanogenic algal blooms are caused by algae which have been reported to cause toxic gastroenteritis associated with ingestion during algal blooms.

These organisms release a toxic cyanobacteria which can be lethal when large quantities are consumed.

Species which are pathogenic to dogs include:

  • Microcystis aeruginosa[1]
  • Nodularia spumigena[2]

Cases of poisoning have been reported in the Netherlands and the USA, with dogs presenting with acute vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes and epistaxis[3].

Diagnosis is based on chemical analysis of vomitus using specific ELIZA tests, which usually contains > 5 x 103 μg/g of cyanobacterial dry-weight microcystin.

Severe toxicity usually results in an acute fulminating liver and kidney failure and coagulopathy, resulting in rapid death[4].

Postmortem lesions in dogs which have died include diffuse, acute, massive hepatic necrosis and hemorrhage, as well as acute necrosis of the renal tubular epithelium[5].

Treatment usually requires aggressive use of intravenous fluids, charcoal activated gastric lavage and cage rest.


  1. Lürling M & Faassen EJ (2013) Dog Poisonings Associated with a Microcystis aeruginosa Bloom in the Netherlands. Toxins (Basel) 5(3):556-567
  2. Harding WR et al (1995) Death of a dog attributed to the cyanobacterial (blue-green algal) hepatotoxin nodularin in South Africa. J S Afr Vet Assoc 66(4):256-259
  3. Walker SR et al (2008) Nebraska experience. Adv Exp Med Biol 619:139-152
  4. DeVries SE et al (1993) Clinical and pathologic findings of blue-green algae (Microcystis aeruginosa) intoxication in a dog. J Vet Diagn Invest 5(3):403-408
  5. van der Merwe D et al (2012) Investigation of a Microcystis aeruginosa cyanobacterial freshwater harmful algal bloom associated with acute microcystin toxicosis in a dog. J Vet Diagn Invest 24(4):679-687