New Brunswick

Blue-green algae in the St. John River may have killed dog, vet says

A dog that died after swimming in the St. John River may have been exposed to blue-green algae, according to a Fredericton veterinarian.
A bloom of blue-green algae as shown by researchers. (Submitted by: University of Alberta)

A dog that died after swimming in the St. John River may have been exposed to blue-green algae, according to a Fredericton veterinarian. 

Dr. Colleen Bray of the Douglas Animal Hospital said she suspects a dog that came into the hospital died after ingesting the algae, which is toxic to cats and dogs.

She said this is the first case of its type she is aware of this year.

She said the dog was swimming in the river near downtown Fredericton and died before it arrived at the animal hospital, about 25 minutes after first presenting with symptoms.

While a test will need to be done to prove the cause of death, Bray said blue-green algae toxicity is a likely fit.

"The presenting signs were so sitting with that, that I wanted to get the word out," said Bray. "This is the time of year that it happens."

Several dog deaths 1 year ago

The suspected death come one year after several dogs died after coming into contact with blue-green algae in the river.

The algae — also called cyanobacteria — creates toxins that are harmful to humans, but deadly to animals. It can kill pets in as little as 30 minutes.

Bray said the symptoms are neurological in nature and can present within minutes of pets ingesting the bacteria.

"It can cause them to become shaky and wobbly, what we describe as ataxic," said Bray. "They will vomit and they go from normal to very abnormal very quickly."

Bray recommends that people keep their pets out of rivers, lakes and standing pools of water for the foreseeable future. If they think their pets have ingested blue-green algae, she said to go to a vet immediately.

In late June, Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, warned New Brunswickers to exercise caution when around the water over the summer. 

"While enjoying any recreational water, there are always things you can do [to] help protect yourself," she said. 

People should look for signs of an algae bloom and avoid coming into contact with water if they suspect the cyanobacteria might be present, said Russell.

 A spokesperson for the city of Fredericton said, like last year, they will follow the province's lead when it comes to issuing warnings about the river.