Wisconsin Beachgoers: Be aware of risks blue-green algae poses to you and your pets

Local News
Early blue green algae on Lake Winnebago_7691296691995888940

(WFRV) – Before you take a dip in the lake this weekend, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding beachgoers and their pets to watch for blue-green algae and know the risks. 

According to the DNR, blue-green algae can cause illness to people and pets if swallowed or inhaled in water droplets, or irritation if rubbed on the skin under clothing, so Wisconsinites planning to sit lakeside this weekend should stay cautious.

DNR officials report that blue-green algae are bacteria often referred to as “pond scum.” Blue-green algae are most often green but can also be blue, tan, reddish-purple, or brown. Authorities say blue-green algae generally grow in lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams when the water is warm and enriched with nutrients.

The DNR is encouraging residents to use the following tips to stay safe while enjoying a swim:

  • Do not swim in water that looks like “pea soup,” green or blue paint, or that has a scum layer or puffy blobs floating on the surface.
  • Do not boat, water ski, etc., over such water (people can be exposed through inhalation).Do not let children play with scum layers, even from shore.
  • Do not let pets or livestock swim in, or drink, waters experiencing blue-green algae blooms.
  • Always take a shower after encountering any surface water (whether or not a blue-green algae bloom appears to be present; surface waters may contain other species of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses).
  • Try to avoid swallowing lake water, no matter how clean it looks, since it may have bacteria, viruses, or parasites in it that could make you sick.

Blue-green algae not only poses a risk to people but also to pets. Officials say that if pets consume large quantities of blue-green algae, and if those blue-green algae happen to be producing toxin(s), their pets can become very ill, and even die.

To ensure your pets are safe, the DNR is giving Wisconsinites some tips to follow: 

  • Do not let pets swim in, or drink, waters experiencing blue-green algae blooms or noticeably green water.
  • Keep dogs out of shallow, stagnant waters where blue-green algae may be growing on the bottom and dislodged by disturbance. If people shouldn’t swim there, dogs shouldn’t either.
  • Always offer fresh, clean water for pets to drink instead of lake water.
  • Always wash dogs off with clean water immediately after they swim, so they don’t lick any algae from their fur.
  • Supervise pets when they are outside so they don’t eat algal scum accumulated on the shore, floating mats of algae or drink lake water.
  • If a pet eats grass, avoid using lake water for lawn irrigation if blooms are present.
  • If there’s any doubt about what is in the water, keeping pets out is the safest course of action.

Officials note that symptoms of water intoxication and heatstroke in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of coordination. The DNR is also asking the public to report significant blue-green algae blooms at DNRHABS@wisconsin.gov

For more information on blue-green algae, including symptoms of exposure and environmental concerns, visit the DNR Blue-Green Algae webpage.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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