Blue-Green Algae May Be Responsible For Liver Failure In Florida Dogs


Residents along the Florida coast have been dealing with some pretty awful algae this year. The problem has become especially bad near the St. Lucie river, where people say the dying algae “smells like death” and is causing respiratory issues, itchy eyes, runny noses, and nausea. The blue-green algae is so much of a nuisance that it has caused the closure of beaches and even local businesses.

But humans aren’t the only ones who can be negatively affected by blue-green algae, and when exposed, our pets can suffer extremely severe effects. reports that three dogs in the area have shown signs of liver failure, and that the blue-green algae may be to blame. In particular, they tell the story of Costa, a Golden Retriever who snuck away to play in the water and became extremely ill over the weekend.

Cyanobacteria may be responsible for the health issues people and pets in the area are experiencing. It’s usually found in fresh-water and brackish water in the hot summer months in nutrient-rich water.

It’s best to keep your pet away from the water, no swimming or drinking, if you see it. Most blue-green algae is NOT toxic, but it’s impossible to be certain without testing. Pet Poison Helpline suggests treating all blue-green algae as though it were poisonous just to stay safe. They note that even small exposures can be fatal in pets.

The toxic algae appears as blue-green “blooms” on the waters surface, or the water may look like “pea soup.” Because it floats on top of the water, it can be picked up in the wind and make you or your dog sick that way. According to, symptoms of exposure include:

  • excessive saliva or tears
  • muscle tremors
  • muscle rigidity
  • paralysis
  • blue discoloration of skin or mucous membranes
  • difficulty breathing

Symptoms of liver damage are:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • bloody/tar-like stools
  • weakness
  • pale mucous membranes
  • jaundice
  • seizures
  • disorientation
  • coma
  • shock

If you see any of these symptoms in your pet, seek treatment from your veterinarian right away. To reduce the risk of exposure, keep your dog away from areas where algae is known to be present.


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