August 2019

Toxic Algae: Is it safe for my dogs to swim?

dog water surf

On a beautiful sunny August day, three dogs named Abby, Harpo, and Lizzy went for a swim at a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina. They were happy and healthy pups. And by the days’ end, all three were gone. The cause: toxic algae.

It sounds like a scene from The Blob or straight out of your worst nightmares. How can something as benign as a swim in a lake turn deadly? Sadly, these tragic stories are popping up in the news from the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the far reaches of the southeast. The good news is, knowledge is power. You can avoid these potentially devastating situations by being aware of your pet’s surroundings. Information is hard to find and often confusing, even for a veterinarian- so I put some information together that I hope you will find helpful. Here’s what all dog owners need to know about toxic algae blooms:

What is toxic algae?
Blooms of blue-green algae derive from small bacteria called cyanobacteria. In large numbers, these bacteria aggregate to resemble a greenish sludge on the surface of bodies of water. While the current blue-green algae blooms in the news are associated with lakes and ponds, algae blooms occur worldwide in all types of bodies of water. Some, but not all, forms of these algae produce deadly toxins. These blooms are called Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB).

Why is this happening so much lately?
While toxic blooms are nothing new, they do happen more frequently in the hot, sunny days of summer and fall. Summer rainstorms also dump nutrient-rich runoff into bodies of water, fueling the algae’s growth. Slow-moving water is more likely to experience blooms, hence the increased incidence in ponds and lakes versus oceans and rivers.

Do toxic blooms only affect dogs?
No, the toxic effects of HABs can affect many animals. We see these incidents most commonly in dogs because they spend more time swimming than other pets. In addition, they often swallow water while they are swimming and are more likely to ingest a toxic dose.

These toxins can cause illness in people, birds, and other wildlife. In addition, the toxins can be absorbed by fish and shellfish, causing a chain reaction in the food supply. A 2015 outbreak on the West Coast decimated fisheries, causing die-offs of fish and shellfish from Alaska all the way down the California coast.

What are the effects of the toxins?
When a dog swallows water with algal toxins or grooms the algae off his fur, the effects can be seen in minutes to hours. Algae produce different types of toxins that affect the liver, GI tract, and neurologic system. With liver disease, clinical signs start in minutes to hours and include vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, seizures, and weakness. With neurotoxins, pets can also fall ill in minutes to hours. Affected animals produce excessive saliva, experience tremors, have difficulty breathing, seizures, or collapse. Both types are deadly. Even touching toxic algae can cause skin irritation or respiratory inflammation.

Regardless of the specific toxin, any of these symptoms after swimming in a lake should be considered a medical emergency. There is no known antidote to the toxin. Your veterinarian can provide supportive care and treat the symptoms, but sadly many dogs succumb to the illness.

dog swim fetch

How do I know if a lake or pond is experiencing a HAB? Is all algae toxic?
Not all algae produces deadly toxins. In fact, most do not. That’s the good news. The bad news is, one cannot tell simply by looking whether an algal bloom is toxic or not. Blooms often produce a greenish scum on the surface of the water, but can appear brown as well. Sometimes there is no mat on the surface at all and the water simply has a greenish tint. If you see water that looks like this, don’t take chances. Keep yourself and your pets away unless you have specifically been given the green light by your local municipality.

According to the CDC, the following warning signs indicate a body of water that is potentially unsafe:
Avoid entering or playing in bodies of water that: smell bad look discolored have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)

Is there an agency that monitors water safety?
Suspect water can be tested to determine whether toxins are present in the water. Just because the water in one lake is deemed safe, it doesn’t mean the lake a few miles away is also safe.

To reiterate: these blooms are found across the globe, in lakes, ponds, and oceans. Your county or state health department is usually your best resource for finding out the current status in your area. Some states list “HAB Incident Reports” indicating harmful algal blooms in the region, such as this site maintained by the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

A last word of caution: In an era of tightening budgets, routine monitoring is not the standard in many places and testing may not occur until after a problem is noted.

When in doubt, just stay out!

Vegan Berry Nice Cream Recipe

woman couch yogurt

It’s summertime and it’s peak berry season — so you know what that means. It’s time for a berry infused frozen treat! Everyone will come running to try this delicious nice cream recipe, packed with vegan protein. It’s a healthy, simple and extremely satisfying snack.

Ingredients

  • 3 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries (or frozen fruit of your choice)
  • 1 scoop Life’s Abundance Vanilla Plant Protein
  • ½ cup coconut milk

Directions
Peel three ripe bananas and freeze in an airtight container overnight. In a high speed blender, combine the frozen bananas, frozen raspberries, Vanilla Plant Protein and coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately or store in the freezer.

Pet Vaccine Facts: Dogs vs. Cats

kid vet cat

It’s National Pet Immunization Awareness Month! Did you know that in addition to the “core vaccines” all cats and dogs need, there are also non-core diseases that you can get vaccines for as well? Your family vet will tell you which non-core vaccines your pet should receive, depending on factors such as their age and breed.

In honor of this awareness month, talk to your vet to make sure your four-footers have their latest vaccines and boosters. Always keep your vaccination records and schedule annual checkups for your furry family members to ensure they stay healthy and happy!

infographic

6 Foods That Will Give Your Teeth Something To Smile About

girl smile sunset

We often eat for our body's health — which is a great thing — but how often do your teeth and gums weigh in on your nutritional decisions?  Many of us forget that the food we eat can help us keep our teeth clean.

Just about anybody can tell you that sweets aren't good for your teeth. Those pesky sugars in candy, soft drinks and even sticky, dried fruits can wreak havoc in the form of cavities. But enough with this negativity! Rather than living a life of avoidance to protect your teeth, start reaching for foods that have a lot to offer your pearly whites (and the pink flesh that cradles them).

There are a lot of great foods out there that help keep your teeth clean and your smile healthy! Here are six toothsome choices that can keep your teeth clean:

1. Dairy. No, it doesn't make your teeth whiter. It does something far better: the calcium in milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products keeps the enamel strong. Plus, a lot of dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, which is linked to lower rates of tooth decay in children. Even better, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that kids eat certain cheeses as a snack or after a meal. “Cheeses such as aged cheddar, swiss, mozzarella and Monterey jack stimulate the flow of saliva, clearing the mouth of food debris and acting as a buffer to neutralize the acids that attack teeth. The calcium and phosphorous found in cheese also reduce or prevent decreases in pH levels of saliva and promote remineralization of tooth enamel.” Huzzah. Pass the cheese board!

2. Get your crunch on. No, silly, not with chips. Crisp veggies and fruits — like celery and apples — are packed with water and fiber and do a great job cleaning as you chomp.  According to the American Dental Association, chewing stimulates saliva, which can wash away acids and food bits and keep your teeth clean. 

mushroom salad

3. Leafy greens.  Crunchy and fibrous greens like chard, kale and spinach help strengthen our gums and teeth. These leafy greens offer the boost of vitamin C many of us are missing in our oral care regimen. Even if you're not a salad person, it's easy to slip leafy greens into your soups and stews. You can even add our Greens Blend to your morning smoothie for a delicious shot of plant power and vitamin C. 

4. Green tea. Yes it's trendy and delicious. But did you know that green tea is super healthy for your mouth? Green tea is loaded with flavonoids, which contain compounds called catechins that fight cancer and act as antioxidants. “Catechins should be considered right alongside the better-known antioxidants like vitamins E and C as potent free radical scavengers and health supportive for this reason,” says a study from the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. “It has been suggested that green tea also promotes periodontal health by reducing inflammation, preventing bone resorption and limiting the growth of certain bacteria associated with periodontal diseases.” Drink up!

5. Raw onion. Phew! Really? Yes, it's true that raw onions might stink up your breath but some dentists have called them a “superfood for super teeth.” They contain antibacterial sulfur compounds that kill dreaded bacteria that lurk in the mouth and cause tooth decay.

6. Shiitake mushrooms. These mushrooms are currently being explored for their potential for oral health benefits. Recent studies have shown that shiitake mouthwash can improve good bacteria and destroy bad oral bacteria.  But are you brave enough to rinse your mouth twice a day with a pungent shiitake mushroom mouthwash?  If the idea of eating mushrooms instead is easier to swallow, try our Greens Blend drink mix.  Fortunately, it's delicious and comes complete with a 5-mushroom blend, including shiitake. 

Keep in mind just one thing. Although tasty, one should never replace brushing, flossing and gargling with chewing a mushroom or a piece of raw onion. Your significant others will thank you!

Is Therapy Training Right for Your Pet?

therapy-dog-connects-with-patient

Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is a wonderful way for your companion animal to help people in need. Registered therapy animals visit schools, hospitals, prisons, libraries, nursing homes and other facilities where interactions with pets could help people. Pet therapy activities, such as petting, brushing, walking, playing fetch, doing tricks or even something as simple as gazing into each other’s eyes, not only help people take their mind off their own problems, they can have physiological effects, too.

Oftentimes, animals can reach humans in a way that other people can’t, making them feel safe and unconditionally loved. There’s no denying that the human-animal bond is powerful. Fearful children and patients feel braver and stronger in the presence of a companion animal. Studies have chronicled numerous positive effects for hospital patients, including lowered blood pressure rates, heart rates and stress levels. Even though cats, birds, rabbits and other small animals make wonderful therapy workers, in this post we’ll be focusing on therapy dogs and what characteristics are needed for a good candidate.

Characteristics Well-Suited to Therapy Dog Requirements

To determine whether or not your dog is cut out for therapy work, keep in mind that the most successful therapy dogs really enjoy interacting with people, willingly allow strangers to pet them, are able to walk nicely on a leash without pulling, are able to remain calm around distractions and pay close attention to their handlers. These canines should be comfortable around children, as well as a variety of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, canes and walkers. They also need to be tolerant of potentially rough handling and jerky movements, as children and people suffering from illness may not be able to be as gentle as you or me. Additionally, dogs who are brave, like to nudge your hand for attention, or frequently put their head in your lap usually make for amazing therapy workers.

Generally speaking, most therapy dog training programs require your pooch to be at least one year old, have proof of up-to-date vaccinations and be tested to ensure they’re free from infectious organisms. To become a registered therapy animal, your dog must undergo a temperament evaluation to establish that his or her personality is a good fit for the program. Even though therapy dog requirements vary, the certification process usually involves two or three supervised visits to judge how well your dog reacts when faced with new environments.

How Do I Get My Therapy Dog Training Certification?

There are several national non-profit programs that certify dogs for pet therapy. Among these, Therapy Dogs International, Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Pet Partners are stellar organizations and great places to start learning more about this community of healers. 

If you feel like your companion animal might be well suited to this important work, contact one of the local chapters in your area. They will tell you everything you need to know about therapy dog training and how to register. Many of you will be happy to note that dogs need not be purebred for certification.

And, remember … a good therapy dog is only half of the partnership. You, as the handler, are vitally important to this equation. Be forewarned, it’s a significant investment of your time, and the work can be emotionally demanding. But most who do this work find the benefits to others far outweigh the personal costs.  

Have you ever had a personal experience with pet-assisted therapy? We would love to hear your story, just leave your comments in the section below.  

LINKS:

Alliance of Therapy Dogs https://www.therapydogs.com/

Pet Partners https://petpartners.org/

Therapy Dogs International https://www.tdi-dog.org