Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

© Chad Cook

© Chad Cook

August 2009

Creature Comforts

A blue-green algae warning

Natasha Kassulke

While not widespread, three Wisconsin dog deaths reported in 2008 were attributed to blue-green algae poisoning, according to Kent Van Horn, DNR migratory waterfowl biologist.

That raises concern this season as about 85,000 waterfowl hunters converge on wetlands and waterways and about 60 percent of those hunters use dogs to retrieve their harvested ducks and geese.

Blue-green algae is present in lakes, marshes, ponds and ditches across Wisconsin but the population survives at low levels, unrecognized except for when conditions trigger a bloom and the algae move to the water surface. When these algae bloom, the results are quite visible. The blue-green algae can cause unpleasant "pea soup" water conditions and release toxins that can cause illness and even death in dogs and humans.

While algal blooms occur most often in summer, outbreaks have been observed in Wisconsin in fall and winter. During the fall waterfowl hunting season, toxic bloom conditions can develop on warm fall days or on lakes in fall turn over.

Hunters should be on the lookout for the following conditions in field: dense layers of blue-green algae on surface waters with high concentrations of nutrients, particularly phosphorus. Look for blooms with dense colors or a thick foamy layer that may be green, blue-green, reddish brown, or brown in color. The bloom may float to the surface forming foamy scummy layers, mats or blobs. Keep your dog out of the water if blue-green algae is present and the water looks like "pea soup" or green or blue paint.

Symptoms of blue-green algal toxin poisoning may range from lethargy and loss of appetite to seizures, vomiting and convulsions. Dogs are particularly susceptible to blue-green algal poisoning because scums can attach to their coats and be swallowed as the dog grooms its fur.

Social networking for pets

Web profile for Stewart Quigley...

Family: Five brothers, mom and dad; plus four human companions, a cat and a turtle.

Breed: Pug

Sex: male

Age: seven months

Home: Wisconsin

Hobbies: Long walks, chewing on toys and shoes and napping

Friends: I have 50 friends online

You knew it was coming. Dogbook and Catbook are social networking tools built on top of the Facebook platform. Pets use these social media sites to swap pictures and even messages – with the help of their owners, of course. They can list their favorite treats and even arrange meetings at local parks.

To use Dogbook, you must create a Facebook profile for yourself. Once you have such an account, you can add the Dogbook Application or Catbook Application. Visit Dogge Book or Catbook to get started. Or visit Petzume, a social site for every pet from dogs to fish and lizards. Itís free to join. Whatís next? Twitter for birds, anyone?

Wear blaze orange for a brighter and safer season

Whether hunting, camping, jogging or hiking, you don't want your dog to be mistaken for hunting prey. Be aware of hunting seasons and prepare to share the woods and paths with hunters. Staying visible and safe means keeping your pet on a leash (cats should remain indoors), staying on the trails and outfitting your pet with blaze orange when enjoying Wisconsin's outdoors.

It is easy to retrofit a dog with a vibrantly colored T-shirt, sweater or vest. Hunting outfitters, pet stores and businesses both in-store and online offer a variety of vests, collars, leashes, bandanas and blankets for dogs and even horses or llamas.

To outfit your pet, you will need to take some measurements including neck circumference, topline measurement (measure from the base of the collar to the base of the tail along the back), chest circumference, and midsection circumference. During the hunting season, also keep horses as close to your house and stables as possible. For pets in pens, consider painting blaze orange on a fence post or hanging blaze orange cloth from a fence line. Remember, in fall cover up with outdoor fashions for people and pets alike, the brighter the better!

Natasha Kassulke is Creative Products Manager for Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.