From the Toledo Blade‘s Steve Pollick:

If you are a waterfowl hunter who shares a blind or a boat with a beloved retriever, be sure to add one more item to your already long list of gear and gadgets — your cell phone with your veterinarian’s emergency number on speed-dial.

That is because toxic blue-green algae in sufficient quantity could sicken or kill your canine companion — and who does not know a Lab or Chessie that will not eat or lap up things that cannot be described even in impolite company?

Duck and goose season got under way yesterday in southern Michigan and opens Saturday in Ohio. Two forms of toxic blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, have been prevalent in explosive proportions in the region, so waterfowlers need to pay attention to this lurking, perhaps unrecognized threat to their dogs.

John Meeker, a veteran waterfowler from Maumee, can testify to the danger. He and his wife, Martha, recently took their much-beloved Chesapeake Bay retrievers to the old beach at Crane Creek, now part of Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area on Lake Erie in western Ottawa County.

“We took our dogs to throw bumpers,” Meeker began. He never thought to worry about toxic algae till the canines splashed into the lake. “They just hit the water like launched rockets.”

Immediately Meeker was startled to see “big sheets of green — like viscous emerald goo. It was almost like a science fiction film watching that stuff. What was fixed in our minds was, we thought the problem was at Maumee Bay State Park or to the east.”

Meeker said no warning signs were posted at Crane Creek, no longer a public park but included in the Magee public wildlife area. But he said he faults himself for not thinking first, for he knows better.

Any case, the Meekers hit the panic button and called a knowledgeable friend in Ann Arbor for advice. They proceeded to wash down the dogs with Fels-Naphtha soap, induce vomiting, dose them with vitamin k — all ultimately suggested by their Chessie breeder….

vets note that the onset of illness from these algal toxins is “rapid, from minutes to hours” with some forms, and “hours to days” with others. So don’t be too certain that Old Duke the black Lab is just fine after a day’s duck hunt on the lakefront.

“Clinical signs of acute toxicity include vomiting, weakness, paralysis, rash, seizures, or sudden death,” the state vets’ memorandum says.

Among suggested protective measures, the first will not wash in waterfowling — keep your dog on a leash and out of the water. Which leaves us with two more options:

• If your dog swims into affected water, do not let it lick its fur and, wearing gloves, wash it with clean water as soon as possible. Afterwards, you also should wash up.

• If your dog has symptons such as drooling, weakness, vomiting, staggering, and convulsions after being in bloom-affected water, call your veterinarian immediately.

“I tell people to watch out if they’re acting drunk,” said Dr. Gary Thompson, a Sylvania vet who writes a column for The Blade. Sometimes, the vet added, dog owners also may pick up on a “yellow-range look in their eyes on their gums, increased thirst, or urination.” All can be signs of liver failure associated with cyanobacterial poisoning.