Animal Health Update: Issue 22


Issue 22

Summer Brings Potential for Toxins

Harmful Algal Blooms

dog in water

The warm weather of summer brings a potential for harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs occur when cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), which is commonly found in lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds, grows quickly and produces toxins. This commonly occurs when there is stagnant water, a high level of nutrients, and warm weather. These algal “blooms” often look like bright green paint has spilled over the surface of the water, but can be other colors too (e.g., blue-green, purple) and look like it has flecks, foam, or mats floating on it, depending on the type of algae and if it is alive or dying. 

There are several types of toxins that can be produced; however, most commonly it’s microcystin. These toxins have the potential to make people and animals sick and typically affect the liver or the nervous system.

Animals, especially dogs, typically get ill from HABs when they ingest water from toxin-containing water bodies. Animals may also ingest affected water when swimming. Symptoms can develop very quickly and may include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and seizures. This is an urgent situation, as death of the animal can occur rapidly depending on how much toxin is consumed. 

An animal that has had contact with suspected or confirmed contaminated water should be taken to their veterinarian immediately for examination and possible treatment. Samples of fur and stomach samples may be sent to a veterinary diagnostic lab for diagnosis. 

The following measures are advised:

  • Clients and their pets should not swim or drink water from areas of water bodies that could have HABs in them. If most of the water body appears to be affected, they should completely avoid it.
  • Bathe a pet if it swam in suspect or known HAB-affected water.
  • Seek veterinary care if an animal may have ingested contaminated water.  
  • Report suspect water bodies to the Department of Environmental Quality at 800-662-9278 or
  • Ill clients should contact their physicians.

Algal toxicities in animals are reportable. Report a case by contacting MDARD at 800-292-3939 or by completing and submitting a Reporting a Reportable Disease Form. So far in 2018, there has been one reported case of algal toxicity in animals. The case was in a dog that drank from a lake in Genesee County that subsequently tested positive for HABs. 

More information on HABs can be found on the DEQ’s website.

New Tick found in Five States

Longhorned Tick

longhorned tick

In November 2017, the exotic East Asian tick (H. longicornis), also known as the Longhorned tick or bush tick, was identified in a sheep in New Jersey. This was the first time this tick was identified in the U.S. and it was confirmed that this type of tick overwintered and is potentially established in New Jersey. Since November, this tick has also been identified in Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Longhorned tick primarily affects livestock and is known for its ability to reproduce rapidly. It also known to use deer and other wildlife species as hosts. In countries where the Longhorned tick is prevalent, it has been found to carry many diseases of concern including Anaplasma, Babesia, Rickettsia, and Ehrlichia.

Much is still unknown about the Longhorned tick; however, this exotic tick emphasizes the importance of protecting animals from tick bites. Additionally, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services tracks the types of ticks found in Michigan through its free tick identification program. Any time a tick is found on an animal or person, it's important that the tick or a picture of the tick is submitted to DHHS. By tracking ticks found in Michigan, we can work together to protect both human and animal health. For more information on ticks, the diseases they carry, and the tick identification program, visit

FDA Warns Against Contamination

Pentobarbital Use in Food Animals

Pet Food

There have been several reports in the news concerning pets becoming ill or dying after eating pet food containing sodium pentobarbital. The Food and Drug Administration advises against using animals euthanized with sodium pentobarbital in pet feed. 

If you euthanize an animal with sodium pentobarbital for a producer, it's important that you explain to the producer that the drug used to euthanize has the potential to make other animals sick if ingested or sent to a renderer to make pet food. These animals shouldn't be rendered; alternatively, you can discuss other options for disposal in accordance with state and local laws with producers.

For more information on pentobarbital contamination, visit the FDA's website.

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6th Floor, P.O. Box 30017
Lansing, MI 48909


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