Waushara County Health News

Learn what waterfowl hunting season can mean for your dog


The estimated 45,000 Wisconsin waterfowl hunters whose favorite hunting partner has four legs, a tail, and doesn’t mind swimming in cold water may want to take some water safety precautions for their furry friend this fall. While not widespread, toxicity from blue-green algae is still a concern for waterfowl hunting dogs in September and October.

Can blue-green algae still form blooms in the fall?

Blue-green algae are infamous for making a fall exit by forming blooms during warmer days and lake turnover events. Lake turnover is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the spring and fall when the cooler top and warmer bottom layers of a lake switch positions, causing the water to mix. Deeper water containing less oxygen and more decaying matter rises to the surface. While this temporary environment may be stressful to many aquatic organisms, blue-green algae near the surface can thrive because of their preference for warm water and ability to photosynthesize, produce oxygen, and fix their own nitrogen. With this advantage, blue-green algae can still form blooms in the fall

Why should hunters be concerned about their dogs?

Hunting dogs might retrieve an animal from a location in a river, lake, or pond where higher concentrations of blue-green algae and their toxins are present. As dogs are retrieving from surface water, they may ingest impacted water incidentally as they carry a carcass while swimming, or intentionally as their thirst grows from rigorous activity.

What can hunters do to protect their dogs?

Hunters should: Be on the lookout for potentially unsafe water conditions and avoid water that looks like green pea soup, appears to have spilled latex paint on the surface, is discolored, or has surface scum, foam, or algal mats; bring along a supply of clean, fresh water for their dogs to drink; prevent their dogs from submersing themselves in water that is clearly discolored or has surface scum, foam, or algal mats; stop their dogs from licking algae or scum off their fur after they swim; wash their dogs off thoroughly with fresh, clean water if they swim in discolored or scummy water.

After a potential exposure, hunters should watch their dog for signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures. If their animal shows any of these symptoms, they should contact their veterinarian immediately.