The Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network: Special Edition July 2023

Anatoxin Poisoning in a Flat Coated Retriever

The Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network (FCRRN) think it is important to share further news about anatoxin poisoning.

Readers of the FCRRN’s newsletter might recall the sad news in August 2022 about Cove(1), a two-year-old flat coated retriever, who died due to poisoning from anatoxin-a and related analogues that came from cyanobacteria, formerly known as blue-green algae.

There has recently been further information published in news outlets(2,3) and by the Kennel Club(4).

Last year Jan and Paul Egginton from Worcestershire, Cove’s guardians, swiftly raised awareness among dog owners of the dangers posed by cyanobacteria and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science released a précis of the case to Vet Times(5).

The emergency treatment of the systemic effects of cyanobacteria toxins requires specialist veterinary care. However in the literature there are some actions that all guardians could take to try and prevent the ingestion of cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria are single celled bacteria found in water across the world and in normal concentrations they are helpful for the water ecology. However under certain conditions (high temperature, slow flow, low water level, inter alia) they can form high concentrations that can be seen by the naked eye and they can produce toxins that are harmful to animals – human, canine, et alia(6,7,8).

The high concentrations are known as colonies which can bloom and form columns below the surface and they can form a scum at the surface(9) which is often several centimetres thick. Colonies can be blue, green, red, brown, black, or combinations thereof.

To prevent the ingestion of cyanobacteria –

Visually: at the water edge, look for columns or scums of material.

Physically: use a strong stick or handle to lift the column or scum out of the water and look at the material carefully.

It MIGHT be potentially toxic cyanobacteria if:
– the stick appears to have a coating of paint on it

– you can see pinhead or smaller size spheres or irregular clumps

– the material resembles fine grass cuttings

– the water is murky and there is blue, green, red, brown, or black colour material.

It is NOT likely to be potentially toxic cyanobacteria if:

– the material is firmly attached to plants, stones, or the bottom so it will not lift out

– you see the material clinging to the stick and it is long and stringy

– the material contains roots or leaf-like structures; these are likely to be aquatic plants(10,11).

If you are in any doubt then do not let your dog enter or drink the water.

If you think there are potentially toxic cyanobacteria in the water and your dog enters the water, drinks from it, or eats something in or near it, then move away swiftly and wash the dog with a copious amount of uncontaminated fresh water(12).

Take your dog to a veterinary facility urgently.

Also, guardians are urged to report cyanobacteria blooms or scums to the Environment Agency’s(13) national incident hotline 0800 80 70 60.


It seems appropriate to reiterate that the FRCRRN recognise some readers might ask a reasonable question about the relevance of anatoxin poisoning from cyanobacteria to the FCRRN. A reasonable reply is that the network formed to help improve the quality of life of flat coated retrievers and the news about preventing and treating toxic cyanobacteria, et alia, could help to improve the quality of life of a flat coated retriever.

Dr Iain J Robbé

On behalf of the Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network (FCRRN)

Email: walesandwm@gmail.com


“Rescues R Us”

Experts: none of the FCRRN is acting in the capacity of an expert; each contributor is offering their advice based on accessible evidence. If you are concerned about any subject in the newsletters then you should consult a veterinary professional.

© 2023 Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network

(1) http://www.iainrobbe.com/fcrrn_04/

(2) https://www.msn.com/en-gb/lifestyle/other/dog-dies-after-contact-with-lethal-blue-green-algae-on-exmoor/ar-AA1dJF0F

(3) https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1789785/dog-dies-lake-blue-green-algae-warning

(4)  https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/bluegreenalgaedeath

(5) https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/government-scientists-confirm-anatoxin-poisoning-in-dog/

(6) Scottish Government. (2012).Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in inland and inshore waters.pdf

(7) Anderson-Abbs,B. (2016). California freshwater harmful algal blooms.pdf

(8) Chorus, I. (2012). Current approaches to cyanotoxin risk assessment, risk management and regulations in different countries. https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/374/publikationen/4390.pdf

(9) Aparicio Medrano, E. et alia. (2016). An alternative explanation for cyanobacterial scum formation and persistence by oxygenic photosynthesis. Harmful Algae, 60, 27-35.  

doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2016.10.002

(10) Clemson Cooperative Extension. (2022).

(11)  Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) guidance. (2008). https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/dwgwp/bluegreen/pdf/cyanoguidancevtcommunities.pdf

(12) Bischoff, K. (2021). Algal poisoning of animals. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/toxicology/algal-poisoning/algal-poisoning-of-animals

(13) https://www.gov.uk/report-an-environmental-incident

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About Iain Robbe

I am a medical practitioner (MB, BS, 1980; MRCS, LRCP, 1980) registered with the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic I have reactivated my licence to practise and I am providing telephone support to vulnerable elderly to assist them during the pandemic. I remain active as a Clinical Medical Educationist participating in a number of projects with the universities of St Mary’s and Dalhousie in Nova Scotia and Mount Allison in New Brunswick, inter alia, and separately with three of the veterinary schools in the UK. My focus is on teaching and research in professionalism, ethics, and communications, and particularly the influences of vernacular architecture on the creation of positive learning experiences in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. I have the degree of Master in Public Health from the University of London (1985) and the degree of Master in Medical Education with distinction from the University of Wales (2001). The guiding principles in my practices are based on andragogy and humanism, and the prime ethical principle of autonomy for the individual and in population health.

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